"Australia would become the first country to book a ticket for the 2010 finals in South Africa if they beat Uzbekistan at Stadium Australia next Wednesday and other results go our way."
- Phillip Micallef, giving me tingles
It's the start of the AFL season tonight, and a part of me wishes I could muster some interest in it. When I took the train back from work, it was packed with Richmond supporters heading out to the city. I used to have an occasional fancy for the game as a kid, but now it's like peering over the neighbour's fence - it looks interesting and all, but it's really none of my business.
I've long since gone over to (soccer) football. Carlton vs Richmond at the 'G? Whatever. I'm rather more concerned about Arsenal vs Man City in two weeks time.
It's the international break at the moment, and Australia are facing the might of Uzbekistan this coming Wednesday. We're on the brink of World Cup qualification. If we beat the Uzbeks, it's almost certain. That's amazing. In fact, when you think we had to wait 32 years between the World Cups of 1974 and 2006, it's bloody brilliant. What's even more exciting is that the World Cup is next year. Which means I could be in South Africa next year, cheering them on.
I haven't followed the Socceroos for a long, long time, but one of the great things about being Australian is that there's no shame in jumping on the bandwagon. Australians are natural glory-hunters - as long as it's a sport and Australia's in a winning position, there'll be a group of zinc-creamed, drunken yobs chanting "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi!".
And just think - I could be part of the yobbery next year.
But as I'm looking at the squad list, the team's almost unrecognisable from the one I remember twelve months ago. No Moore, no Viduka, no Emerton... and who on earth is Mile Jedinak? They must've gone through a major generational change during the year that I lost interest. At least Bresciano and Cahill are still in the team. And Kewell. He might have an English accent now, and living in Turkey, but we still love our 'arry Kewell.
And if I bone up on our new players now, and learn their names and positions now, I'll be in a position to sneer at the plastic, bandwagon-hopping, glory-hunting, fairweather fans who'll be faking an interest next year. Because we true-blue Socceroo fans have been following Australia since... wait a minute, who the heck is Richard Garcia?