Monday, June 14, 2010


Well what a magnificent display of football. 'Football' isn't a good word for it, especially in Australia when it puts the game on a par with Rugby and AFL as an artform, because football at its most virtuosic is so far superior to any other ball game that it should be considered alongside ballet or jazz rather than alongside these games.

I know I overuse hyperbole and um... bullshit, but I'm very serious here. You can't be a professional soccer player without having played all your life with very good coaching. The latter is still rare in Australia but steps have been taken to begin to rectify this - needless to say you wouldn't let a volunteer parent teach your child ballet or piano. In the great football countries, where the game is understood by the media and the public, it's virtually against the law.

To merely lambast the Socceroos for losing that match so convincingly, as much of Australian media is doing, essentially demonstrates ignorance. That German team is extraordinary (and yes, I must retract all my desperate attempts at optimism and say I was being ridiculous). It's hard to explain what I mean, especially because I'm a novice myself at this, but I'll have a go.

When you watch a team like Germany (and coming up I'd guess, Brazil, Italy and Spain), I encourage people to have a look around at what's happening off the ball. Try to see the 'group mind' I tried to describe a little while ago. When the ball is passed, try, just for a change, to watch what the passer does next rather than the person who receives the ball. Further, try to see what the third person in a triangle does at the same time. Watch the shape move, then (this is much easier with a live game) take a wider view still and watch the other shapes on the field respond in kind. Quite aside from the obscenely difficult skills of accurate passing, trapping a speeding ball and controlling a ball at speed, for a team to reach a high level tactically, as the Germans have, is a truly high art, to the extent that in a World of millions of soccer teams, it is extremely rare for it to be really there.

Of course it is depressing for a patriot to watch their team get so fully outclassed, but by half time I had moved from disappointment to a growing, awe-struck admiration of what the German team could do. They are no longer athletes. They are poets. More accurately perhaps, they are jazz musicians jamming. They were beautiful and I loved them for their beauty. I know not everyone gets into this - football for its own sake, for beauty, but I put it out there as a suggestion. When you see it, you will never regret it again any more than someone who's acquired a taste for opera will ever regret it.

The greatest regret for us from that game is not the scoreline of course, but the loss of Timmy Cahill through a red card (probably not deserved). Ghana and Serbia are much more realistic opposition for the Socceroos, but Timmy's loss will make it damn hard.

Anyway, our mighty Socceroos were roundly outclassed. We may talk about the 'dream generation' of 2006, but Australia has never played close to that standard. We may get there one day, but only if we want to make the effort as a nation. I hope we do.

I'll write more later. Still struggling with internet and photos.



Anonymous BrisbaneGirl said...

I agree with you 100%. We were simply outclassed. It's so very Australian to lambast our national team for losing, and not actually acknowledge that the other team are better than us and performed more strongly.

I've watched all the matches to date, and Germany are far and away the most superior team who have played so far.

I love your blog Hamish. I look forward to the next post.

June 15, 2010 12:02 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with you about poetry... I have always loved talking to elite or very committed athletes because there is an experience shared by those who work in a gestalt... be it good theatre/performance or good sport...and speaking of good sports you are one, and that too is refreshing and inspiring

June 15, 2010 1:46 pm  
OpenID katherinelyallwatson said...

You're right Hamish. The German team played beautifully. It was an amazing game - just sad that we were so roundly beaten. Great to hear you being so positive about it. Hopefully our coaches and seriousness about soccer will improve and in 8 years we will have a team that can also play with poetry...

June 15, 2010 6:00 pm  
Anonymous Margo Kingston said...

Hamish, I'll do as you suggest and watch the player who has passed for a while. I guessed absolutely right that you wouldn't be down in the dumps about Australia's loss, but excited to see one of the world's great teams live. It is stupid the reaction here - channel ten news introduced the story with the "fallout from Australia's shock loss to Germany"! I thought we did bloody well holding them to two goals in the second half with a man down. The Germans were silken - even I enjoyed watching them. Very well written review, Bro.

Mum is now so keen she's about to watch the NZ game. She can't get enough - Soccer before dawn, before breakfast, all day, all night. You've won her.

love margo

June 15, 2010 9:30 pm  
Anonymous Ed Vegas said...

I don't know Hamish, cant help but sort of agree with Foz and his frighteningly intense "Pim is the antichrist." hyperbole. Sure, the Germans where great, but when I saw the team sheet I near vomited.

June 16, 2010 2:12 am  
Anonymous Liam said...

Not sure how many people are actually lambasting the team as opposed to the coach and his sudden, seemingly clueless change of tactics. I mean Neill and Moore were both terrible but they were asked to play a role that neither were suited to or indeed physical capable of. I mean the players are trying hard, they mightn't be good enough, but its not like we left a bag of Wayne Rooneys or Fabian Cannavaros at home.

I think credit to the Germans. They were very good. Nuer, Lahm, Podolski and Klose were all brilliant. It will be interesting to see how Ozil goes against better teams but it was a world cup debut to remember.

The bottom line - with better tactics we can play better and get a better result. It's not that we lost, its how we lost.

June 16, 2010 1:13 pm  
Blogger Hamish said...

Thanks for the comments everyone.

Ed and Liam, I'm maintaining patriotic optimism, but I don't disagree with you. My guts will be fully spilled re: Pim Verbeek and his decisions after our third game. Then it will be time to post-mortem and begin the long path of reconstruction, including a new coach.

North Korea certainly demonstrated last night that an inferior team can put on a good show against an excellent team by trying to play. The fact is that Pim has made a strategic decision to hold back, defend and rely on a bit of luck and spirit. We still have no choice at this juncture to wish him luck with it, but the critics of Pim are certainly looking pretty smug right now.

Especially cheers to those new to this blog, I suspect through the Our Brisbane link. Thankyou Katherine for that! Hope I can provide some interesting reading.

June 16, 2010 6:15 pm  

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