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And then he lifted his shirt - perfect!

By Liz Conor - posted Tuesday, 20 June 2006

Australia’s first world cup win last week was also My First Time. I was yet to be inducted into the mysteries of ball playoffs.

My sum total exposure to soccer? David Beckham’s highly spectacularised marriage to that underfed Spice; the thoroughly endearing film, Bend it Like Beckham; and my seven-year-old’s three-week enrolment. I thought I’d watch The Game so I could figure out what an “offside” is. I remain ignorant.

Now I’ve watched a few bleak grand finals in my time, being a lapsed Collingwood supporter (I’m waiting for Eddie Maguire to be deposed before I resume). Many times I’ve known the peculiar temporality of VFL, sorry, AFL, defeat. Floating bright moments up for grabs begin to tick downwards into deepening dejection. Beyond a certain point in the game, beyond a certain discrepancy in score, your side is beyond hope. Seconds sink into the heart like flaming needles as defeat looms. Fans grow clammy under their silly hats and face paint, their team’s colours droop in their muddled laps. They’ve lost and they know it, sometimes from half time.


Not so with soccer it seems. I may be a novice but this is undoubtedly the Pent Up Code. There is a saying that a goal in football is like a kiss, but in soccer it's like an orgasm. It may be called the “Beautiful Game” for the lyrical strategy of swift and subtle feet, but its real beauty resides in its long bouts of low scoring suspension.

When Cahill scored a goal on the 83rd minute it delivered a release that was truly climactic. Me and my fellow thrashed on the couch and we were fully clothed. My eyes stung. My throat thickened. I whooped. I flung myself about. I hate sport.

Already I’m one of those soccer mums that sits on the sidelines (last week the wrong one) and shivers over her notes. It seems I’ve conveyed this poor application to my daughter, who likes to pull boys’ beanies off rather than chase after the ball, since, “if you stand in one spot, the ball comes to you, but if you run after it, everyone gets in the way”.

This could be a feasible tactic. I believe “fresh legs” won Australia its first world cup tournament on Monday. Again, I remain ignorant: they all looked pretty fresh to me. And I’m blissfully ignorant of the meaning of another soccer ritual, disrobing having kicked a goal. I couldn’t tell you the second goal kicker’s name but it will take some effort to swipe his nipples from my memory and I suspect I’m not alone and I suspect whatever-his-name-is knows it.

Is this a deplorable reduction of human brilliance and excellence to sexual objectification? Yep. Is there an equivalent tournament for women, that is capable of deferring the ecstatic release of entire nations and pays as well? Nope. Moving right along.

It has been said that the cultural space given over to sport is shamelessly disproportionate given myriad other worthy human endeavours. Why is there not a tournament where being on your own with small children all day long, without so much as gritting your teeth let along muttering death threats under your breath, wins a Big Gold Medal. I would’ve thought a Mummy Tournament offers plenty of scope for shin guards, nets and nipples.


But looking at that second goalie’s um release did make me ponder the engrossing spectacle of human perfection. He did a perfect thing, and he did it without pausing for breath and without computing it to thought, yet it was genius. For him it wasn’t after waiting 92 minutes, but after years of expectant gruel. He entered into some space-time continuum and conjured anti-matter with two deft feet. And then he lifted his shirt. Perfect.

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About the Author

Liz Conor is a research fellow in the Department of Culture and Communications at the University of Melbourne. Read her blog Liz Conor: Comment and Critique here.

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