Eins, zwei, drei, vier and loathing for the Shockeroos
IT was all downhill once the walk was over. It had felt like a walk into history, a walk into the unknown, a walk into the pages of time, whatever cliche-riddled walk you fancy.
What it was in fact was a long walk to humiliation at the hands of a German pantser division that gave us our greatest World Cup pantsing of all time. It had started so well but at the end of the day there were only three things that made us feel good. Sunshine, a terrific esplanade, and architecture.
The 10km walk from the Durban Marina to the Moses Mabhida Stadium took 90 minutes, the same length of time it took the Germans to subject us to a ritualised international sporting humiliation which was one goal worse than the former West Germany’s 3-0 pounding of the 1974 Socceroos side.
Hundreds and hundreds of Aussies made the walk. There were more Australian fans than Germans by what felt like a factor of two to one - funny that, because when the game started, it felt like there were twice as many German players as there were Socceroos.
The atmosphere could not have been better, the anticipation more pronounced.
It was a beautiful sunny day. We were truly girt by sea with a delicious warm breeze coming off the Indian Ocean. The Aussies were draped in flags, tooting their green and gold vuvuzelas, some of them catching rides on Durban’s famous beachside rickshaws, shouting Aussie Aussie Aussie as the super-fit black dudes ran along the beachfront towing them behind.
The consensus was that Das Mannschaft were in for a surprise.
I accosted a couple of German chaps on the way to Moses Madhiba and asked them if they felt a sense of terror at playing their opening match against the great footballing powerhouse that is Australia.
Being the zany funsters that they are, they replied: “No.”
(That reminds me of the German joke. This guy walks into a bar. He has serious personal problems and has resorted to alcohol abuse as a result.)
Germans Wolfgang Altmann and Antonio Riccio had travelled from Stuttgart for the game.
“No we are not terrified,” Antonio said. “We are convinced that we will win. We will score three goals. Maybe we will score four. It will be 3-1 or 4-1.”
“Tell him he’s dreaming,” piped up Darren Parsons, a 49-year-old bloke from Brisbane who was walking with his son Corey to Moses Madhiba.
“I reckon we can come out of it with a draw,” Darren said. “I’m tipping 1-1.”
Yeah right. Dazza, who were we kidding?
At times it looked like this match could have become the first in history where if you had to scull every time someone scored a goal, you’d be smashed by the end.
As a way of avoiding the horror below I found myself staring at the majestic concrete arch which spans the Moses Mabhida Stadium. It is a very clever piece of political architecture - the arch starts as two separate beams but meets up to form a single beam, and it symbolises the transition from apartheid to the new united South Africa.
Earlier this week we met an Aussie labourer who was working in Durban and had poured the concrete when the stadium was built. On the day of the pour, he wrapped an Australian flag into a ball and buried it inside the concrete.
Last night our national football team was buried there.
At his post-match press conference German coach Joachim Loew kept dabbing at his lips with a serviette, as if he was wiping away the blood from the footballing carcass he had just devoured.
“This was a good warm-up” he said, which you would regard as patronising if not for the fact that it were true, although describing it as “good” might be overdoing it.
He then said one of the scarier things I’ve heard in sport for a while, that the Germans had not played their best and needed to attack more. Jeez Joachim, how many goals does one bloke need?
In the mixed zone after the game, where the journos queue to interview players at random as they file out of the stadium, the Aussies looked exactly like you don’t want your team to look. They looked really embarrassed. Tim Cahill looked gutted, he looked like he’d been crying. And why wouldn’t he. Harry looked dirty and Marco Bresciano looked mad, as neither man took the field and both are angry at Pim. Kewell barrelled through without saying a word, looking like he was in a hurry to go to a funeral. Another funeral. Schwarzer, who prides himself on his record of keeping clean sheets, or at least standing between us and a blowout, looked like he wanted the earth to swallow him up.
Vince Grella tried to inject some perspective.
“Sleep it off,” he said. “No-one died.”
No-one apart from the Socceroos.
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