Great story for my Australian fans. Sums up well an outsiders perception of Australians poor sportsmanship. Aussies love a winner, but never mention a loss. By the way, sledging is not part of sport. It is part of Australian sport.
How sadly typical of latter-day Australia that one of its finest sporting hours should be despoiled by a display of crass and craven nationalism of the type we once ridiculed when it manifested elsewhere in the world.
How typical that this outbreak of mob mindlessness should occasion no disapproving comment on the night and little yesterday.
For the duration of the singing of the Uruguayan national anthem at Telstra Stadium on Wednesday night, the crowd booed heartily. The hooting could be heard around the country. It will echo on to our eternal shame, but not, evidently, to our embarrassment.
Embarrassment flows from a sensitivity to others that is extinct in the modern Australian sporting ethos. Advance Australia, and fair can go to hell with Uruguay.
For once, Australia could not even excuse itself with the usual puerile schoolyard argument about how “they started it”. When the Australian anthem was played in Montevideo last Sunday, it was – as far as could be heard here – greeted with respectful silence.
With the first notes of the Uruguayan anthem on Wednesday, more than 80,000 thought it good sport to try to drown it out.
Sometimes, we are a big country of small minds. We protested as a nation when a few thugs, apparently hired, besieged the Australians at the airport in Montevideo in 2001. We fostered an image of Uruguay – whose population is barely as big as Melbourne’s – as a monstrous country of Latin American lawlessness and congratulated ourselves on escaping its clutches.
We howled in indignation when Alvaro Recoba suggested that Uruguay had a right to be at the World Cup – as if we would not have taken the same stance if the boot was on the other foot.
Think of how Victorians claimed divine ownership of the AFL premiership when the competition was opened up to the heathens from interstate.
But when we as a nation had a chance to show that we were above such banalities, we showed ourselves again to be irredeemably a nation of yobs.
Sport brings out the best and worst in Australians. It also reveals us as two-faced. On Tuesday, industry groups protested about the loss of productivity caused by protest marches against industrial relations reform, and ministers warned that absentees could face action against them.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister asked employers to forgive those workers who were celebrating a little fortuitous success at soccer. Suddenly, productivity did not matter.
At match’s end, it was as if the Uruguayans did not exist. Not a word of respect or recognition was to be heard. Instead, there was some bitching about the way the visitors played. But the Australians were scarcely above some gamesmanship of their own.
Sadly, this is an aspect of soccer that remains troubling. It is a beautiful game, but too often played in a petty and petulant spirit.
Still, none of this matters now because Australians are winners and Uruguayans are pleasing themselves. This, all agreed, was a great day for Australian soccer, perhaps its greatest. But it is problematic whether it was even a good day for Australia.