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Maria & Brett's HUGE Trip 06-07-08-09-? ok, so the Socceroos lost in 'that' penalty against Italy; Adriatic summers aren't long enough (bliss!); and we found that you should never use the term "Eastern Bloc" when talking to a Czech (Central Europe, please).

World Cup - Australia v Italy

GERMANY | Tuesday, 27 June 2006 | Views [2849] | Comments [1]

Led by Guus Hiddink (a.k.a. 'God'), the Socceroos stayed after their defeat to appreciate the crowd. There were tears all round from players and fans (and even from you at home, we've heard), but more from bursting pride than sadness.

Led by Guus Hiddink (a.k.a. 'God'), the Socceroos stayed after their defeat to appreciate the crowd. There were tears all round from players and fans (and even from you at home, we've heard), but more from bursting pride than sadness.

Following Australia’s qualification to play in the Round of 16, rumours began circulating around the Australian community and in the local press that an additional 1500 tickets for the match against Italy in Kaiserslautern would be released for sale the following day at an as-yet undisclosed location in Stuttgart at 9am.

This was a hangover cure to cure all hangovers from an euphoric night-before, as fans began scrambling over town trying to gather clues from other fans or identify locations that ‘might’ be used as a ticket point. We joined the sleuth hunt and passed by the stadium where we’d picked up our tickets for the previous game. Hundreds of people were already gathered here, obviously deducing like us that this would be a practical place as it was already set up and ready to go.

Details were later released, saying that the actual sales point would be disclosed at 8am on the day, giving fans an hour to get to the mystery location by 9am when tickets went on sale.

Always wanting to try our luck at The Amazing Race, Maria and I assembled a crack team: Bernie would play communications expert, as she offered to sit on the internet at home and ring through the information when it was published; and Mig had offered to drive us into the city centre in his GPS-equipped Fiat, where we would circulate while waiting for coordinates of the location once Bernie rang them through. All around town we passed waiting taxis that had been sequestered by fans (still) in their green and gold, mobiles pressed to their ears, no doubt connected at the other end to other Bernies on the internet; and fans waiting on street corners trying to flag any cab that hadn’t been taken off the road.

When the phone rang we nearly caused Mig to drive off the road in our uncontrolled anticipation, but it was only Dijana who asked Mig to stop by the shop on the way home to pick up some eggs. False alarm number one! We knew the details had been published when we saw taxis flying through red lights and round corners on two wheels. Bernie was live on the line but couldn’t get the screen to refresh with the details – too many people were trying to use the same site at once. False alarm number two! At last she gave us the name of a hotel, but with two similarly named hotels we lost time while searching through the GPS system for the right one. Mig took a punt and managed to put us on the right track – at least right in the exhaust of a cabful of Aussies that had even loaded up some other random Aussies that had stopped the cab at a set of lights and pleaded with the occupants to get in.

Waiting at a set of traffic lights we could see from the GPS display that we were right around the corner from the hotel (8;07am) – this, and the fact that there were guys and girls running at breakneck speeds from every direction towards one street. Not one to wait for a party to happen, I jumped out of the car, ran two steps, took off my thongs (or flip flops to be more PC) and took over the already exhausted pack, leaving my lungs back in the car.

With the support team, organisation and technology behind us, you’d think we would’ve been among the first 100 or so to line up. We counted approximately 1400 people already in line – none of whom were out of breath or dead. Instantly there were rumblings of leaky info (very ‘Un-Aushtraylian’!), but we’d never find out. For the next 4 hours we spent our time hanging out with others in the line near us, inching forward at a teasing rate closer to the start of the line – at this time up a hill and around a corner about 150m away, calculating the likelihood of us getting a little bit of cardboard with Australia v Italy printed on top. Every now and then you would hear burly calls of ‘OI!, go to the back…oiiiii…p!ss oooofffff, go to the back!’, until the Un-Aushtraylian succumbed to the up-to-now unspoken moral code of being an Aussie and headed towards the back, tail between legs. At this time of being out on a limb we never felt so at home amongst all these fellow yobbos. 

By the time we reached the final checkpoint our spirits were high and our chances were secured when we were given concert wristbands to put on – indicating that some tickets were still available and within reach, or only 45 minutes away past another checkpoint inside the hotel.

At last we got there at 1pm, tickets in hand with about another 1000 or so in the queue behind us.

