The success of the Socceroosin Germany and MelbourneVictory’s Grand Final win lastseason have given soccer – or“football” – an enormous boost,particularly here in Melbourne.But will it last?By Tony Wilson.
“He nutmegged him! Archie nutmegged the Argentinian!”
The MCG crowd makes the sound a crowd makes whenseventy-odd-thousand people laugh at the audacity of it all.Our Archie, Melbourne’s own Archie Thompson, has playedthe ball through the legs of an Argentine defender and runonto it. Nutmegged him. Those who don’t know the wordwill be learning it; if not in the moment then in the paperstomorrow, when football – the football most of the worldknows as football – might once again nudge the front page.John Vallese from Sunshine is sitting next to me at theAustralia versus Argentina friendly on a chilly Septembernight, and smiles in disbelief. Like many of the lifelong fans,he refers to Socceroos games from decades past like toursof duty. We’re both in our thirties, but whereas I’m an Iran ’97,John is a Scotland ’85. But like so many fans, new and old,we were both there for Uruguay 2005.“That one game in Sydney changed everything,” Johnsays of the night the clouds parted, and a benevolent godsent a prophet with the unlikely name of Guus to lead agreen and gold army out of the desert. “Hiddink changed itall. Now they actually pass and play properly and try to breakdown defences. To come here for a practice match and seethis many people? I never would have believed it.”Tonight, the clouds have organised themselves with thediscipline of a Hiddink defence, and a light drizzle is falling,but the crowd is in an ebullient mood. Two girls in the nextbay are wearing tiny shorts, gold bikini tops and mobilephone numbers drawn onto their backs. They demonstrateeither an opportunistic flair for low-cost advertising or arefusal to concede that Germany 2006, with its white hotfootball and European sun can’t be sustained for a friendlyin Melbourne on a chilly Tuesday night.It isn’t just any old friendly, and that has something todo with the presence of two Argentine superstars; CarlosTevez and a teenage sensation called Lionel Messi.Messi, the kid who carries the millstone of being the “nextMaradona”. Messi, whose tiny legs whirr like the wings ona hummingbird, and whose dominance for Barcelona andArgentina has earned him a transfer price of $250 million.“In a few years you’ll be saying you saw Lionel Messilive,” John enthuses. Minutes later, Messi surges to the topof the penalty area, the ball stuck to his foot, pauses as thegold socks of Socceroo defenders loom like prison bars,feigns right, no escape, darts left, as elusive as a moth, andcannons his shot into the left upright. Had the ball gonein, it would have been a contender for best goal scored onAustralian soil.“Is the game growing here?” I ask John.He answers by pointing at a row of kids in front,numbering them off like Von Trapps. “He’s soccer, she’ssoccer. These two: soccer, soccer. These two are mynephews. Gabriel used to be AFL but is now soccer. Dominicstill says he’s AFL, but I think that’s just until he thinks ofa way of telling his dad … ““Ohhhhaagghhhhh!”John is mid sentence, embroiled in family sportingpolitics when Bresciano’s free kick dips onto the crossbar,hits the goalkeeper in the back of the head, ricochets backto the crossbar, down to the keeper’s leg and then trickleswide of the upright. It’s an impossible sequence, one that
Kevin Muscat, captain of Melbourne Victory Football Club:
“For me, the penny dropped when tickets went on sale forthe (A-League) Grand Final … they were sold out in three hours.That’s when it really struck home to me, that as a team and acode we’d made great strides.”
25/10/07 1:11:42 PM
25/10/07 1:11:42 PM