Why I'll Be Watching The Asian Cup

9 December 2014
Read Time: 2.3 mins

I cried when Socceroos striker John Aloisi scored against Japan in Kaiserslautern. Not a quiet, dignified sob but big, rolling streams of tears. When I looked across the rest of my row inside a sweltering Fritz-Walter-Stadion, most of the Australian fans around me were crying too.

It's like that after decades of frustration. Some 32 years after the Socceroos' solitary appearance at the FIFA World Cup finals – coincidentally also on German soil – Australia's national football team was back at the summit of the world game.

When Aloisi burst through a tired Japanese defence to stroke home Australia's third goal in a famous come-from-behind win, he triggered an outpouring of emotion from fans who'd lived through years of underachievement. I was one of them.

I let my lease lapse to attend the 2006 FIFA World Cup. I sold my belongings to get there. For six weeks, I backpacked around Europe – travelling as far and wide as England, The Netherlands, Belgium, Czech Republic and Austria, as well as almost every major city in Germany.

I slept in friends' unfinished houses and on hard beds in hot hostels. I got married at the Old Town Hall in Prague, on what was one of the happiest days of my life. The marriage didn't last. You win some, you lose some.

Through it all, the one constant was my desire to watch the Socceroos at the pinnacle of world football. It didn't matter to me if they won or lost.

However, the thrill of watching Australia score its first ever goal at a World Cup, let alone record a first ever win and then – improbably – reach the second round, will resonate with me for the rest of my life.

The 2-2 draw with Croatia remains the most intense sporting event I've ever seen. The noise was indescribable. The tension near unbearable.

When Craig Moore stroked home from the penalty spot, I thought the roof at the Gottlieb-Daimler-Stadion was going to rip from its stanchions and fly off into the Stuttgart night sky. That was nothing compared to Harry Kewell's equaliser. I've never seen anything like the celebrations that followed.

Despite all this, I'm hardly Australia's most dedicated fan. After missing out on tickets to the last World Cup, I went to New York instead. I don't often travel to watch the national team these days, preferring instead to put my money into the A-League.

But I've been to the last two Asian Cups. I had some of the best Thai food I've ever tasted whilst watching the Socceroos struggle to get out of the group stage at the 2007 Asian Cup, and I enjoyed a crash course in genuinely warm Arabic hospitality at the 2011 Asian Cup in Qatar.

After all, isn't supporting a national team as much about travelling the world to watch them play? If the Socceroos are our representatives in Asia, the least I can do is visit some of the countries they play in.

So it is that I've been to cities like Bangkok, Yokohama and Doha and thoroughly enjoyed them all. I've even enjoyed watching determined, highly skilled teams like Japan and Korea Republic take the game to Australia.

And that's exactly what I'll be doing next month when the 2015 Asian Cup kicks off. It's the biggest football tournament ever to be played on Australian soil and I'll be in the stands at several games.

 Tim Cahill will once again lead the line for the Socceroos

Should the Socceroos and their star man Tim Cahill reprise their form of 2011 and once again reach the decider, I'll fly down to Sydney to watch it. Australia will hope for a different outcome this time around, after going down 1-0 to arch-rivals Japan in an extra-time thriller in Qatar four years ago.

That's the nature of international sport. The contest is important, but so too is seeing the world and learning a little bit about the countries in it. Next month's Asian Cup allows us to do just that, which is why I'm very much looking forward to the three-week festival of football to come.

The Asian Cup takes place across five Australian cities from January 9 to January 31.

Mike Tuckerman

From Europe to Asia and many places in between, there's rarely a town or city I've not enjoyed exploring. When I'm not wandering the streets and discovering new destinations, you can usually find me hanging out with the locals at major sporting events.