High Anxiety with the Socceroos
Nothing brings together people in Sydney like a do or die qualifying game for a World Cup berth. The Eurosnob, the Socceroos fanatic , the newbies, the one night stand theatre goers, the A League purist, the Wallabies , Tennis and Cricket Fans and even those who couldn’t care less about sport. Something about the Socceroos and the World Cup brings Australians together and it’s sharing that common connection with people that are different from me that makes me love moments like this. We all want to be involved in History right?
Omens before the Game
Hearing that two of Iraq’s best players retired made everyone think it was going to be a romp (Me included). But talking to people in the build up (away from Twitter) to real live humans with proper sentences and even a paragraph or two I could hear myself say: “Iraq are a good team with quality players and they would “luve” it like Kevin Keegan if they could stop Australia from qualifying for a third consecutive World Cup especially in our own backyard.”
Before the game Ned Zelic was getting all metta on us taking the piss out of himself by quoting his infamous ubiquitous commentary analysis from the 2010 World Cup “Individual brilliance, fantasy & imagination are the #Ingredients that the Socceroos need.”
Trying to get into the Stadium
There is stadium etiquette when going to a big game in a group of more than four people. There are two rules, stay in the group at all times and check that everyone has tickets before you enter. For a control freak like me these rules are sacrosanct but for the others who are loose with their stadium behaviour this can cause great anguish and furious anxiety.
So obviously those two rules were broken.
There are five people in our party. In groups of more than four people it’s common for the group to usually split up in two’s. So we split into my Brother (the Socceroos Fanatic) Jim (a casual Euro snob and Socceroos fanatic) and his friend let’s just call him the Eurosnob.
I am walking with my brother Phillip who loves the Socceroos so much he developed Bell's palsy because of the excitement of going to his first World Cup in 20006 with unconfirmed scalped tickets. The other member of our party was Jim’s dad. He is the odd one out. He’s old and senile. So that makes him the odd one out (talk to Darwin).
So my anxiety levels increase when the group splits. The father gets lost as we are walking to the Stadium and as me and my brother are trying to find our gate and looking for the others and the old man my chemicals start to rise. Finally we find the old man and I yell at Jim (his son): “You let your father walk into a crowd of 80,000 people by himself?” As we are about to enter through the gates the poor old bloke announces that he threw away the printed ticket.
The tickets marshals are on the case, but it’s looking like a long night outside the stadium for the old guy as there is no internet connection to provide proof of purchase.
And then just like magic the old man realises he has another pocket and finds the lost ticket. In we go.....almost because then the poor old man couldn’t get through the turn style, and was struggling with the electronic bar code. Now there are five minutes till kick off and I’m losing it. Again I yell at Jim because I have to yell at someone and apportion the blame.
Having a don't fuck it up mentality is a crazy mindset to have when playing for a place in the World Cup. When teams like Iraq in this instance are free to play without pressure it creates a heady mix of butt checks being clenched and underwear becoming wet due to the strain of it all.
The Iraqi players had skill and coupled with the Iraqi time wasting tactics it was stopping the Socceroos momentum. The Iraqi’s held the ball for long periods and were frustrating the Socceroos. Three really good chances for the Socceroos to score in the first half didn't eventuate in a goal. I feel sorry for the mature aged Rugby couple sitting next to me as I have been swearing like an Australian politician who thinks no-one is listening or watching. Some levity makes its way into the evening when the whistle blew for half time. The wife of the Rugby couple says in a posh accent. "That wasn't impressive at all."
Then in the second half it started raining more heavily and wouldn’t you know it the roof had a leak and it was raining on me and our World Cup Qualification hopes. It’s not raining goals and after more time wasting by the Iraqi’s someone behind me in the crowd yells “go home to Auburn (a Sydney suburb with lots of Middle Eastern residents)” It gets a hearty laugh from the crowd around him and I yell back “it’s racist but we’ll take it”. John Oliver was right! We are all comfortably racist! But this is the World Cup casual racism is the least of worries. Australia can’t score.
The final 10 minutes of the Socceroos made the world around me amplified to such a level that at times I was losing my focus on the game. Eyes on the substitutes, eyes on the clock, people yelling shit all over the place kids in front of me turning back in shock at a loud ethnic voice yelling expletives. I could hear conversations from other sections of the crowds that were two or three bays away, the air was getting thin, and then with Tim Cahill off and everyone cursing Holger Jesus scores! Blasphemy has never been so much fun!! I turned to the man from the Rugby couple and said: “79,000 people just un-clenched their butt cheeks”, and he replied: “you don’t have to tell me”.
(Picture left: I met Jesus! Josh Kennedy Socceroos winning goal scorer that took Australia to Brazil 2014 with me in the glasses in 2009 on far right)
After the game I shook an Iraqi fans hand outside the stadium and I praised his team for the way they played (when they weren’t flopping and staging) and for the skill of their players. Does that gesture with the Iraq fan mean I have redeemed myself for being agreeable to a racist comment earlier? Anyway Auburn is an ok place to live in; I’ve heard that it’s quite similar to parts of Hollywood.
If Iraq can one day find some peace and stability in their country and if the Lions of Mesopotamia could play at home in Iraq instead of neutral Qatar surely it won’t be long before they kick some international butt at a World Cup tournament one day?
Some Random Thoughts
- In today’s PC world of strict definitions of casual human behaviour Australia is casually racist and Holger is casually sexist. But who cares? We are going to the World Cup!
- Why didn't Adnan Kadhim shoot in the 89th minute? Who cares the Socceroos are going to Brazil!!!
- Without Mark Schwarzer none of us would be here or going to Brazil or have gone to Germany or South Africa.
- Mark Milligan has a high arching kick that if he doesn’t watch himself will get Australia in trouble.
- Watch the Josh Kennedy goal again but this time close your eyes and pay close attention to the noise of anticipation from the crowd when Brecsiano crosses, it is amazing. http://www.foxsports.com.au/football/kennedy-heads-roos-into-wc/video-e6frf423-1226665925490?subcat=1111112039415 …
- Most importantly we got a song for Brazil 2014. Peter Allen is going to make a lot of uncoordinated people go mental! Australians were forced to dance to “When my Baby goes To Rio” during High School as part of the physical education curriculum. Let the bad dance moves begin!! Time to start practicing the anti- rhythm of the"The White Samba"
- It would be nice to see Tommy Oar play in a central attacking midfield role or at least switch with Brett Holman once or twice. The kid is very dangerous when he runs in the middle.
- This is why I follow football!!! Getting to the party is half the Job!! A year of high quality football banter awaits! Go The Socceroos!!
- I love the Aussie Aussie Ole Ole chant we need more of that in Brazil please, rhyming Aussie slang is in our culture lets use it.