We later heard that there were enough tickets for everyone who’d attended that day, much more than the 1500 previously announced. Why this sudden turn of support in favour of Australian fans? Rumours began circulating however we didn’t care. We were lucky enough to now have the chance to witness another proud sporting moment in Australian history.

Match day saw us waking up in a cute small German village called Wilferdingen-Singen where we had stayed with Bernie’s aunt. She could speak in German and Croatian and it was one of my first experience of not being able to communicate in my mother tongue – English. A sobering and humbling experience!

We ate a delicious breakfast of eggs, breads, jams, and cheeses and coffee before setting off on foot through the village towards the station and the small town of Kaiserslautern, painting our faces the whole way there and transforming ourselves into walking maps of Australia (as seen on Channel Nine in Australia).

Several beers materialised on the train (thanks Bernie!), everyone enjoying the communally festive atmosphere, and the collective assumption that the Socceroos were, indeed, about to knock out Italy. Arriving in Kaiserslautern we saw the stadium high up above the town on a hill. Actually, it was all stadium – as if the hill had been built up below it to give it a more imposing presence above the small town. Soaking up the atmosphere that had taken over the town would have to wait, as we were required to make our way to some middle-of-nowhere location to pick up our match day tickets. Hours and more conspiracy theories later (ie, that it was a plot to delay all the Aussie fans for the duration of the game) we made it into town where we were again swept up by another mass moving sea of bodies and bobbing blowup boxing kangaroos.

We would stop and cheer with other fans with similarly green and gold painted faces, but we’d quickly find out that they were mostly German locals who had turned out in their 1000s to support the Aussies. We were truly blessed by their genuine welcomes to their town, and that it wasn’t only Aussies – here and at home – who wanted the Socceroos to win, but that whole towns and possibly nations were willing the team to win against Italy, and were proud to wear this on their cheeks.

Not wanting to get swept away by all the happenings in town, we quickly made our way with the throng up the side of the mountain and found our seats in the imposing stadium – notable for its altitudinous seating configuration which gave everyone a direct view regardless of seating type. When the Aussies came out it was too good to be true. Here they were, having beaten Uruguay in the qualifiers, knocked out Japan in the opener, put up a proud fight against Brazil and edged past Croatia only days ago, and now up against a team that would go on to become the world champions. This game was always going to result in a victorious moment, regardless of outcome, as it was the journey and not the destination that everyone was proud of (but let us know if there are any other clichés that would fit here!).

In stark contrast to the game against Croatia where we were confronted by fans singing in one voice, the Italian fans were deafening in their silence and the Aussie contingent was up on its feet and uproariously united in force and strength, even if we only had a couple of numbers in our repertoire! We were at serious risk of losing our voices before the contest began. But we knew that you at home were also fired up by now, either at your local or in the living room, and I have no doubt that the team felt the collective homegrown support in the middle of the night on the other side of the world.

Out on the field on this gloriously sunny afternoon the boys played two solid halves against an Italian side that played a very tight defensive game – for most of it only with 10 men against a full Australian side. As the game played itself to a 0-0 close, there were calls from the stands for “Kewell” to come on, but we trusted that supercoach Guus Hiddink was saving a few cards to be played towards the end of the match in a tactical and bitter duel to the end. But it was too late, for Kewell, Guus and Australia, as Totti slotted a penalty right on full time in controversial circumstances to seal the deal – and Australia’s fate – by putting Italy into the next round on its path towards ultimate victory.

As the full time whistle blew and pockets of Italian fans cheered and waved their flags, the Australian contingent was stunned into silence. Looking around the crowds there were tears trickling down cheeks of grown men, crushed dreams and disbelief. “How could this be? We’ve come so far…. And to be knocked out by a penalty in literally the last second?” The silence and sadness were shortlived as the crowd began to clap the team and cheer in unison, acknowledging all their hearty performances that got them this far.

The tears turned into those of sheer pride – and nothing else – as Guus walked through the sunken Socceroos, picking them up one by one to lead them over to the crowd to acknowledge the support. The victors had long since gone to the showers, but the defeated remained to have a victory lap of their own. It wasn’t until long after they had edged backwards into the locker rooms, waving, that the crowd also left, descending into the town not to commiserate but to celebrate a proud moment – of course with the local Germans and other nationalities that had turned out that day. And what a celebration it was!

The fact that the Aussies were the team of the day was demonstrated by an official working at the game who afterwards asked if she could swap her shirt for an Aussie one. Priceless.

Tags: Party time

Comments

1

sweet. Go aussies for 2010

  matt Jun 17, 2007 3:13 PM

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