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En route to the big dance

by Tunna on Jun 13, 2018

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Gate 4, International Terminal, Melbourne Airport, June 2018. As I sit alone and stare across the departure lounge sipping on a $7 Diet Coke, I can’t help but notice the faces of anticipation and excitement as people wait to board our Thai Airways plane bound for Bangkok.

Most, of course, have their heads buried in their smart phones, or are busy taking that customary photo that floods our news feeds this time of year, the photographing of a boarding pass accompanied by a Passport.

There is however a more exciting minority to gloss over. Some look like they’re breaking away for the tropics, while others have backpacks full of reading materials which tells me they’re likely headed for destinations further than our first stop.

Then there’s those that sit still and stare into what seems an abyss, of nothing in particular, but are staring in the same direction for long periods at a time. This is what I must look like to them. We sit as we ponder the long journey ahead. We’re the type that are by no means afraid of flying, not at all. We’re just not fans of the long haul and the draining experience that comes with it. First world problems, right?

Its ok ‘children of the abyss’. I completely understand. Brace yourselves and I sincerely hope for not only your sake, but also for the sake of your fellow travellers that you’ve secured an aisle seat.

Then, as if to remind me just why I’m making this trip, I catch a glimpse out of the corner of my eye of what had to be a father and son. A man in his late 30’s-early 40’s and his 10-ish year old son. Dressed in their brand new Socceroos jerseys, they walk side by side before deciding to duck into Hungry Jacks.
By now, half way through my 600ml Diet Coke, seeing that father and son stroll past took me back to my first World Cup experience and the fond memories I cherish still today.

I had to rewind the clock right back, 28 years in fact of when I was in the same position as the duo I just saw. Little does that boy know that he’s about to embark on a journey that will forever be a part of him.
It was the European summer of 1990 and Italy, the place of birth to both my parents was hosting the tournament for the first time in close to 60 years. It was as good excuse as any for my Dad to make a trip back to the mother land to see the extended family…  and attend the World Cup.

I’m sure everyone can relate to having at least one vivid memory of their childhood they can recount to people as if it happened yesterday; mine is entering the Olympic Stadium in Rome for the first time that tournament. People singing in unison walking to the ground, scaling the steps to hear the roar of the crowed as I inched closer to the concourse, seeing the perfectly manicured grass as my head peered over those final few steps, before arriving at the top of the stairs to take in the stadium before me. It was like nothing I’d ever seen.

Dad tells people I froze in that moment and I probably did, but that’s the one reference point to those years I always go back to, and it was only through my adulthood that I stopped taking that experience for granted and was able to appreciate it as something that’s lived on, long after it was gone.

Those travelling to Russia for their first World Cup will no doubt experience the same. I’ve been lucky enough to have travelled to five World Cup tournaments prior to this one and on each occasion came away with new lifelong friendships.

I always say that the football will take care of itself. We’re going to see the world’s best so there is no doubt the matches will be of the highest standard.

Those travelling on the Green and Gold Army Tour are about to embark on the experience of a lifetime as they’ll be able to live each day in the company of likeminded fans of our national football team. That’s what the game does I guess. It has a knack of bringing people together like nothing else.

I’m looking forward to the t hreeweeks ahead. I’m often asked which of the five so far my favourite was. My response is always the same. I’ve enjoyed them all for varying reasons but what’s consistent and what I’ve loved most is the festival that is the World Cup and its ability to bring the world together to one country for what is essentially a month long party. That’s the best part, it always has been and may it continue.
I look forward to having a yarn or two about Football, about anything really over the next 20 days with my fellow Socceroo fans on the Green and Gold Army Moscow Home Base tour. I also look forward to learning about a new culture. One that has such an ‘interesting” past but is now renowned, especially Moscow, as being one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world.
Who knows, I might even bump into “Father and Son” on my travels... while sipping a Diet Coke outside St Basils and Red Square.