A ground record crowd at the gabba last night allowed many to dip their toes for the first time into the fabulous emotional pool that is association football. I've been to a few football matches in my time, but few have been as entrancing, enthralling, emotionally gripping and finally just than the Olympic Quarter Final between the initially arrogantly languid Brazilians and the technically skillful, but so laid back lads from Cameroon. I had, at first, I'll admit, not been all that keen to attend these games, but I'm sorry they're over now.
The spare ticket I had was taken by the Argentinian born wife of one of my son's friends and she came complete with nine week old baby! A great tip for getting through large crowds, to the front of queues and seats on public transport is to take along, and make sure to display, a small baby. It worked a treat last night. We arrived very early and found our seats in row WW were the very highest in the upper tier and just in advance of the goal line at the scoreboard end. A couple of beer substitutes , too much loud music (admittedly they made it Oz, African and Brazilian) and out came "l'equipe de Cameroun" to warm up. The Brazilians did not.
The Brazil support was scattered and I didn't actually see a Cameroon flag until the end of the game. You could see the africans were up for it showing skills and confidence to take on the man, make space, be aware, defend calmly and shoot which our Socceroos should be willing to die for. I remarked early that they were the equal of the Brazilians in all these respects. In the tenth minute Brazil handled just outside the box and Modest Mbami did exactly what Quinton Fortune did last week - it was identical - and made it 1-0. The rest of the game Cameroon played so well. A combination of flat backline discipline which nullified the famous rapid breaking Brazil attack very bravely by catching them offside literally thirty odd times in the match. Were they frustrated, or what? On the occasion that Brazil got through the 17 year old keeper, Kemani of Le Havre, was brilliant. Half time and the crowd was buzzing and gradually chants of "Cameroooon Oi, Oi Oi" were spreading.
Early in the second a yellow card was given to Njitap for what I thought to be fairly innocuous tackle resulting in a Brazilian writhe and this was to prove to be very significant as Herr Fandel of Germany decide the number 8 was too slow taking a throw with 15 minutes to go, yellowed him for time wasting and had the red out rather too quickly for my liking. Bedlam. Boos all around, huge cheers for Njitap, immense support for the now underdogs and we all sat back expecting the Brazilians to get out of jail yet again. Ninety minutes gone and Brazil broke up the middle and an attacker (couldn't see who) went down from a tackle by someone who had not had a previous yellow card, was not the last defender and not apparently dangerously. Another red and a free kick just to the left at the edge of the box.
Crowd pandemonium! Huge cheers for the poor sod sent off immense boos for both Brazil and Fandel. The poor Cameroonians (?) were very thin on the ground as they set up a wall. Brazil had two or three free players on the far side in the box, but there were insufficient defenders to cover them. With the very last kick of the game Ronaldhino stepped up and scored. Most of the crowd groaned, then booed, then gradually a chant of "Cameroon" built up.
How could they survive down to nine man for thirty extra minutes to enter the lottery of penalties? No hope! Brazil mounted wave after wave. Cameroon held their line and their nerve and time and again Brazil were caught off side or missed the target, once an absolute air kick with the goal wide open. Occasionally Cameroon made brief foray into the Brazil half. At one point Cameroon had a player stretchered off and, despite frantic signals, the bastard ref (we felt) would not wave on the sub! They were down to seven outfield players for long enough for the original lad to eventually recover and come back on.
Half time in extra time, and I was daring to hope. The general mood elevated by an announcement about the women's water polo gold medal. Early in the second half Brazil broke through and smacked the crossbar with the keeper nowhere. About five minutes from penalties Cameroon suddenly somehow had a three on three, and, from a long way out Mbami sent a f@#ing rocket into the back of the net.
There were no Olympic day trippers at that moment, just 37, 372 football fans on their feet and roaring, I guy along from me who looked like typical Joe Olympic Football Tourist earlier on was actually weeping and I was close to it.
No-one left the stadium. The Cameroons looked quite pleased!
They did a cross field hand in had run in both directions, than a very slow and rapturously received victory lap. I noticed that even the Pseodbrazilians were joining in. If I'd have been a Brazilian supporter I'd have been devastated. The officials went off to a very hostile reception and eventually we had to go too. Little baby Anita had slept through it all but, I suspect, may have subliminally absorbed something from that night. I bet she comprehends the offside law very early in life.
Wouldn't it be nice if those toe dippers became long term bathers?
Written by David Marshall