Australia, although otherwise obsessed with all kinds of sport, is surprisingly quiet on the topic of football (also known as SOCCER to the sacrilegious). The lucky country may be a member of FIFA with a National Soccer League of its own, but the sport is struggling to take off because not only do the country’s best players run away to Europe but the national squad (named the Socceroos, of course) failed to qualify for the World Cup at the last hurdle.
Then again, the last World Cup boasted an official national TV audience of 9 million – but how many understood the off-side rule?
In any case it is a tribute to the minority communities of Australia (aided by the backpacker horde perhaps) that this year’s World Cup is even being shown on television. The original deal was that Channel 9 would show the last 16 matches, but nowt else. Bad bad bad. The remaining matches were to be divided up between whichever channels bid highest – very likely to be Fox Sports it seemed – until SBS (free and universal) picked up the schedule.
And so, we are pleased to announce, every match of the 2002 FIFA World Cup will be available to the masses – essentially live! Yes, not only can we see every foul or hat trick, we are only a couple of hours off Japanese/Korean time. Bonus!
World Cup Guide to Sydney
Numero uno for those who love a big party: a disused cinema complex in the heart of the CBD – the Theatre of Dreams, 232 Pitt St – has been specially converted into three mini football fields surrounded by well stocked bars. Kings Cross also has a range of supporting pubs, for instance the World Bar and the Empire.
England: Anywhere in Bondi and Coogee, for instance the CBH or Beach Palace. $2 beers during matches, plus $10 for a meal and 2 drinks. Here’s hoping Beckham heals quickly!
Ireland: The Cock’n'Bull in Bondi will be rocking to the sound of Irish yells, and Scruffy Murphys in the CBD are showing every match. Both have a $10 meal deal. Shame about Roy Keane, guys.
France: The America’s Cup Bar at the Hilton Hotel has been hired out by the Alliance Francais for all French matches. Allez les Bleus!! And good luck without Zidane.
Italy: Try the restaurant strips of Norton Street in Leichhardt to support the Azzurri, I’m sure they have some tasty food as well as specially brought in cinema screens.
Brazil: Rio’s, just off Parramatta Road in Camperdown, is where Sydney’s Brazilian community is cheering for the likes of Rivaldo. Kick-offs are preceded by a traditional prayer and a minute’s reverential silence, apparently.
Your average Aussie calls football: soccer, and rugby: football – unless of course they’re from Victoria, in which case football is Aussie [no] Rules. Confused yet? Just watch out for the egg-like ball – plus lack of body armour – and you’ll be fine.
The NRL (National Rugby League) is probably the biggest of these in Sydney, given that the Wests Tigers, Parramatta Eels, Canterbury Bulldogs, Sydney Roosters, South Sydney Rabbitohs and Manly Northern Eagles all reside in the Metro area. Did I forget anyone? Either way it’s bloody good to watch and is played a hell of a lot faster than either code in Europe.
There’s also the three State of Origin matches to help you get excited, when the very best of New South Wales and Queensland are pitted against each other to determine who gets to strut around proudly. We watched the first and it’s definitely an experience! Tickets to NRL games start at $15 and the cheapest Origin tickets are $25 – just remember to bring a nice warm coat!
Rugby Union matches are pretty much over for the moment, the Super 12 final having been played last weekend (and a great game it was too), but in the run-up to this Tri-Nations and Bledisloe Cup matches the Wallabies will soon be playing many an international match nearby. There’s also the Rugby Union World Cup (almost as good as the one with the round ball) coming up in 2003. It isn’t cheap though: tickets to a Aussie-French friendly at Stadium Australia begin at $40.
AFL is also played in Sydney, though not as much as in Victoria, with the Sydney Swans being based at the SCG (Sydney Cricket Ground). I haven’t been to one of these games yet, but sitting and watching it is an exercise in confusions. Take one cricket pitch, a large number of players (don’t ask me how many), two funny shaped goals (two tall poles flanked by a couple of shorter ones), a rugby-like ball and goal judges who wave their arms about. This is AFL. The rules are very confusing – in fact I’m not sure if there are many – and the players get hurt pretty often. Answers on a postcard if you figure it out!
Get on out there and enjoy the wonders of this sport-obsessed nation. Sydney is especially good for watching footy – and other sports – following the Olympics-related building frenzy. Or, you could just go down the pub.. and don’t forget your national shirt!