Daniel Garb: Why the legacy of THAT night is so powerful 15 years later
Fifteen years on, it hasn’t aged. In fact at this uncertain, saddening, coronavirus crisis time it was exactly what we needed to get through another mundane night of isolation without sport and football on the radar.
Instead we were able to reminisce and reflect on the finest Socceroos team ever assembled. On the finest night in Australian Football. On arguably the finest night in Australian sport.
It was the night Australian Football came of age and realised its potential. The night we all knew was possible. The night we knew had to happen with the calibre of player we had representing the nation.
All those players needed, all the nation needed was belief that it could all come together. Guus Hiddink provided that assurance. A world class manager shrewdly recruited to galvanise our boys.
And the fans duly responded. 1-0 down from the first leg, we may have been, but it did not dissuade us.
The anthems proved that. They were the coming of age moment. The Uruguayan rendition was booed so ferociously that the likes of Alvaro Recoba and Diego Lugano, two of the more hardened footballers of their time, can be seen looking at the crowd, incredulous at the act and disbelieving that it was in fact Australian football fans carrying it out.
WATCH THE MINI MATCH OF SOCCEROOS V URUGUAY IN THE VIDEO PLAYER AT THE TOP!
Aussies don’t do this, they must have thought. They’re soft. We do, that’s our go. What’s going on?!
Mark Bresciano is quoted as saying it was the moment he knew the night would go Australia’s way. The moment we grew to the level we needed to together - fans and players. To properly mix it with the big boys in the biggest of moments.
Thousands tuned in to the Socceroos Facebook page to relive it all again on Tuesday night. The number slowly growing from the awesome anthems, hitting a high point for Bresciano’s brilliant tie-equalising strike and peaking once more as John Aloisi’s penalty sent us all into national delirium.
Our minds all harked back to where we were on that magical night, if not lucky enough to be in the stadium.
The city, the living room, the pub, the mates. We remembered who we hugged, how loud we screamed, how utterly bloody relieved we were. How damn happy it made us feel.
But there were moments of high anxiety as well which, diluted over time, were put into sharp focus once more.
Like Harry Kewell starting on the bench. Can you imagine the reaction to that today? Our best player, our golden boy. My word. #Sokkahtwitter would have overthrown parliament.
But this was Guus in charge. We trusted him, he had to have a plan. And so he did. Half an hour in, he was on and the game was changed. ‘You’re too deep, push up the pitch’ he shouted at the defence. And then Harry would drive them up himself. All the way to Bresciano’s belter.
There were few left foots in world football to match Kewell’s at that time but Recoba had one of them. Utterly deadly.
Fifteen years later, watching on a Facebook feed on the iPad with a glass of whiskey in hand he still makes you anxious standing over a dead ball. Every one whipped in with pace at the most dangerous height. But our boys dealt with them time and time again.
There would be some luck as well, you always need that. Recoba missing a one on one towards the end of the first half was that moment. Fifteen years on, knowing the result, relieved, we shudder to think how that happened. And more so what would have happened had it gone in. That would have been it, surely.
That tension would ensue as fleeting chances presented themselves until that penalty shootout.
A decade and half on we marvelled once more at Schwarzer’s remarkable saves and Tony Vidmar’s courage. We groaned in disbelief at Viduka’s miss.
We remember that feeling of utter bedlam, pure ecstasy, complete chaos as the only man in the country managing to keep his composure, John Aloisi, sent us to Germany and ended 32 painful years of World Cup exile.
Personally, I was in Perth, surrounded by mates. In that moment we screamed uncontrollably, climbing on top of each other as if we were in fact the eleven on the field at ANZ Stadium.
Desperate to continue the celebrations we hit the town and danced in the streets. I recall a young Buddy Franklin, back in Perth after his first season with Hawthorn, putting complete strangers on his shoulders.
They were magical scenes replicated all over the country, minus an AFL star perhaps.
Inside the stadium, however was surely a feeling well in excess of anything outside. To be one of the 82+ thousand in attendance, well that must be regarded as a privilege. A privilege to have witnessed first hand the coming of age of Australian Football.
Mat Ryan and Jackson Irvine were both there. The latter wearing his Socceroos shirt on his head by games end. Two current national team stars, regulars in English football, who have both recounted that night as the best they’ve ever experienced as a fan.
The impact of a night like that on a young Irvine, Ryan and hundreds of thousands of a similar age is unquantifiable.
It catapulted the Socceroos into Australia’s sporting consciousness and made them as a big a national sporting team that we had over the next decade.
Three more World Cups for the Socceroos would follow from 2006 and the Australian fans would be grand at every one of them. Consistently in the top five travelling supporter groups, probably number one for beer enjoyment. All inspired from the Uruguay triumph.
But if that famous in 2005 taught us anything, considering the euphoria was born from 32 years of World Cup absentee torture, it’s to never, ever, take our World Cup place for granted.
Too many great Australian players, too many super talented Socceroos teams fell short of that final hurdle. Too many years of the Australian game spent in the wilderness as a result.
That’s why, fifteen years on, we all rejoiced as a footballing community in November 16, 2005 yet again on Tuesday night. And it was magical once more.