Sport and friendship

Knowing people comes in handy. I once got free tickets to a show at the National Gallery of Victoria because I knew a guy who worked behind the information desk. I hadn’t seen him for about three years, but he didn’t mind, in fact he seemed to revel in dishing out free goods. I didn’t even ask. My girlfriend was a little confused.

“Where do we get the tickets?”

“I’m holding them”

“What? He gave you tickets? Who is that guy?”

“It’s Jimmy”

“Jimmy who?”

“I don’t know, I just know him”

Mateship. The Aussie spirit…yada yada badaboo. I’m not a great nationalist but sometimes I think we’ve got something great in these parts. Sure our politicians are fighting with each other, but they’re not fighting their citizens.

I have a mate, he knows a guy, and I know the guy too, but my mate knows him better. He gave us 4 tickets to Australia v Saudi Arabia at AAMI Park. We take our seats and there’s a nice family next to us supporting Saudi Arabia. In fact, they have a lot of support in the stands, a nice presence to out-chant the 20,000 Melbourne Victory fans who seem unsure what to sing. “Bring on Hernandez!” we joke.

Another mate passes me 4 beers and when I look back the ball is in the back of the net. The kids from the family let my mate know all about it, pointing to the scoreboard. They won’t give up on their world cup dream yet.  Down the other end we equalise, and my mate is up dancing on his toes, in the kid’s face. We all laugh. I look back and the older one has his arm around my mate. Love is all around.

I have another mate called MS Dhoni. Find me on facebook and you’ll see it’s true! I met him at Melbourne airport as they we’re leaving after the controversial 07/08 tour. No one else seemed to notice the Indian team, but after that particular tour – and the infamous ‘Monkey-Gate’ scandal – I couldn’t resist attempting to get a photo with the team. They were leaving as I approached but Dhoni was more than happy to pose.

I went to India a few years ago and found it a wonderful and challenging place to be – busy, impoverished, friendly, and full of cricket nuts. If you go to downtown New Delhi they really do discuss Ricky Ponting a lot. I played a game of street cricket and was run out without facing a delivery. An invitation was extended to a local house for a chat and some very, very hot food. Once you learn to trust the right people, India will be everything you ever wanted.

I think India has had an average tour, but they have faced a resurgent Australia and a tricky Sri Lanka.  They will head home with a lot of soul searching ahead of them, but there’s no doubt they’ll bounce back. At least the main scandal has been form, and not any incidents like what occurred in 07/08.

I’m not even sure which team I really support in this series. Cricket for me needs excitement – I want us to win without completely dominating. My ‘mate’ Dhoni is heading home, but there’s always plenty of friends in the stands. That’s what I like about going to sport in Melbourne – every now and then there is a conversation to be had, an openness between strangers that is all too absent in our common society.

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