Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Football Dreaming and Memories of Geelong

Greetings on this dull and dreary day and I hope wherever you are you are staying warm and dry. Winter's frigid hand has slapped us down like a schoolmaster disciplining an insolent schoolboy and I am sure most of you who chance by this piece are huddled up warm inside and leaving outdoor activities only to those who need to ply their trade in the ill weather which becomes this time of year.

 There is a patch of blue sky to the south surrounded by a sea of grey cloud and blizzards rain on the Brindabella mountains as they lie shrouded and invested by snow and ice and crystal winds strike at her ramparts with all the fury the winter gods command and it is much to their satisfaction.

 I have included a rather non-descript image as my "photo of the day" but the shimmering heat rising from the road, distorting the light as it soaks the camera lens was appropriate for today and will hopefully remind all and sundry of better days ahead as we slip quietly and efficiently through the year.

 The photo was taken in Geelong in October 2010 as the world's best professional cyclists battled to be crowned world champion on the streets of the city. I was waiting along the back straight of the course, a long and undulating street the name of which escapes me, readying myself to get a photo as the main peloton streamed past. It is a very good camera which I had on the day but I was largely unfamiliar with it's operation and consequently my ambition to shoot well amounted to nought in the end.

 It so happened that as I focused the camera when the main bunch came past I found myself peering through the lens at none other than Cadel Evans as he fought to retain the title won so valiantly the year before on the streets of Mendrisio in Switzerland not five kilometres from his European hearth. I almost couldn't believe it and dropped the camera to my chest just to make sure it was really him I was looking at and of course I never got the chance to re-focus and take the shot. The bunch was moving too quickly and my skill as a cameraman is poor enough without trying to operate quickly, under self-imposed pressure.

 Alas, although he rode gallantly as usual, Cadel was  not able to keep the title of World Professional Champion and the race was won by Norway's Thor Hushovd in a sprint finish.

 Back to the present and the Socceroos finished their World Cup campaign with a dismal thrashing at the hands of Spain. Of course they played well enough I suppose but any other Australian sporting team which had been bundled out of competition in straight sets would be decried as "chokers" and "losers". Not the Socceroos. They played well the results just didn't come apparently, according to experts and those sitting at home on their couches in the wee small hours. If the Australian cricket team was ousted from the Cricket World Cup before the second round or lost a Test series 3-0 there would be blood on the floor! If the Kangaroos didn't make the semi-finals of the Rugby League World Cup there would be crowds with torches marching on NRL headquarters. But no, the Socceroos, despite not being able to budge themselves off the bottom of the ladder in their group, played well and deserved more. Apparently.

 In all seriousness it wasn't the disaster it looks on paper. There were some promising signs for sure and one can't help but think that coach Ange Postacoglou has half an eye on the World Cup in four years given the youngish squad he selected but I think a more prosaic analysis is needed. The result showed just where we stand in international soccer and the only real bright spot is that England, a much better team than Australia and a country where soccer is a religion, was also bundled out before the second round. One can only have a chuckle at that.

 Australians, at least those who have an interest in the World Cup, desperately want to be part of the larger world football family or so it seems. Yes, we were at the World Cup but realistically we were only making up the numbers. Time to get a bit harder and demand better results next time methinks. Just making up the numbers next time shouldn't be tolerated. Results or be damned I say. Australian soccer has a long way to go and so does it fans.

 It has taken me a lot longer to write this piece today than I had intended so I will sign off as I have legitimate business to attend to. Stay warm, stay dry, stay safe and I bid you farewell.

 Until next time.

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