Friday, February 26, 2010

Half Time Heroes December: Tony Wilson Interview

Hey Football Fan,

You may have noticed I've been quiet on the A Football Story front lately. My time has been taken up on the Half Time Heroes Fanzine. Anyway here are some stories and interviews that I have written for the fanzine in the last few months. I hope you enjoy.

Australian media personality Tony Wilson is the author of Australia United; a book that follows Tony’s and the Socceroos adventures @ the 06 Wold Cup in Germany, He is also a radio announcer on 2RRR in Melbourne and a regular member of ABC TV show the Einstein factor and is a huge Socceroos fan.

1) Half Time Heroes: In your book Australia United you say that you became a convert to the Socceroos cause on November 29,1997, when I fell into the arms of a 53 year old greengrocer called Con, seconds after Aurelio Vidmar had put us 2-0 up against Iran and into the 1998 world cup.

So from the nadir of that moment to now two consecutive world cups and again meeting another Con (I’m not a green grocer but it is dream) did you ever think you would be in this position?

Tony Wilson: I did think we would eventually qualify, and I vowed after the exhilaration and despair of November 29, 1997, that I would be there to witness it. It was crazy pledge to myself, and it took me to Uruguay in 2001 which was truly the trip of a lifetime, even if the result didn't quite go our way. Eventually of course I was there at Sydney's Olympic Stadium when Aloisi ploughed that thunderbolt into the back of the net. Given I initially fell for the game after a defeat, I can't tell you how addicted to qualifiers I feel after that amazing moment.

2)HTH: So to the World Cup draw tell us your thoughts can the Aussies make it out of the group?

TW: It's a really difficult group, probably the second hardest after the Brazil /Ivory Coast/ Portugal group. Mind you, there aren't too many easy groups out there. We have beaten and can beat Ghana, even if the blazing potential in that London friendly has us all feeling a bit nervous. I actually saw Ghana lose to Brazil in Germany, and even then their young squad was very unlucky in that match. Names like Klose, Podolski, Schweinsteger and of course Ballack mean we have to expect to lose to the Germans. Although hey, upsets can and do happen at these tournaments. And the Serbia match will be even tougher than its Croatian equivalent in 2006, although again, if we can win against Ghana and results have fallen our way, there is a spirit in this squad that has me hoping that we might get out of the group.

Having said that, I wouldn't be surprised if we didn't win a game! Either way, I love this team, and believe its qualifying performance has cemented its position as the greatest side we have ever had.

3) HTH: Are you planning on going to South Africa? What do you think the first ever World Cup in Africa will produce?

TW: By some miracle, my ars*y father got his name pulled out in the FIFA ballot, so not only am I going, I've already got my tickets. Very, very happy about that. In Germany, I stayed right through to the final, and as the last chapter of Australia United attests, snared a ticket to the game at the very last minute. Missed the goals but was there for the headbutt! I've now got a 3 month old baby, so this time I might not make it through to the end.

I think the tournament will be a beauty. Germany had organisation and infrastructure and almost a sense of international rebirth after World War II. For Africa, this is the chance to truly put on the biggest show on Earth and to prove to everyone that its fun and safe and friendly. As a fan of Ladysmith Black Mamboso, I'm also tipping that the music /dancing side of things will put thigh slapping lederhosen acts to shame.

4) HTH: Tell me what you think about Pim Verbeek and the current Socceroo squad. Michael Cockerill posed this question in a recent article he penned for the SMH. Are the Socceroos four years better, or simply four years older? What do you say?

