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Sports mad Melbourne

I am not a sports fanatic or mad-keen Australian Football League fan. This often leaves me out of lunchtime conversations here in the sports capital of Australia (and perhaps the world) Melbourne.

You must experience the Melbournian routine of lunchtime postmortems on the AFL Monday-Wednesday and forecasts of forthcoming matches, Thursday-Friday, to appreciate what I am saying.

Melbourne’s reputation for its bizarre weather is deserved – each season of the year in one-day – but the domination of its cultural life by sport madness has to be experienced to be believed.

I am not really anti-sports and not a member of Keith Dunstan’s AFL (Anti-Football League) – although I could be – you don’t have to dislike the game – just be generally disinterested in it. Indeed, I do watch live an occasional game of AFL football – sometimes Essendon, sometimes Collingwood . I just cannot manufacture the sustained enthusiasm of the fanatics.

These thoughts about sport occur today because after 31 years and 11 months Australia’s soccer team (the Socceroos) are competing tonight in the 2006 World Cup. In a coup SBS Television are screening the matches – the Australia/Japan match this evening at 10-30 pm. The diminutive Japanese warriors are already playing a ‘dirty tricks’ campaign, claiming the Aussie Socceroos play ‘rough’. They are also complaining of height differentials – the little Japanese buggers are only 179 cms high compared to the more statuesque Aussie heights of 184 cms. – the Aussie coach Guus Hiddink sees these claims as strategic moves to influence the Egyptian referee. Given that the differential is only 5 cms we should offer our little comrades platform boots.

If you believe one tipster our chance of winning the WC final is 180:1 or about the same as throwing three sixes in a row with a dice. If you bet with Centrebet today you will get $81 for a $1 outlay which suggests, if you believe the tipster, that Aussie punters are a bunch of dummies. Centrebet was also (at 1pm) paying $2-30 for an Australian win tonight and $3-20 for a Japanese win so the Aussies are clear favorites.

Will I watch tonight? Probably – it’s the first soccer game I will have watched in more than a year so it has novelty value. But, no I won’t become a fanatical supporter of the Socceroos even if they do Nippon through to the finals. By the way, via Andrew Leigh, here at Rank and File is a good run down on the game of soccer from the viewpoint of an AFL supporter.

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