The Socceroos couldn’t
have asked for a better kick off to Australian football’s new era – as part of
the Asia – with a win on the pitch overseas and a win off
the pitch back home.

In Manama, Bahrain for
their opening match of the 2007 Asian Cup qualification campaign, the Socceroos
– led by acting skipper Josip Skoko – ran out winners 3-1 over the Group D
opponent considered their toughest, Bahrain.

Without most of its
European-based stars and with just two days to prepare on the bumpy
pitch in Manama, Australia trailed 1-0 at the break after Bahrain
striker Hussein Ali’s 36th minute strike. But
goals to Archie Thompson, Skoko and Ahmad Elrich in the second half
guaranteed
the Socceroos victory in their first game since Australia joined the
Asian Football Confederation last
month.

And at Sydney Convention Centre in Darling Harbour, the Socceroos were being lauded for their star
role in the nation’s sporting landscape in 2005. More than three months since Australia’s
historic qualification for the World Cup finals, the feat has been recognised
at the Australian Sport Award, hosted by the Australian Confederation Of Sport,
with two gongs – Australian international team of the year and Australian
international moment of the year.

Completing a package deal, the SBS TV broadcast of the World Cup
Qualifier – featuring an impressive 21-camera live coverage directed by former
Number 96 soap star Harry Michaels – took the Sport Media Award.

The Australian‘s Ray Gatt best describes how John Aloisi’s decisive spot kick has become one of the
defining moments in Australia’s sporting
history. But someone was asleep at the wheel at the
ABC, where the Socceroos didn’t even rate a mention, but the Sydney Swans did. Almost as curious as the fact that the
Swans’ Paul Roos pipped the Socceroos Dutch supremo Guus Hiddink for Coach of
the Year, acknowledged by Roos himself during his acceptance speech.

The Australians will convene in the Netherlands next week for a four-day camp with the next
match not until May 25 at the MCG when Australian-based fans will have their
only chance to show their support for the Socceroos prior to the FIFA
World Cup in June.

Peter Fray

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