Nutmeg eyeing Socceroos role

The face of the 2015 AFC Asian Cup caught up with Goal to shed some light on the hidden world of marsupial football, training in burrows and rivalling Timmy Cahill.

Q: Wombats aren’t known for their footballing skills. Where did you get yours from?

A: Well, I guess years rummaging around the Blue Mountains watching the likes of Tim Cahill, Harry Kewell and Bozza you get to know a thing or two about football. It’s gotten so much bigger in Australia since I was a little wombat and I love it!

What is your favourite position?

Striker’s my favourite position. You know, hitting them in the back of the net like Timmy Cahill does. You may have seen my goal celebration? I think he saw me do that once ;)

You wear black boots and don’t have a crazy haircut. Are you a bit old school, Nutmeg?

Old school is where I learnt my tricks. The modern day Socceroos sides are great and have a good chance of winning the AFC Asian Cup but I grew up in the burrows of the Blue Mountains watching the likes of Bozza and Robbie Slater. Those guys are old now you know (chuckles).

Is that enormous head of yours a help or a hindrance when it comes to heading the ball?

Not at all! It’s actually the opposite. If I’m not running with the ball, nutmegging my opponents, I’m up heading the ball into the back of the net like Timmy. He scored a cracker against current AFC Asian Cup champions Japan in Melbourne a few years ago and if you’ve seen me on the field, I get up just like him! 

You’ve got the skills - but what about the fitness? Wombats are usually considered fat, slow, lazy - are you the exception? What’s your beep test result?

That’s something the trainers and I don’t want to disclose to the public but I can confirm there aren’t too many wombats who get their legs running faster than me ;). I stick to a strict diet of leaves and grass, which keeps me in tip-top condition and fighting fit to take the field anytime I’m called!

No team has ever had a wombat as a mascot. Why has it taken so long for the amazing skills and athleticism of the wombat to be recognised?

This is something many of us in the wombat family have been talking about for a long while now. We’ve been left out of many major national events and wombat rights is a serious issue. To be recognised as an official mascot is a landmark day in the lifespan of wombats. It reflects the AFC Asian Cup perfectly as the tournament is all about inclusion and diversity and us furry critters are no different.

Are you related to any of Australia’s other famous wombats, like Fatso?

Sure am! The Wombat community is very tight knit. We train in the burrows together, we’re on the same nutritious diet together and best of all, we all play football together. Though some of the others don’t like to admit it ;).

Have you ever been distracted in a game by the delicious grass you are playing on?

It was one of my biggest battles as a young wombat; none of us would be playing! But watching a few more Socceroos matches and a few more training sessions in the bush sorted us right out. I will say, some of those pitches in the Asian Cup do look a little tasty ;)

Your other great love is welcoming international visitors. Which of the countries in the Asian Cup are you most looking forward to greeting? (And which country has the best greeting?)

Love it! You know, being a lover of all cultures, there isn’t one in particular whom I want to get to know more. It’ll be great having current Asian Cup champions Japan here who will bring a lot of culture to our shores, along with the Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait. I heard they don’t have too many trees there, so I don’t know how long I’d be able to be there! It’s a day in the life of the Asian Cup mascot really.

You are going to busy welcoming 16 teams in the space of little more than a week. Will you still have time to practice and play football?  

A wombat always has time burrowed away to practice. I wouldn’t be the perfect ambassador that I am if I didn’t have time to practice my trademark nutmeg. Maybe when we’re done I can show it on you?!

How come you never represented Australia? We could do with a quality striker like yourself right now.

Don’t mention it! This is something I’ve been very passionate about for a long time now. You know, things are changing so you never know however the current Socceroos squad don’t need me just yet. This Asian Cup’s a great chance for them to claim their first major tournament win on home soil and I reckon Mile and the boys can do it without me. Just this once though ;)

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