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Dec 22, 2006

One night in Stuttgart

For the final story of the year, we thought we'd turn it over to a contributor who we think summed up perfectly THE sporting moment for the year as voted by our readers...

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For the final story of the year, we thought we’d turn it over to a contributor who we think summed up perfectly THE sporting moment for the year as voted by our readers…

It’s 11pm, Thursday 22 June at the Gottlieb-Daimler-Stadion in Stuttgart, Germany. The final whistle has just sounded in an astonishing game of football in which the Socceroos have come from behind twice to snatch a two-all draw with Croatia in their final group match in the World Cup. The result means the Socceroos will progress to the round of 16, and the 15,000 or so Australian fans who have made it to the game are going off.

Emotionally pummelled after the extraordinary rollercoaster of the game (we’re in, we’re out, we’re in again, we’re out again and finally WE’RE IN) the fans in gold and green celebrate as our heroes acknowledge their support. I’m on my feet, cheering with what’s left of my voice, hugging my 14 year old son Calum and Andrew, our newly found buddy from Sydney.

Even after the players have disappeared down the tunnel, the Aussie fans show no sign of dispersing. Like a whipped up crowd at a rock concert we are enjoying the moment too much to make a move. For a dinky-di sports-loving Aussie, is there anywhere else in the world you would rather be right now? And the whole thing just gets better as the euphoria is fuelled by an inspired choice of music pumping out of the stadium’s PA system.

First up, Angus Young’s distinctive dawdling guitar passage introduces the crunch of AC/DC’s You Shook Me All Night Long. The music has the crowd on its feet, dancing and singing as one.

As the players reappear and commence a slow lap of honour, the unmistakable drums and flute that heralds Men At Work’s quintessential Australian travelling song tumble out of the speakers. With Lucas Neill conducting the crowd near the corner flag and all the players singing along, the crowd roar, “We come from the land down under … you’d better run/you’d better take cover”.

And then, Angus again, but this time with the late, great Bon Scott on vocals and the crowd joins in with “Oi … Oi … Oi” – not the Aussie-Aussie-Aussie version from the Olympics but the slower, more measured Acca/Dacca one. And the mighty Bon, the bragger extraordinaire, sings “I’m TNT/ I’m dynamite/ TNT/ And I’ll win the fight.”

It’s a statement, a statement to the world and the crowd senses it, abandons itself in the appropriateness of the words. Archie Thompson grabs a corner flag and holding it like a guitar, duck walks Angus Young-style down the touchline. Behind us a woman wearing an Australian shirt with Thompson and number 17 on the back says “Excuse me – can we see? That’s her father down there.” She holds up a young girl, maybe four or five, also with a number 17 Thompson shirt. “There he is. There’s Daddy,” she says, as Bon thunders, “The man is back in town/ Don’t you mess me round.”

Who was the DJ? Some travelling Australian turntable jockey who had managed to sneak into the gig? Or a local who had been captured by the overwhelming sense of goodwill that surged around the Socceroos on their great adventure? Whoever he or she was, they managed to capture the essence of the moment in music and song for 15,000 Australians and 22 football players a long way from home. All I can say is, thanks mate. Just like Harry, you nailed it.

And I idly wonder, what would they have played if Croatia had won?

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