TW: I love Pim because I was desperate for somebody to get us there, and he hardly put a foot wrong. I know that there's a sense that we're not as good, that the team is older and slower. When I think of how good we were against Brazil and Italy last time, it's hard to imagine an Australian team ever playing that well again. I think we've definitely slipped a bit. I asked Fox Sports' Simon Hill and he thinks the loss of Mark Viduka is the biggest blow. That might turn out to be pretty right. We seem to be more defensive now than Guus had us playing, but having said that, some of our players have got better. Emerton is better. Wilkshire is better. Cahill is better. Incredibly, Mark Schwartzer seems to be playing even better than in 2006. Against that, stars like Kewell, Grella, Bresciano, Chipperfield and Culina might have just dropped off a notch.

5) HTH: The World Cup bid is starting to take shape, from what you have seen so far with the promo videos and online book has the FFA sold Australia well. Do you like that Nicole Kidman was used to spruik the bid? And do we have a chance to host it?

TW: I don't mind that Nicole has got the job. If that nice Hugh Jackman can fall in love with her in 'Australia', surely the FIFA powerbrokers won't be able to resist her faux Engish, botox infused charms. I think this is a very rare opporunity to win the bid. We are extremely lucky that two bids are being sorted out at once. I think we're almost no chance for 2018 and that the tournament will return to Europe, but 2022 is a huge chance. Europe won't get it again. Africa won't get it. South America will have just had 2014. So by my reckoning it comes down to the USA, China and us. I'd choose us!

I've actually just written a novel about a fictional footballer who is the face of our World Cup bid. He's an ex-Socceroo called Charlie Dekker, and he gets caught up in a tabloid feeding frenzy when he falls for a Tiger Woods like sex scandal. It will be out through Murdoch Books in July next year.

6) HTH: Who is your A League team?
TW: I'm a member of the Melbourne Victory and get to almost every home game. My two-year-old daughter Polly is a member too, and she has just started coming. She likes the half time food and dressing up in the colours. Last time we went, the noise following an Archie Thompson goal resulted in her bursting into tears. She'll have to improve on that. I've been there for our two Grand Final wins, which were both great in different ways. I think Henandez is playing so well this year that we have to be favourites to do it again.

7) HTH: Do you have an Overseas team?
TW: I used to say West Ham, becasue I love the theme song 'I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles'. As a kid, I also loved the fact that they had a processed meat in their name. But I have to be honest and admit that I watch very little Premier League football. Certainly, the Hammers have produced very little to inspire in 09-10. I don't have a great passion for any overseas club. I'd even confess that I'm thinking of switching over to Everton now that Lucas Neill has joined Tim Cahill there. I've certainly been playing a lot of FIFA 09 on the PS3 as Everton.

8) HTH: Who is your favourite local player?
TW: Carlos Henandez is a great favourite. My friend Sam Pang calls him 'The silver fox'. I think he's the most gifted player in the A-League, and that it's a tragedy Costa Rica didn't qualify for this World Cup. I would have loved for him to be there. All Melbourne fans love Archie, and forgive him all those offsides (or are they offside?). In terms of other A-League clubs, I like the bruising style of Danny Tiatto (his cousin The Ox is a wrestler I know) and the distinguished grey of Steve Corica. He will retire a legend of local football.

9)HTH: Who is your favourite overseas player?

TW: I think the best to watch is Lionel Messi. I'm so glad that Argentina overcame the Diego insanity that seems to be prevailing there at the moment and got Messi into the tournament. His little mosquito legs are just freaky, and his centre of gravity must be about 5cm off the ground. I think he will win the Golden Ball in South Africa. I also have a big soft spot for Wayne Rooney. The story of Colleen throwing his 50,000 pound engagement ring into a wood, and rangers having to ask fossickers to respect the rights of the squirrels who may have found the ring, was my favourite tabloid story of the last few years. Colleen was angry with him for seeing hookers.

10)Your favourite football moment of the noughties?

TW: 'Aloisssssssiiiiiiiiiiii! At last. At long long last. Thirty-one years, four months and 24 days have passed since Australia ended its campaign at the 1974 World Cup and now - finally, belatedly, wonderfully and joyfully - Australia is back on the biggest stage of all.' Thank you Simon Hill.

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