Tuesday, 24 June 2014

The Socceroos: A Work of Art

While travelling through Brazil watching the Socceroos at the FIFA World Cup, I've tried to make a point of seeing more of each city hosting games than just the inside of stadiums and bars.

Arriving in Curitiba a few days before Australia's last match of the tournament against soon to be former world champions Spain, I looked around for some sights. Curitiba, like its neighbor to the south Porto Alegre, fancies itself as more of a European city with more culture and sophistication than many of the other cities in the country. As such it has a well known museum, the Oscar Niemeyer Museum, which focuses largely on modern visual arts.

The Oscar Niemeyer Museum

I'll be the first to tell you that I don't really understand modern art. All too often it is a splash of colours on a canvas, or a series of seemingly bland objects stuck together. I'm sure there's some reason for it all, and that it takes great talent to express yourself in such a way, but I just don't get it. This museum was no different. Aside from the building itself (shaped like an eye) there really wasn't anything there that I was terribly impressed with. I walked around really struggling to understand just why people bother.

It seems that, while I struggle to understand modern art, some people back home are struggling to understand why me and many thousands of my travelling compatriots are proud of what our Socceroos have done on the pitch in this World Cup. I've read musings from some commentators and many armchair experts suggesting that Australia did exactly what was expected of them - lose all three games - so what do we have to be proud of? Others suggest Australia even turning up to the event is pointless.

I don't understand what this piece is supposed to be saying, but at least it has Brazil colours

Many of these people aren't fans of the team (or the sport) to begin with, so their negative attitudes towards the side aren't that surprising. Most Australians grow up watching a sport that only we play (Aussie Rules Footy) or that we do well in, but have very few competitors globally (Rugby, Cricket, Netball, Swimming). When it comes to world events, we're used to being a chance of winning the whole thing, so when it comes to a sport that everyone in the world takes seriously, they struggle to understand that winning cant be the only goal every time.

The way Australia has played has given those of us fortunate enough to attend matches (and those watching in the middle of the night) numerous rewards for our support. Our first two encounters, against Chile and Holland saw Australia give their much more fancied opponents everything they could handle. For large periods in each game it not only looked possible that we would get something out of the matches, but likely. In the end, in both games, the quality of the opposition won out.

Bresciano and the boys soaking up the applause of the Aussie crowd

It was not through lack of effort though and the boys gave us more than we could realistically have hope for given the difference in squads. The fact that we left the games feeling we'd let chances slip, shows just how close we were.

The one thing the Socceroos managed to do was give us belief. While the results inevitably went against us, there was a belief that we were genuinely in this games - something that was lacking before the matches kicked off.

When we eventually played Spain there was a bit of a let down. With Cahill out through suspension and Bresciano limited in minutes, Australia lacked any real shape or attacking options and eventually went down 3-0 to a side worth hundreds of millions of dollars. While once again the boys gave everything, there was very little to get the Aussie fans excited. And there's more proof that the Aussies had exceeded expectation at the tournament - they'd actually raised our level of expectation that we could compete even given our limitations.

Aussie fans celebrating in the streets after the loss to Spain

Some people may not understand or see the positives in a loss. Winning will always be the only thing that matters to many, but I think this group of green and gold wearing Aussies have shown that its also about how you play, not just how well you play.

In this situation, beauty may well be in the eye of the beholder, and who knows, this may mean I now understand modern art. 

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