Charles de Gaulle famously once wondered aloud how one could govern a nation with so many kinds of cheeses (though no-one seems sure how many kinds of cheeses he mentioned.) Well, just four major codes of football seem to be enough to divide Australi Australian rules, rugby league, rugby union and soccer. But in November 2005, everyone was a soccer (international football) supporter. After 31 years of disappointments and difficulties, Australia defeated Uruguay to go into the next year’s World Cup finals in Germany.
Michael Cockerill describes the match well (SMH 17 Nov.) but "The solution, in the end, was simple. Luck. Australia have rarely had it, and thus the Socceroos have endured three decades of failure in the quest to qualify for the World Cup finals. Last night, in front of a sea of gold at a jam-packed Telstra Stadium, they got it. And made the most of it. Such is the nature of a penalty shoot-out. Strong nerves and cool heads count, but ultimately it is a lottery. At long last, Australia won the prize."
As I’ve said before, I’m not much of a sports fan, but this was more than a game, it was a national occasion. Yes, I know it’s silly, but there it is. With its ethnic rivalries, football has been one of the banes of Australian multiculturalism, but last night’s match was a triumph. As Cockerill says, "In a multicultural nation in a fractured world, the Socceroos can bring together the sum of their part Muslim, Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican. German, Lebanese, Polynesian, Croatian, Italian, Melanesian, Greek. It is a rich tapestry but last night they-and we-were one thing only. Australian."
Dutch master coach Guus Hiddink is the same man who brought South Korea into the semifinals of the last world cup. James and I were glued to the TV as the Koreans played. We arrived in Seoul for a holiday on the same day that the grand final was to be played in Japan. Korea was not in the grand final. But the were still fans a-plenty sporting ‘Red devils” red and white T-shirts. Millions turned out to cheer the players and chant "Dae Han Min Guk!