D3D4 Colchester United Correspondent Piers Palmer tells of the frustration of being a Colchester United fan down under…
The laments of a Col U fan living in Australia
It’s a common mistake that people assume that if I am surrounded by beautiful palm trees lazily swaying in the wind; a clear, bright, brilliant blue sky that seems to never end; gorgeous turquoise tropical seas; pure white, endless sand beaches and vast, diverse, mysterious, untouched rainforest that I must be in paradise. However, as a Football fan, more specifically, as a Colchester United fan, I am not in paradise. I am in a wasteland. A Football limbo where nothing happens and nothing matters. Although it’s 21st century, lush tropical far-north Queensland, in footballing terms, it all feels very Mad Max. I am just a lone warrior trying to make my way through a derelict landscape that I have no real odds of surviving. No one understands me and that causes them to be hostile towards me.
Let me start from the beginning. My girlfriend and I have been ‘backpacking’ around Australia for almost a year. Aside from a number of holidays around Europe, this was my first time away from home. And, in truth, I did know that Australia wasn’t a huge footballing nation (I mean, just look at their national team) but I had also heard about the A League and thought that perhaps I’d find some home comfort there (No such luck but I’ll go into that a little later). The thing is, the trouble over the last year has not been just me simply missing soc… erm, I mean, Football. It’s been a catalogue of issues that, unfortunately for you, I will go through now.
Firstly and most horrifically, Australians (get this) do not call football Football. They call Football – excuse me while I gag – Soccer. Soccer. What does that even mean? Where does that word come from? Australians are meant to be famous for having super blatant and obvious names for stuff. For example; The Great Ocean Road in Victoria is named as such because it’s a great road along the ocean. Four Mile Beach in Port Douglas (where sadly for me, I live), has a beach that is – you guessed it – four miles long. And the Victorian town of Lakes Entrance is named as such because…well you get the idea. So why be coy with Football? You would think it’d be a pretty logical name for a game in which you kick a ball with your foot. Well, the plot thickened as I slowly started to find out that Australians already have Football. They have: Football (Australian rules), Football (Rugby Union) and Football (Rugby League).
Now, I’m not going to criticise naming their national sports Football (even if it doesn’t make any sense), but I will criticise when a conversation with an Aussie goes like this:
Aussie: ‘Hey, so you into sport?’ Me: ‘Yeah, I’m a big football fan.’ Aussie: ‘Aw yeah? Who d’ya barrack for? I’m a Collingwood fan.’ Me: ‘Oh no, I mean like, football football. I support my local team: Colchester.’ Aussie: ‘Never heard of ’em. Ahh, you mean you like soccer mate.’ Me: *Eye twitches uncontrollably*.
Genuinely, I’ve lost count at how many times I’ve had that conversation. And then they go into a tirade of how soccer isn’t a proper sport and that in a real sport men don’t fall over if a feather touches them and they don’t get stupendous amounts of money for kicking a ball around…blah blah blah.
Sometimes it feels like I’m swimming against a rip tide. However, thankfully, I am not completely alone. I have, on occasion, found the odd football fan. A Man City supporter here or an Arsenal fan there. Indeed, here in far-north Queensland, there are swathes of South Americans as this is the only part of the country they can get their second year Working Holiday Visa. What am I complaining about then? They love football! Well, the trouble is, I doubt the 10 feet tall, golden, six-packed groups of South American lads playing keepy-upy on the beach with their goddess girlfriends watching on would be interested in discussing the lack of signings Colchester made over the summer or what Tony Humes is actually doing as Director of Football. It would just be a bit of a lost cause.
However, I have to admit that all is not lost. As mentioned, Australia is beginning to see the light and, thanks to the A League and coverage of the Premier League etc, soccer is becoming more popular. Sadly, even then, it’s just not quite right. For example, when a sports correspondent on the news discusses a soccer match, they won’t say ‘Brisbane Roar scored a goal’, they’ll say ‘Brisbane Roar kicked a goal’. In Aussie Rules, a player will kick a goal. However, in soccer, a player does not kick a goal. If a player kicked the goal, he would substituted as he is meant to kick the ball and score a goal. So far, Australians haven’t quite got it and unfortunately, it’s just as awkward at a live match.
Indeed, I’ve been to a couple of A League matches since being in Australia. My adopted team is Brisbane Roar (just for the simple fact that that’s where we flew in to) and truth be told, it’s just a bit uncomfortable. No one is really sure if they’re being entertained or not. They have fire and fireworks and freebies to try to make it a bit more interesting for people but I really don’t think their hearts are in it. Especially when the teams aren’t teams: they’re franchises that come and go as often as Leeds United owners. Beyond that, on the actual pitch, the quality of the football is poor. The games don’t flow, there’s not a huge amount of skill, tactics are pretty uninspiring and most of the players either couldn’t make it in any big footballing nation or are way past their prime. I’d much rather go and see The U’s lose on a soggy December Tuesday night rather than suffer through another A League match.
So, that’s it. The last thousand words or so have been the accumulation of nearly a year of heartache and hard knocks. Now, I can only apologise if I have brought you to tears with my struggle here under the beautiful, warm, wall to wall sunshine of Australia. But don’t despair. After two or three more months of travelling with my Col U sticker proudly looking out of my van’s back window, come December, I’ll be back in the freezing cold windy Weston Homes Community Stadium again, singing loud and proud for my team.
Words by Piers Palmer D3D4 Colchester United Correspondent
Twitter: @Piers_Palmer Email: firstname.lastname@example.org