Well the real World Cup adventure began here. After all the hype, and the non-events of the Islands games, no WC is complete without mixing it with the Kiwis.
Met Dad (Harry) and Don Parkes (older guy in fawn jacket and old Australian rosette on lapel, present at every single Socceroo game since 54 BC - if you don't know him, you should) at Sydney Airport Friday evening. David Hill decides to get the plane with us. We were in sardine class and he was in the pointy bit, but he wandered down to say hello, chatting about guess what - Oceania, Asia etc. No free tickets offered, though.
Arrived Auckland well after 11pm Sheep Shagger time, met finally by my younger brother Sean, who lives over there for now. Don goes off to his favourite hotel - he always stays there, over something like 5 WC campaigns, we go to Sean's and consume most of the duty free scotch, watching a video of Arg vs Aus in Malaysia. Get to bed around 3am.
Saturday morning, its a beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky. Can't help but think the Woolly Adorers might have wanted rain, anything as a leveller. Nervous anticipation gets the better of us, go and get Don about midday and head off to the Albany Inn, about 1km north of the ground.
Not being ones to be inconspicuous, the bright yellow Aussie jerseys turned a few heads. As the prematch crowd built, most wore Pommie club jerseys, anything but All Whites shirts (not sold or not interested?) The lady in the snack bar asks us if we are in the team (!!!) - who did she think we were, Fiji or something. I don't think she had a f**king clue about what was going on, just that business was brisk.
Met fellow listees Snorkel and Bruce Holloway at the pub. On introducing myself ("Mark, Bay 23") Bruce says diplomatically "Hmmm, you're always keen aren't you?". We get on well and I buy him a beer to show that regardless of the New Zealand euphemisms on the list, there's nothing personal.
Finally get to the stadium. Nice stands, shit pitch. Sean and his mate on one side in deluxe seats. Harry, Don and I are behind the Aussie bench on the other side, about half way up. We are surrounded by 10,000 Ruminant Rooters. We sing our national anthem and for once I do not "Baa" thru theirs. There are only 3 other Aussies on this side, a Melbournian in a jersey with a horn (eventually drives the locals nuts), another with an ASF hat, and one guy from Tassie who came up to us. That's it...
The game kicks off. We settle fairly quickly on the "pitch" and it becomes clear that barring some silly defensive f**ckup, we are going to win. The crowd gets vocal: "All White, All WHITE..." until the pass goes inevitably astray ("ALL WRONG" yelled one). We in the stands don't start to settle until the first goal goes in. We leap to our feet whilst pins were heard dropping all over the ground. Lots of singing then, but 3 voices don't penetrate far. I feel good, Harry won't relax until 2 and Don, not until 3 (for God's sake!). Around us, the natives are restless. Cynicism sets in as the Merino Marauders moves break down. Rufer does little apart from the free kick, not that we have someone in his pocket, just that we stopped just about all service to him. Their left flank is useless, and Slater would have done better if if wan't so Footrot Flats on the wings. Harry says, "They've got potatoes growing out there".
Viddy seems back in form. The second goal was a gem, must have done his confidence good. Then its half time. We go down to the fence and asks the Aussie subs where the drinks are aftwerwards. "The Carlton Hotel!" yells Muscat.
Second half, the crowd gets pissed off. I get pelted by beer cups, cig packets etc by the more sporting ones every time I stand up. "I bet the Wallabies don't do so well!" yells one. "Who gives a shit about the Wallabies?????" I reply. They seem surprised. We score again, Jackson finally gets noticed twice by the referee and goes off, CTSJ thinks (no doubt) about 10 vs 11 and Arnie misses everything.
Its full time. The Ovine Lover crowd don't understand that soccer is not controlled by a timer, so they count down as the clock winds down (why was the rugby timer on the scoreboard even on?) We get good natured acknowlegements from most that talked to us and we race around to the dressing rooms. We get kicked out of the press conference. Wait outside the door and greet the players. Moore is OK after the injury, Arnie says unprompted "I couldn't score in a brothel".
Quickly home and change, hit the Carlton Hotel and remeet up with Snork. The players are having beers (minus Slater and Bosnich). Dave Hill, TV and the heavies are in another group. We sit nearby, Hill puts our round of drinks on the SA tab. He is voted first rate by our party. Talked a bit to Matt Bingley, later Robbie, also asked Mike Cockerill why his editor is such a pratt, full page stories one day, nothing the next. Bosnich arrives with black skivvy and the nanciest white coat I have ever seen, smoking a cigar. I say, "Hey waiter" as he walks past, he doesnt get it. In fact, Bossa is completely off the planet. His dress reveals the standard English premier league uniform when going out on the town - collarless skivvy, coat. He and Slater are both like this. Bosnich has arranged limos to take them on somewhere. They head down to the cars. Stan L stops to talk briefly, his dress - you guessed it.
We end up in some Italian eatery, finally having dinner about 11.30pm. Its been an historical day. Don and Harry talk about the old days, when we always got flogged. Its a timely reminder as to how far we have come.
I get to bed after 1am. Due to business committments, I get up at 4.30am to get the sparrowfart flight to Sydney. Score an upgrade which allows me to sleep.
I wonder where the Asian game will be........