15 years later: Hill and Foster recount famous Socceroos v Uruguay commentary

“As John Aloisi wheeled away, everyone was going crazy and I was physically in tears.” 

15 years since Australia qualified for their second World Cup at long, long last, Simon Hill and Craig Foster returned to the commentary box they occupied that night to sit and reflect.

Having provided the iconic soundtrack for the famous events of November 16, 2005, the pair have no shortage of incredible stories to tell of how 31 years, four months and 24 days of collective suffering came to an end.

They discussed the cultural and personal significance of a match that meant so much to so many.

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One standout moment that has taken its rightful place in Australian footballing folklore is the instinctive cry of ‘Johnny Warren’ that Foster released just seconds after John Aloisi fired the Socceroos to Germany 2006.

It was a call-out that the former Socceroo admits did not actually go to plan.

“In that moment that it happened, what I thought was ‘Johnny Warren told you so’, but I was so emotional that I couldn’t get the second bit out,” Foster recounts.

“What happened was I just screamed ‘Johnny Warren’, and as ridiculous as it is, people have kind of liked it because I got him in there. But it would’ve been a great line!

“It was a great example of just the emotion of the moment… the night was so much about Johnny.”

Having only just returned from Montevideo, Hill and Foster share how they were pushed to their limits on a night where emotions ran at an all-time high.

But looking back, it was all worth it.

The two chuckle about just how far Foster strayed from a set of instructions received from SBS Sports Director Les Murray.

“The day before Les (Murray) knew what was going to happen and he took me for lunch and tried to lecture me about how to do the job,” Foster recounts.

“He said, ‘look, whatever happens, don’t be too partisan, don’t lose the plot, don’t go too far.’ But I don’t think he anticipated penalties!

“As John Aloisi wheeled away, everyone was going crazy and I was physically in tears.” 

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On a personal note, Foster shares a special encounter with a fan post-game.

“I remember walking out after the game and there was an elderly Indonesian-Australian man who came up to Les (Murray) and I,” he shares.

“He said ‘I’ve been here 25 years and this is the first time that I genuinely feel Australian. We had this multicultural team do this, I was in the crowd in my green and gold and felt I was one and the same with everyone else in this 80,000. Australia was playing the game that I love, the game that I brought from Indonesia to here.’

“Les and I were basically in tears with him.”

For Foster, their conversation encapsulates everything that night was about.

“That was the night that everyone came together,” he says.

“Every culture, every religion, every nationality and everyone was Australian.

“Every barrier that is so often put up in our faces in Australia – they all came down through this game of football. And that is the beauty and the challenge of our game.”

Not only was November 16 a landmark day for Australia, but it proved to be a standout personal experience for Simon Hill.

The English-born broadcaster had only moved down under 18 months prior to the playoff versus Uruguay.

Powerfully, after Foster tells the story of Indonesian migrant who that night felt as though he finally belonged, Simon replies, “I’ll tell you a little secret - me too.”

“That was the night that it changed for me as well,” he reflects.

“It (the Socceroos) became not just the team I was calling, but by extension, my team that I wanted to win as well.”

The commentator also recollects how it was far from smooth sailing behind the scenes.

Fatigue and emotions threatened to derail his work to the point that he was furiously seeking clarification on whether the Aloisi penalty would secure victory seconds before it rocketed into the top right corner.

Foster’s emotion-fuelled call also conflicted heavily with Hill’s intentions to remain as professional as possible.

As a result, while the former Socceroo was out all night celebrating with the team, his commentary partner returned home exhausted and bracing for a backlash that never came to fruition.

“I remember thinking we’re going to get smashed for that call because it was too emotional,” Hill says. “I was going, ‘that was awful’ – but it wasn’t.

“It was actually what Australians were thinking and I think that’s the greatest thing for us as a team.”

A decade-and-a-half later, Hill and Foster have well and truly settled any differences and can look back on a historic night proud of the part they played.

“It only hit me in the days after the game when the emotion of your call resonated so strongly with the supporters because that was the release of 32 years of pain and you (Craig Foster) epitomised that on the night,” Hill reflects.

“I was trying to get one line out and I heard ‘Johnny Warren’ and I remember thinking ‘where did that come from!’

“But it was fantastic in the end because that is exactly what the people were thinking.”

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