Asian Cup – Australia v Kuwait: Plane sailing at the game


Roy Hay

Getting there

Football matches in Melbourne, like the Australia v Kuwait game which opened the Asian Cup of football, involve a roughly 200 kilometre round trip from Bannockburn, north-west of Geelong. Normally Frances, my wife, and I go together since I retired as a journo, but last night one of my friends asked me to go with him, a lad who works with him at his school, his cousin, and the proprietor of a hotel in Geelong. Three of them are former Australian Masters champions at football and I have known them since they were schoolboys. In those days I was playing veterans football and, after training us into the ground, our player-coach would say, ‘We will just have a game against the kids’. It was excruciating trying to catch these lightning fast youngsters but they were and remain great company.

Even so, I did not anticipate being driven to Melbourne in a downpour while consuming a banquet in the back seat of the car—seafood, steak, chicken, wine and beer. Things are looking up, I thought. They had even booked into the car park at the ground so within moments of arrival we were settled in the bar at the stadium soaking up the ambience and catching up with my son, who is about a decade younger than this lot but has been involved with them on and off the field for years.

I ran quickly round to the media centre to meet some journo colleagues and then back to the bar until it was time to take in the pre-match opening ceremony, which seemed to involve an inflatable stage in roughly the shape of a football and numerous people charging all over the arena. No doubt on television and with the benefit of commentary it might have made sense and spectacle but from the back it was hard to fathom what was going on. The noise from the amps certainly made your whole body vibrate.

When the game kicked off Australia gave away a cheap goal to a diving header by the Kuwaiti Hussain Fadhel in the eighth minute, but came back strongly with goals by Tim Cahill, Massimo Luongo, skipper Mile Jedinak from the penalty spot and James Troisi in injury time.

From the outer

One of the biggest cheers of the night came deep in the second half of the game. The organisers, in their usual determination to manipulate us into playing their game—making money from commercial contracts—had put cards behind the seats in the areas where the television cameras could be easily pointed. We were exhorted to hold them up at various points, yellow side now, then an ugly pinkish-brown next. Sure enough, the spirit of goodwill among the fans and fanatics had most of us doing it approximately, in the ‘what’s the point of this’ mood that overtakes us before games start.

By the second half, with the game in the bag, the cards became paper aeroplanes and the cheer erupted when one flew nearly half the length of the pitch from the direction of the green and gold army. That was followed almost immediately afterwards by a monitory notice on the big screens announcing the penalties for launching projectiles! A small fusillade of paper darts followed.

This is Melbourne where the fans existed before the game became something the promoters and spruikers dreamed they invented. They are a creative but critical bunch. Around us some silly people tried to start a Mexican wave, even tried to get it to go the other way round the stadium when they got no joy out of the hard core, but that failed too. We wanted to watch the football not provide camera fodder.

Yet we are treated abominably by the controllers of the big screens. Team line-ups are not announced. While the journos in the press box get multiple replays of incidents for their analysis and slow motion critiques of the officials, as do the folks at home watching on television, the punters in the outer get the Asian Football Confederation logo. It is patronising and offensive. The supposed justification is that we might get upset and demonstrate our concern.

Today I read in the newspapers about Robert Connolly’s new children’s film Paper Planes, which is to be launched next week. Perhaps our fans were practising for the sequel. Mind you, if they had been watching the repeat of an episode of QI last week they would have been told that a guy at NASA has determined that the most efficient shape for a paper aeroplane, the one that enables it to fly furthest, is a small cylinder made of shiny card with a slightly weighted leading edge. Examples have flown over 50 metres. But there are world paper plane records which far exceed that for distance and others for time in the air.

In a world where there are so many serious things happening, a night at the football can be a great release.

Roy’s website:

Roy Hay and Bill Murray’s history of Australian football was published last year and is available by contacting us here at [email protected]

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  1. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Hi Roy,
    I always learn something new when reading your work. Pretty shabby treatment of fans by the looks of things.
    Watched the game in full and I hope that Luongo’s goal can give the Socceroos the belief that they need not rely on Timmy C to get them out of trouble. Maybe it was a symbolic cutting of the ties, but they played without fear after Luongo’s header. It was great to watch, despite the quality of the opposition. Cheers

  2. Great night out. Thanks for the report Roy. Hard to know if we were very good, or they were very bad.
    The game being a delayed telecast for the qualifying games makes it hard for the tournament to build up a wider following. I guess it is live on Pay TV. Did the ABC not pay enough to get live rights? Getting into a bidding war with SBS when the ABC is broke seems very strange.

  3. Thanks for your thoughts, Roy.
    I cannot fathom why the sporting organisations and stadium operators think that punters actually desire a constant barrage of banal, fake, and too-loud announcements through the p.a. system.

  4. Thanks gentlemen. Tonight I’m back in the media box, though I hope to catch up with my co-author, Bill Murray, before the game. He is now living in Adelaide, but of course, no games there.

    Australia will find both Oman and South Korea much tougher propositions, especially without Jedinak, though Milligan can fill the defensive midfielder role very well, provided he keeps his elbows down.

  5. Thanks as always Roy. As Peter said, your insights are always invaluable. I thought it was a really poor standard game…Jets would go 0-0 with Kuwait. Australia at least has a variety of strike options to keep fans interested. The defence, however….
    Tonight’s early game between UAE and Qatar was seriously awful. Hope tickets are very cheap.

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