The World Cup is the most watched sporting event on planet Earth. It has been for a while.
I recall as a little nipper, my Father waking myself and some siblings in the very early cool winter mornings to see World great teams play each other live on TV. It was always a source of sadness that Australia wasn't also playing among the best of the World, in the World's favourite game.
So when by stamina, skill and a sheer force of will Australia defeated Uruguay and earned the right to play the World's best in the 2006 FIFA World Cup, I was united with many an ecstatic Australian. At long last the curse was broken!
Picture this humble traveller, mindful of the Australia vs Japan game for some time as that it was one we must in an absolute way win to have any hope of making it through to the second round. I happened to be on a train (hoping it was the correct one) from Brussels-Nord to the Brussels 'National' airport (which is actually their interNational airport) when the game started.
Not long after a friend SMS'ed me to let me know that Japan had scored against us. One nil against the Socceroos. Hmmmm not good.
With this dark news hanging in mind I navigated my way through the unfamiliar Brussels airport to get ready to fly to Rome. Giggling erupted as I saw a huge Boeing propaganda billboard in the foyer. They really are terrified of the A380!
After Checking in, passing through security, and taking a photo of a huge Hergé moon-rocket advertisement, I headed for my gate and sighted an airport pub, which like all pubs in Europe at this time had a large TV with live World Cup games playing.
Immediately I recognised that it was the all important Australia vs Japan game in progress and that the score was still one nil against us. Bother!
I proceed past the pub to find exactly where my gate was. An old habit I developed to avoid missing a flight. After locating the necessary gate, and with a bit of time to spare I immediately returned to the pub to see what the Socceroos where up to.
Still one nil against us as I returned and the game was getting deep into it's closing stages. It dawned on me at that time that people must pray more when the world cup is on - so I joined them. "Dear God, please help us!". I watched a few more anxious minutes then added a second prayer " but Your will be done Lord."
Moments after the second prayer Australia scored a goal! Oh relief, thank GOD! at least if it ended this way we would be on even points with Japan. Still watching intently I noticed that Australia still had possession of the ball and a very cheeky attitude to their passing. To my astonishment and delight Australia scored a second Goal. "Yeeeessss!" I groaned as I punched the air briefly forgetting that I was in a public place.
That was it, just minutes left now, and as long as we kept possession of the ball and didn't give Japan any opportunities we had won this game. The stiff and skilful Japanese defence that I'd watched just minutes before seemed confused now and all at sea. Australia still had possession and after a few beautiful passes my eyes widened and fingers tingled. Goal three for Australia. "Oh Yeeeerrrrssss I bellowed as I leapt into the air, punching the sky. Oh what joy, what an ecstasy after all the years in the wilderness Australia was back in no uncertain terms!
At this time most eyes in the pub expressing some puzzlement were on myself, the loan Australian supporter, and I had to explain to those near me that this was a very important game for us - historic no less! A few moments later the game finished and I moaned low with satisfaction.
As I floated back to the gate in a state of joyous numbness I thanked God, and realised that I had just seen Australian Soccer being born anew. From now on in this glorious World competition Australians would now have to be reckoned with.
After that I SMS'ed my Brother whom I knew would be watching.