Global Green and Gold

Thrills and spills of life on the World Cup trail for Soc­ceroos fans

Australian Four Four Two - - CONTENTS -

From vil­lagers hang­ing off build­ings in re­gional South Africa to Croa­t­ians wav­ing the Aus­tralian flag in Ger­many to jump­ing up and down on the sand in Copaca­bana beach, go­ing to a World Cup is much more than foot­ball. For a few weeks ev­ery four years, it’s a chance to cel­e­brate the world game with strangers in a strange land… and have a few new strange beers.


Mel­bourne-based sales di­rec­tor Don Suther­land has been to ev­ery Soc­ceroos match of the last three World Cups, trav­el­ling across the world to Ger­many, South Africa and Brazil as part of his glo­be­trot­ting de­vo­tion to foot­ball, which also takes in Mel­bourne Vic­tory and even West Ham games. In 2006, he toured Ger­many in a mo­torhome with his mates and has vivid mem­o­ries of the Aus­tralia’s thrilling 2-2 draw to Croa­tia in Stuttgart. “I can’t de­scribe the eupho­ria of draw­ing that game, we thought we’d lost it twice,” Don re­calls. “The Croats were drink­ing with us post-match. It was prob­a­bly the high­light of the tour, we sang with them as much as they sang with us. We waved their flags while they waved ours. “They wished us well for the next stage and said, ‘That’s the way it goes – on the night, you guys got through’. I’d love to think our sports­man­ship would be equal if the roles were re­versed.” While the spec­tre of hooli­gan­ism hangs over some World Cups, Don says there was zero trou­ble in Ger­many, al­though he had his fears of what would hap­pen next when they ran into a few teenagers. “[But] they apol­o­gised to us – for the Se­cond World War!” he says. “If a 17-year-old ap­proached you in Aus­tralia, you’d think some­thing suss is go­ing on. They al­most pushed one to the front of the group to say, ‘You do it’ and they’d check in English if they were say­ing it cor­rectly. It hap­pened three times.”

In South Africa, Don camped in Kingsmead Cricket Ground in Dur­ban. He re­mem­bers long trips and hav­ing to set off at 2am to make it to Rusten­burg for a 4pm kick-off. “All the vil­lagers were ap­plaud­ing and wav­ing while we were on the road and it was al­most like we were celebri­ties,” he says. “There were guys hang­ing off build­ings. It was hum­bling.” Fly­ing to Brazil, Don says there was less ex­pec­ta­tion be­cause of Aus­tralia’s group of death. Don at­tended all games, but it was the party at­mos­phere in Brazil which de­liv­ered. “Brazil won 3-1 against Croa­tia, we were on Copaca­bana beach and we were among true lo­cal foot­ball fans,” he says. “I’ll never be able to put the at­mos­phere into words.”


Twit­ter iden­tity Les Street has been to ev­ery Aus­tralian foot­ball venue – and is cur­rently writ­ing a book on sta­di­ums and their his­tory – but missed out on Ger­many 2006 be­cause he couldn’t get any tick­ets in FIFA’s bal­lot. In­stead though he put all his cash into trips to South Africa and Brazil. “Ten of us hired a house in Jo­han­nes­burg and we had it to our­selves,” Les says. “There was a lit­tle bit of ap­pre­hen­sion, but that was part of the ex­cite­ment. We hired a mini bus but the drives were long, in­clud­ing one 15 hour trip.” Les made it to 13 games in South Africa be­cause of the abun­dance of tick­ets. “Lo­cal foot­ball fans weren’t able to af­ford the tick­ets,” he says “De­spite dis­counted tick­ets, a lot of South Africans couldn’t get to the games and a lot of the sta­di­ums were empty. Be­fore the Aus­tralia v Ghana game in Rusten­burg, my mate had two spare tick­ets and in­stead of sell­ing them, he just gave it to lo­cal kids and they were shell­shocked.” Safety was an is­sue in South Africa but some dark hu­mour helped them cope with the per­ceived dan­ger… un­til one wor­ry­ing mo­ment in a bar sent them scur­ry­ing back into their minibus. Les re­veals: “In Rusten­burg, about 10 of us went in and copped the dirt­i­est looks, like ‘Who the f*** are these guys?’ We were like… ‘Al­right, we’re leav­ing….’ It was a weird ex­pe­ri­ence. But in Brazil I went to the Aus­tralia-Croa­tia friendly in Sal­vador, a city which had a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing a bit dodgy, but I had no prob­lems over­all.”


