'Wow, is this even possible': Schwarzer's remarkable Socceroos debut
Friday marks the anniversary of the Socceroos debut for the legendary Mark Schwarzer, who is regarded as one of the best ever to represent Australia with multiple records from his incredible 20-year career at the international level.
But as far as international debuts go, Schwarzer’s was different to most.
One week before the match he was still sitting in his apartment in Sydney getting ready for pre-season training with the Marconi Stallions.
He had also recently returned from a trial with Bayer Leverkusen in Europe, as well as a holiday.
“All I was thinking was, I’ve got to start slowly going to the gym, start getting the fitness again because pre-season with Marconi is going to start in a few weeks, I want to be in a decent shape,” Schwarzer told Socceroos.com.au.
“Off the back of coming home from Europe, I was away on holidays and had a trial with Bayer Leverkusen. I was kind of getting over all that and all of a sudden, I get a phone call and within a day or two, I find myself in Canada.”
“After sitting in my apartment and thinking about how I’m going to prepare for pre-season with Marconi, I’m on a plane headed to Canada to be in the squad for a World Cup qualifier.
“That in itself was surreal, my first ever experience with the full national team. I was nervous of course. I was like a headless chicken to begin with. Whatever you want to call it, I was all of that.”
The week leading up the game was a bit of blur for Schwarzer, but he does remember the bizarre first training session that took place in a local park. When it finally came to game day he found himself sitting next to Paul Wade on the bench, who had just been dropped as captain.
“You could clearly see he was upset, but he was putting on a brave face," said Schwarzer.
"I was besides myself in terms of just being there. We start looking around and start counting the Aussie flags in the stadium.
“It felt like I’d got to five or six flags, and this moment happens on the football pitch where (Robert) Zabica comes out of his box.”
A distracted Schwarzer initially thought it would just be a yellow card but he soon find himself having to refocus to prepare himself for one of the biggest moments in his career.
“I didn’t even think there was going to be a red card. When the referee pulls the red card out, Zabica just looks at it. I remember just staring at it as well going, 'is this even possible',” said Schwarzer.
“As a goalkeeper, you don’t expect to come on. Very rarely do we expect to come on and I didn’t even have a chance to think about it. I didn’t have a chance to think about potential consequences. It was all about going out there and doing the best I possibly can.”
There was a bit of luck surrounding his call up, as regular keeper Mark Bosnich had pulled out of the squad late due to club commitments. Schwarzer felt that despite his title-winning season with Marconi - which saw him win goalkeeper of the year - the circumstance of the situation led to him being called up.
He said, “I’d had a good season, we won the league, and Eddie Thompson went, 'yeah sure, grab him'. I don’t think for a minute they thought they’d have to use me. It was probably all part of circumstance, it was a bit of luck. But I also believed that I earned that luck by the performances I had put in the previous season.”
Schwarzer went on to become the hero in the second leg of the play-off against Canada with two crucial penalty saves that saw Australia set-up an Argentina clash for a spot in the 1994 FIFA World Cup.
All up, Schwarzer would make 109 appearances for the Socceroos, appearing at two FIFA World Cups and two AFC Asian Cups. He is perhaps best remembered for his penalty heroics in 2005 against Uruguay, and against Canada in just his second game.