DUBLIN: Australia take on Ireland for the first time here today with fears over the potentially hostile reception awaiting Craig Moore and Kevin Muscat.
Both men play their club football at Glasgow Rangers, the mainly-Protestant Scottish club whose biggest rivals are Celtic, the traditionally-Catholic club founded by Irish emigrants.
In recent years, every Rangers player to play in Dublin has been roundly booed by a section of the home support.
European football's governing body, UEFA, last week warned the Football Association of Ireland that it considered such outbursts as racist behaviour and would apply the appropriate punishment if it reoccurs.
They were concerned at the level of abuse aimed at Rangers player Shota Arveladze when he played for Georgia in a Euro 2004 qualifier against the Republic of Ireland at Lansdowne Road.
“This goes beyond racism and into bigotry. It's not acceptable and it's not helping the team,” FAI chief executive Fran Rooney told the Irish Independent.
Rooney is hoping that the predominantly Catholic Irish supporters will help stamp out the abuse if it arises in Tuesday's match.
“Many years ago players were being booed because they were coloured, but the problem we have is that people see a Rangers player and boo them because, in their eyes, they must be Protestant and it's not acceptable,” said Rooney.
“We will be training our stewards to identify these people, they will then be asked to stop and if they don't appropriate measures will be taken.”
A full house of 49,000 is expected to witness the first ever senior international match between Ireland and Australia.
The friendly will form a crucial part of Ireland's preparations for the final stages of their 2004 European Championship qualifying campaign, while for the Socceroos it will be the first outing since their comprehensive 3-1 victory over England last February.
In that game, England coach Sven Goran Eriksson showed his low esteem for friendlies by fielding almost an entirely different team in the second half, but Irish coach Brian Kerr is unlikely to follow suit.
Eager to preserve the record that has seen him go six matches without a defeat since replacing Mick McCarthy as Irish manager in late 2002, Kerr is expected to select his strongest possible side, a fact that will please his Australian counterpart Frank Farina, whose insists that regularly facing top-class opposition is the only way his charges can progress.
Kerr will be keen to prime his side for their crucial confrontations with Russia and Swtizerland, on Sept 6 and Oct 11 respectively, and is almost certain to start with established stars such as Tottenham's Robbie Keane and new Chelsea signing, Damien Duff.
Australia are expected to be at full strength, meaning striker Mark Viduka, another goal scorer in the first weekend of the Premiership, and Liverpool new boy Harry Kewell will also take the field.