Ger­many lives long in the mem­o­ries of many Aus­tralian fans who made it there in 2006, in­clud­ing Tris­tan Foe­nan­der who was a uni­ver­sity stu­dent in his late teens, work­ing part-time at the video store, when he fol­lowed Guus Hid­dink and the Golden Gen­er­a­tion on the World Cup trail. “It was al­ways a plan to go to Ger­many,” Tris­tan says. “It was a lit­tle dif­fi­cult be­cause you’re of­ten cash strapped from go­ing out too fre­quently and be­ing a bit reck­less. But work­ing part-time, I man­aged to save a lit­tle bit of money for the trip.” Tris­tan went to Ger­many with no guar­an­tees of ac­tu­ally get­ting to any Aus­tralia games, but man­aged to snap up tick­ets at the last mo­ment for the Soc­ceroos against Brazil and Croa­tia. “You can’t ques­tion the fun we had and the at­mos­phere,” he says. “My most vivid mem­ory of the Brazil game was the ref­er­ee­ing which left us scratch­ing our heads. But the lo­cals ac­tu­ally em­braced the Aus­tralian fans like no oth­ers, de­spite it be­ing a dis­ap­point­ing re­sult. “Af­ter that, we ven­tured to Stuttgart for the Croa­tia game and the lead-up was amaz­ing. There was a stunned si­lence af­ter Croa­tia’s first goal and a sense of pes­simism. Even when Craig Moore scored the penalty, there wasn’t great emo­tion.

“It was one of those games where you look back with ex­cite­ment and joy, but it was ex­tremely tense through­out.” It proved too hard for Tris­tan to make the heart­break­ing match against the Ital­ians, but rec­om­mends ev­ery fan should go to a World Cup and savour the event. “There were no safety con­cerns at all,” Tris­tan adds. “Peo­ple as­sumed we were fun-lov­ing peo­ple and that’s what I think de­liv­ered.”


Work­ing as an English teacher in Ja­pan in 2006 in his late teens, Aussie fan Bani Pera had an iden­tity cri­sis be­fore the Soc­ceroos’ en­counter against Ja­pan at Kais­er­slautern. “As much as I wanted suc­cess for Aus­tralia, I did not feel right about bit­ing the hand that fed me,” Bani says. “Liv­ing in Ja­pan was the best three years of my life and I told my stu­dents I was sup­port­ing the draw. “I wore a Ja­panese jer­sey with an Aus­tralian cap and scarf, I was sit­ting among the Aussie fans and it was sur­real to hear the Aus­tralian na­tional an­them at a World Cup. “My neu­tral­ity was de­stroyed af­ter Shun­suke Naka­mura’s goal. I spent the rest of the game scream­ing for Aus­tralia.” For him though, the Croa­tia game was the high­light of his World Cup in Ger­many “The at­mos­phere in the sta­dium was elec­tric,” he says. “Chants of ‘You’re Red, you’re white, you’re go­ing home tonight!’. It was the loud­est thing I have ever ex­pe­ri­enced. Once we made it, none of the fans would leave the sta­dium. Even an hour af­ter the game had ended, we were still singing, danc­ing and hug­ging com­plete strangers in the stands, in­clud­ing the Ger­man se­cu­rity staff.” Al­though Bani felt safe through­out both his 2006 and 2010 World Cup trips, South Africans were less em­brac­ing of the Aussie fans and Soc­ceroos. He adds: “The South Africans en­joyed watch­ing Aus­tralia be­ing hu­mil­i­ated by the Ger­mans.”


Har­ri­son Porter quit his job to make it to the 2014 World Cup and de­spite the headaches it caused him when he got back, he’s got no re­grets about mak­ing the trip to Brazil. And he re­mem­bers all three Soc­ceroos games vividly. “I will never for­get the buzz among the thou­sands of Aussies that had me con­vinced we would win ev­ery game,” Har­ri­son says. But the re­al­ity smack come­down hit Har­ri­son hard. “When we went down 2-0 to Chile, I re­mem­ber feel­ing de­pressed like you would af­ter a break-up,” he says. “I was kick­ing my­self for spend­ing thou­sands of dol­lars and quit­ting my job, and I feared we would con­cede five and friends back home would mock me for com­ing to Brazil. “I have never ex­pe­ri­enced any­thing like that feel­ing be­fore.” By the time of the fi­nal game de­feat against Spain, Har­ri­son felt shat­tered, and had a grow­ing re­sent­ment that the fans re­ceived no recog­ni­tion from the Soc­ceroos. “Nei­ther Ange Postecoglou nor a sin­gle player did a lap of hon­our or came over to the Aus­tralian end to ap­plaud us,” Har­ri­son re­calls. “That spoke vol­umes to me and put me off­side with Ange.” De­spite safety con­cerns, Har­ri­son ad­mits you would have to be an id­iot to get into trou­ble in Brazil. “Un­for­tu­nately most Aussie in large groups abroad are id­iots!” he says. “I had friends who fool­ishly gam­bled with street gangs. “But over­all the lo­cals were bril­liant. I found them to be in­cred­i­bly hos­pitable early on, but by the fi­nal week, I sensed a bit of un­easi­ness with English speak­ers in the streets of Rio.”

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