I’m sorry. I feel like such a failure.
Un-Australian, even. But I just can’t buy into the World Cup hysteria.

Don’t get me wrong – I have nothing against
the Socceroos, either individually or as a team. I completely and utterly wish
them well in their quest. I’m happy for them, and for all their fans, that they
made it past Uruguay and now Australia is competing in the World Cup finals. I’m well aware that there are
many Australians in our multicultural land (Howard permitting) who adore
soccer, have a strong family tradition within that sport and are genuinely
sweating about Tim’s knee and Harry’s groin.

That’s all terrific.

But I can’t pretend to be part of it. At
best, I’m a polite bystander, nursing my beer at the side of the crowd and
smiling at everybody else having so much fun. I went to a major sporting shop to investigate buying a team guernsey with my name
stencilled on the back, only to baulk when I discovered it would cost about
$165.

The whole Socceroo hype is a lot like the
recently departed Commonwealth Games. Suddenly we were all supposed to be
foaming-at-the-mouth excited about the 50 km walk, or gymnastics, or lawn
bowls. Most of us wouldn’t cross the street to watch these things for free, but
suddenly we’re paying good money and pretending we understand the intricacies
of these sports, for two weeks; faking it until the next Olympics.

Soccer is like that for me. Now we’re all
supposed to be experts on the 4-4-3 formation versus the 5-4-2 or 7-1-3
or something. The d*ck-swinging experts in the pub will sneer if
you don’t know that Ante Covic
usually plays for Hammarby in Sweden.I’d like to announce that I’m bowing out now. I can’t name more than
about four Socceroos without prompts and would struggle to know any of them in
a police line-up.

The thing is that I’ve just never been much
of a soccer fan. Couldn’t play it at school and never got past watching highlights
of the English Premier League. I have friends who can talk for hours about
personalities and individual game moments from not only the English league but
also the Spanish, Italian or South American domestic leagues. Several people I know
changed gear seamlessly recently from barracking for their AFL teams in a night
match to barracking for Liverpool in the FA Cup final, within an hour or so.

How do you do that? I think I have to
resign myself to the fact that I’m AFL through and through and I’m not unhappy with my life choice. Go the
Socceroos. I wish you well. But I can’t pretend to be inner sanctum on this
one.

Is
anybody with me on this, or has the entire Crikey army embraced soccer and
become knowledgeable in time for tonight’s World Cup kick-off? Let us know at [email protected]

Peter Fray

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