Sunday, June 20, 2010

Notes from Rustenburg

Australia's bid for the greatest trophy in the world pretty much ended yesterday, but our pride was restored at the same time.

For myself, the shambolic five hour bus trip home (only about 150kms) was one of the most miserable experiences of my life, but Holman's goal was the height of the tournament.

The goal, and the 10 minutes or so that Australia led the game against Ghana, who were frankly playing like shit, was likely the greatest actual patriotic joy we'll get. After Kewell's red card we were devastated of course, and although the decision was correct, the succession of bad decisions against us had the crowd bristling with murderous hatred toward the ref. And we felt terrible, robbed, humiliated, violated.

And then we got to witness the real mettle of our great national team, as in the second half, in which at first I was simply waiting for us to be defeated, we first held the Ghanians out, then slowly began to dominate them. The players and the coach can both be proud, and today we fans do not feel as deflated as we did after defeat by the Germans. The Socceroos showed their quality. Love them.

The Ghanian fans celebrating after the game afterwards were colourful, spirited and so joyous that you might have thought they'd just beaten Brazil in the finals. It was kind of weird, and I just felt like saying to each of them (I did to a couple), "You do know you played like shit, apparently can't score a goal from open play, and barely managed to hold your luck against 10 men for over an hour, don't you?" Truly, if I was a Ghanian fan, I would be depressed after that game, and that probably reflects a general higher expectation we have of our team.

Was the referee one-sided? Is there an effort from FIFA to make sure at least one African team gets through the group stage, as it is percieved happened with Korea in 2002? Around here, if I suggested otherwise I would be called naive. There is a very, very strong perception that that's how things work and that, as one fan put it, "FIFA won't do small countries any favours."

Whether this is true or not, it looks like it. The resistance by FIFA to video technology for important decisions butresses this perception, and to many simply screams the existence of institutional corruption. So long as a ref's decision on the field has no accountability to anything, even if the entire world can see that it's wrong, then the ref can have any concievable motivation to make a decision. This stinks, and I hope one day our great sport gets up to date, even so that it can appear clean.

Of course it ain't over 'till it's over, and Australia still has two slender chances to become second in the group. That's the only time I've seen Ghana play (we were in transit when they defeated Serbia by a soft penalty), but from what I've heard what I saw is what to expect, and there is pretty much no way a determined Germany who have to win won't defeat them. But if Ghana do prevail, and we defeat Serbia, we're through.

The other way is for the Socceroos, through an inspired Timmy Cahill perhaps, to defeat Serbia by six goals minus the number of goals that Germany beats Ghana by. So if Germany beat Ghana 3:0 (certainly possible enough for an outside punt) and we do the same to Serbia (less possible, but not beyond hope if Timmy is in form), we'll be through on goal difference.

Pray to the soccer gods. Make a home shrine to Johnny Warren and sacrifice a pig or something. The gods are at work at this cup. I don't know if we're in their plans beyond the group stages but I am sure that they haven't had the last laugh yet.

For an analyst's view of the game, see Mike Salter's The Strength of Ten.



Anonymous Al said...

lets hope the prayers to the soccer gods work hey mate! we have a pretty good chance against Serbia, but not sure about a 6 goal defeat! i'll pray for it anyway.

June 21, 2010 5:00 am  
Blogger dawn said...

building the shrine now. will purchase pig in the morning.

June 21, 2010 5:32 am  

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