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WC REWIND - STH AFRICA

by Tunna on Jun 11, 2018

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#1 (South Africa 2010) – Me, Myself & the Socceroos, 30th May 2010

I often have difficulty identifying with some of things commonly considered “Australian”. For instance, I don’t wear Zinc or wide brimmed hats. I am not a huge fan of Vegemite or the meat pie and very rarely will you see me with a VB in hand - but make no mistake, I remain a proud Australian.

I consider myself one of the luckiest people in the world. Those beyond our shores offer little resistance when confronted with that statement, and why would they? We are vibrant, we are contemporary and we are beautiful (at least to our mothers).

Growing up, I didn’t struggle to come to terms with Australian society and the “Aussie” psyche. I was born here, I grew up here, my family and friends are here and I love this country. I respect Australia’s history and those who fought in battle to ensure we remain 'young and free'. The Anzac spirit is something that I respect and cherish.

I realise this could be seen as contradictory. However, let me explain.

I've never really understood the term 'Un-Australian'. What does it mean and how can we possibly continue to use it as a cultural norm? It’s hard enough to define what’s "Australian" let alone what's not. We live in such an enriched and wonderfully diverse society that any attempt to simplify the defining aspect of the word would be doing it a great injustice. There are just too many variables in my opinion.

The definition of the word "Australian" should be what you want it to be, and within reason there are no wrong answers. Whilst I respect, believe and subscribe to the 'lucky country' generalisation, I have to delve further to find my own nationalistic pride at a more personal level.

As a proud Italian-Australian and football fan immersed in all aspects of the game, few will be surprised that the one thing that automatically gets my Green and Gold blood pumping is our national football team. In this sport-obsessed country whose sporting heroes serve as iconic symbols of our past and present it is the 'Socceroos' with whom I identify the most.

Most Australians of European descent will have a story to share told to them by their grandparents. Stories of war ravaged countries, of the families they left behind with nothing else but themselves and a few personal belongings. They settled and they battled. While often subjected to racism, they continued to work day and night to provide for their families. For this alone, I am in debt to my grandparents forever. Their sacrifices created the lives we today largely take for granted.

When the “godfather” of Australian Football broadcasting, Les Murray was asked about the Australian football team and the European influences, he explained how football marries a lot of qualities the migrants brought into Australia. Les highlights the cultural and technical qualities of the players and how the different cultural backgrounds and football skills were inherited from their fathers and grandfathers. The Socceroos collectively represent these cultural values, and growing up in Australia they display the much-envied 'never surrender' Aussie attitude. All Australian sportsmen and women have this powerful combination of a strong work ethic and discipline. Adding technical ability to such cultural attributes makes this team a very formidable one. No other team in the world has quite this combination of qualities.

Andrew Orsatti, then of SBS Sport interviewed Vince Grella immediately after the Socceroos penalty shootout victory over Uruguay in 2005, Grella spoke largely of the sacrifices. The son of an Italian immigrant who arrived in the 'lucky country' and worked hard so his children could benefit from the fruits of his labour. He talked about the dreams he had as an Australian child of one day playing in Italy, the country of his parents’ birth and representing Australia at the sporting pinnacle, the World Cup. On that magical night at Stadium Australia in November 2005, Grella realised his dream. – and with it the dreams of thousands of other Australians.

I was moved by Vince’s words for I had always felt a similarly identifiable connection with the Socceroos. In our own ways, we were both representing Australia and all European Australians that night.

The Socceroos lining up in Durban on June 14 to take on Germany will mostly be first generation Australians. Sons of migrants who came to these shores, the earth’s greatest meeting place, for a new beginning and the hope for a better life. The beauty of football is that it brings together the masses and excluding no-one for reasons of race, creed, or religion. Just like Vince Grella, one should expect the sons of Australia's new migrants to one day be wearing the Green and Gold of the Socceroos and creating their own history and fulfilling their own personal dreams; While elsewhere, a humble supporter will be putting pen to paper about how the Socceroos are representative of their own culture in the broader Australian landscape.