A Date with the Socceroos

Trip Start Nov 14, 2007
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Trip End Apr 20, 2009


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Flag of Uzbekistan  ,
Wednesday, September 10, 2008

As has happened many times on out trip, the planets aligned above us in Tashkent and Christina and I found ourselves in the front row for the World Cup qualifier between Uzbekistan and the Socceroos.

Earlier in the day I had just run into the Aussie cheer squad in the lobby of the Hotel Uzbekistan (such a lovely place, such a lovely place). Fifty or so people of the "GG (Green and Gold) Army" had made the god forsaken trip out here to Tashkent for the game, most of them having come from Amsterdam where, I was surprised to learn, they had just watched the Socceroos hand a defeat to the Dutch team.

"So dija com'moud 'ere for the game too mate?" one of them asked me.

"No, it's just some fluke. Me and the missus are on a trip across asia."

(Somehow the familiar twang of an anitpodean prompted me to say "missus" (WTF!))

"Noice" he says,

"Yeah, swoit mate" (for good sakes its "Sweet" Pat, "Sweet"! - lift your frickin' game!) "So, you were in the Netherlands for the game?"

"Yep,"

"Must have been great. And before that?"

"Oibiza"

"Awyeah? Oibiza. Noice" I say.

But this had taken me slightly by surprise and i felt the conversation was very soon going to run out of steam- I mean, what do i really need to know about Ibiza?

"So......Izit choip?" (sorry, it was the best i could come up with)

"Awyeah. Eeeeez are 2 euro. But coke was fitty, acid twenny and ketamine was fordy euro. So yeah, not choip really eh. I think i spent twoilve hundred euro's in 5 days."

"Right" i say, (but i was really thinking 'holy f*cking sh*t f*ck!!!!' - not my most eloquent moment - "God dyamn it myan!" would have been more proper- apologies........)

"......But Keta's eh" - he continued- "its fucking awesome moit. 'ave you tried Keta's 'ave you? (my head was already shaking) Fucking awesome, was off my fucking face!"

Ahhhhh........For we are young and free. Time to make my exit....

"Well yeah, nice to meet you. Might see you at the game tonight"

"Swoit mate"

"Swoit"

Later at the game, Christina and I filed around the stadium looking for our bay which was somehwere mid-pitch- the best position for a soccer game. We were discouraged to find that the entrance to our bay had developed a large scrum around it, kept in check by a pack of Uzbek police in dark green jersey's. It seemed that our seats were located in the middle of the Uzbek cheer squad. The tight-head prop (never a position for the brainy) amongst them took a look at our tickets, shook his head and waved us away to
an empty bay on the far side of the stadium.

The bay wasn't actually empty, it was occupied by a few dozen australian supporters kitted out in golds. From this distance i still managed to see an inflatable kangaroo and possibly a crocidile perched upon undoubtedly drunken heads.

"Ah fuck." i said, thinking that sometimes we are obviously not girt by enough sea.

Not seeming to have many choices (i'd rather take on the All Black front row, than the Uzbek Police) we made our way to where, appropriately, around 30 people from the most sparsely populated country in the world gathered in two's and three's within a fenced off part of the stadium which should hold one thousand.

We showed our passports to another scrum of Uzbek police to enter the Aussie fan area. It was far more scrutiny than we received at the border and it turned out there were more police in the bay than fans- were we in some kind of danger?

Inside, i had just confirmed the original siting of an inflatable crocodilus,1.8 metres in length, possibly female, when i ran into the bloke from the lobby of the Hotel Uzbekistan (such a lovely place, such a lovely place). Dressed in a golden turban, and missing a front tooth which I swore he had only a few hours earlier, he reached forward and shook my hand with gusto. The sort of hand shake i'm sure Mark Latham would have given me if ever we had met. RIP Mark.

But anyway, it was with some relief that after a day of expectations and meeting with several of my fellow country fellow, the game got under way and i could - for the first time in total freedom- pull my pair of Australian flag boxer shorts from my pocket and wave them in the air like an idiot and pretend to fit in with these other Aussie fanatics.

It is a strange thing to be amongst something so apparenlty familiar after spending several months without any sense of clanship. For instance, I felt strangely detached from the parochial songs- the boxer shorts (now draped over my head)- were enough passion for me. Though, i did develop a favourite, set to the tune of that old classic "When The Log Rolls Over We Will Drown":

Yu vast nyet Kangaroo! (in Russian: you have no kangaroo)
Yu vast nyet Kangaroo!
Yu vast nyet!
Yu vast nyet!
Yu vast nyet Kangaroo!

slightly repetitive, but a good way to piss off the uzbeks. 1-nil australia.

I was mightily impressed that after the game the team came over to thank us for our support. Schwarzer, Neil, Chipperfield, Emerton, and then Harry, each coming to the fence and some throwing there prized shirts and boots over for instant australian seagulling. Amidst the yells of: "Harry! Harry! autograph?", "Sign?","Marry me?", none of the players, evidently, heard my cry of "Spare Change?" or "Lift to Tehran?".

But no time to worry. Having defeated the hosts we had to focus on leaving the ground in one piece.
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