WORLD CUP FEVER
BY ADRIAN MILLER
I HAVE never hugged so many blokes before.
But given the circumstances, I think it can be excused.
When the ref blew the whistle to signal the end of Australia's first World Cup soccer game ? a 3-1 win over Japan ? pandemonium erupted and embraces were made with anyone and everyone standing nearby.
People you only met an hour-and-a-half earlier were hugged as though they were life-long friends and the stadium was rocking to the cheers of the Socceroo supporters.
After 32 years, nirvana was reached and Australia had its first ever World Cup win.
Not just that, but their first ever World Cup goals.
Kaiserslautern, a small town in central Germany, was alive throughout the day, with thousands of Australian supporters taking over the town.
The main thoroughfare was closed to cars early in the day and a DJ set up playing non-stop Australian classics from Men at Work, Midnight Oil and Cold Chisel.
Aussies were decked out in every imaginable piece of supporters' gear, from the Aussie flag as a cape, to Ned Kelly and full-length kangaroo outfits.
With the sun blazing, the music blaring, one could have been forgiven for thinking they were back in Australia.
After two hours of lubricating the pipes and warming the vocal chords, it was off to the stadium.
A long, twisting, winding 30-minute walk, and we were there.
The stadium, which seats 46,000, was at capacity for the match. Suddenly, it loomed out of nowhere. Nestled among a forest, it's easy to miss, but the sounds of Waltzing Matilda and 'ole-ole-ole' drew us in.
Inside the atmosphere was intense.
I've been to State of Origin at ANZ, Bledisloe at the MCG, the Gabba, the WACA, Twickenham and Lansdowne Road.
But none of those combined could come close to the sound emanating from Fritz Walter Stadium on Monday.
When the Australian national anthem rung out there wasn't a closed Australian mouth, and for the first 45 minutes, the Australian supporters kept up a continual chant.
Everything from Waltzing Matilda to 'ole-ole-ole', 'Aussie-Aussie-Aussie', and 'Come On Aussie Come On' were covered, as well as the standard, 'Bull....', when the ref made a poor decision. And in the eyes of the Australians, there were many ? none worse than the decision to allow the Japanese goal, and after 80 minutes the feeling among the crowd was once again the World Cup had conspired to do us over unfairly.
But then came Tim Cahill.
We would have accepted 1-all, but Cahill stepped up a second time and the Aussies were delirious.
It was impossible to predict the reaction.
All the frustration of 32 years in the soccer wilderness was let out with the thousands of Australians cheering, dancing and hugging in the stadium.
Then John Aloisi topped it off.
Cue eruptions, hugs and tears all-round.
Never in any of our dreams was this even considered.
Nothing could prepare anyone for such a celebration.
The supporters didn't budge for 20 minutes, with songs, hugs, kisses and tears flowing freely. We witnessed history and everyone was intent on making the most of it.
The walk back into town was another struggle for those with vocal chords already worn down to nothing, but when Channel Nine presenter Ken Sutcliffe was spotted on a balcony doing a report, the songs sparked up and everyone forgot the pain in their throats.
Now on to Munich to take on the might of the Brazilians.
The Fanatics tour group will take in Dachau and the Austrian Alps before that clash in a few days.
But tonight, it's all about our first ever World Cup win.
We're here to shake things up and the supporters in Germany are definitely singing when we're winning.