The Soccer World Cup is all over the news, and I can’t bear it. Besides the fact that I don’t enjoy soccer as a sport (but that’s a whole other story), what I really can’t stand is the way the Australian media talk about our team’s fortunes (particularly, the lack of them). Naturally, expectations were at their peak at 4:29am last Monday morning, that is, before the first ball was kicked in anger. At that time, our Socceroos were a huge chance to make it through to the next round and really take it to the best. All we needed was to be competitive against Germany, and beat one or two of the other countries in our group.
Of course the first match was a complete debacle, with a 4-0 drubbing against a top team. Most of us weren’t surprised, and the media put on a rare show of honesty about the situation. We were mauled, delusions were shattered, and this result was a complete disaster. Fans of course, were unperturbed by this minor setback. In a poll after the game, some 25% still believed we could make it through to the next round. Of course it didn’t take long for the media to recover from this rare burst of realism. The news that Germany were able to practice with the balls used for the World Cup for an extra few months was dragged out as evidence of their unfair advantage against us.
Then, in last night’s game against Ghana, which was a must-win for us to have any chance of proceeding, we salvaged a draw after again getting a red card and being reduced to 10 players. The media were back to their best: The result kept our slim hopes alive, because all we need now is for Germany to lose again, and for us to win. And then, the piece de resistance, the “language of losing” words we all recognize splattered across the headlines: the brave Socceroos hold on, our pride has been restored, and the inevitable go at the referees for their decision on the red card.
Is this what Australians want to read about their team? Delusionary nonsense and false hope? We should just be happy to be competing on the world stage in a sport where we are hopelessly out of our depth, instead of maintaing expectations that will inevitably be shattered.
And for those of us who are biding our time until Australia’s part in the World Cup is over, don’t worry. Wimbledon is just around the corner, and we will have the opportunity to stay up late listening to more one-eyed commentators talking up the Aussies’ chances to make history.