@OzGoals “I turned up in downtown Kaiserslautern with 1000’s of other Aussies…after 32 years this was our time.”

FansVoice: With over 450 YouTube videos of goals from Australians around the world and 3 World Cups under his belt, including that amazing day in Kaiserslautern. Hear the story of one fans journey from soccer camps with the 1974 Socceroos to finally watching the national team on the worlds biggest stage.

The Early years…

Its really easy for me to understand where my passion for Football came from. Like most kids of the 70’s and 80’s my winter was football and my summer was cricket. From Under 7’s through to youth league it was the same groups of close knit friends and families. Weekday training with the same coach and weekend games on the upper north shore of Sydney saw a close knit group of 12 meander our way through growing up together. It was in the summer of 1981 though that my parents sent me to a week long in-house boarding soccer camp. A close friend from my team was going and he mentioned I should tag along. What I didn’t realise at the time was that the camp I was attending was run by Johnny Warren and Rale Rasic. Week long instruction from the 1974 World Cup team!

Original Junior Soccer Camp Certificate 1981 – Signed by Atti Aboyni

The accommodation and setup at Englefield Stadium was pretty good.  The week was tough. I distinctly remember being woken in the early hours to do laps around the field in the cool Dural air. Fair to say Rale was a hard task master. Shooting practice from Atti Aboyni was constant. Trying to emulate the one step thunderbolts to beat Allan Maher from outside the box was impossible for me, but a great memory. I remember getting the absolute crap scared out of me by Atti as he ran up to me screaming ‘Son what’s your name!!!!’…ahhh Paul…’Please to meet you Paul!’ he yelled back, smirking at my reaction as he ruffled my hair and instructed me to get out onto the pitch.

The soccer camps were held alongside the cricket camp and I remember joining forces in the afternoon for games. Facing Lenny Pascoe at a full run up , even with a tennis ball, was a frightening situation. Watching Doug Walters smashing schooners on the balcony and chain smoking was an image I still have to this day, as is the slight burn mark on my temple from his flicked butt.

It was great times.

Whilst my soccer skills took me no further then local reps and a few years of refereeing , seeing and hearing from the 1974 team made me wonder what it must have been like for Australia to have made the World Cup. The following years brought disappointment after disappointment. I don’t need to list them here, some are too painful.  I wondered whether in my life I would ever get to experience a World Cup and watch the Socceroos on the world stage.

Life moved on, married, kids, travelled the world. Got to see games in famous venues like the Santiago Bernabau and the thought of actually being at a World Cup seemed impossible and I was now numb to the disappointment.

OzGoals and Youtube

I have never lost my enjoyment of wanting to watch Australian players perform on the world stage, finding myself late at night searching Youtube for clips of goals from Australians playing in overseas leagues. I’ve always enjoyed seeing their own personal journeys as many battled in lower division European and Asian leagues. I would collate them and wondered whether others would have the same interest. I started to upload the videos I collected and Ozgoals was born. With 500 videos and over 750,000 views its a passion of mine to bring as many goals from as many leagues as possible into one place for Australian football fans.

16 November 2005

I recall the nerves but not much else as I sat in Homebush in 2005 and witnessed my dream come true. To be honest, I don’t remember the penalties unless I watch the clips. I remember staggering from the Stadium and not caring about how I would make it home, work in the morning. I thought back to the little kid in Dural getting yelled at by Atti Abonyi…There was no way I was not going to be present in Germany.

It was our time…

Pre Game Festivities – Germany 2006

The day before the Japan game in 2006 I was flying from Madrid to Frankfurt. I put on my Socceroos jersey and caught an early morning taxi from downtown Madrid to Barajas. I stood out in my green and gold against awash of red as the Spanish supporters were heading for their first game against the Ukraine. The Spanish supporters were in fine form. I boarded the plane last and as I turned the corner and started walking down the aisle I could hear the chants. They were all in unison and obviously were looking forward to getting to Germany. This was a World Cup shuttle plane of epic proportions! It wasnt until I got about half down the aisle it hit me….the whole plane of Ultras were chanting the only Australian thing they knew ‘Aloisi, Aloisi, Aloisi’…..between 2001-2005 JA was at his peak in Alaves and Osasuna, with over 160 appearances and 45 goals. I smiled, joined the chant and sat down next to two guys who proceeded to feed me hidden whiskey from their bag mixed with coca-cola from the unsuspecting Flight Attendant.

Here I was on the other side of the world, about to witness something I have only ever dreamt about, being fed whiskey from a plane load of Spanish ultras chanting after one of our favourite sons. It’s a great memory.

I turned up in downtown Kaiserslautern with 1000’s of other Aussies. After 32 years this was our time. The central square had been transformed into a mini Australia. ‘Land downunder’ blared from speakers as a huge banner of ‘Dukes’ was unravelled from the upper floor of the local Burger King.

The Dukes , unravelled at Burger King downtown Kaiserslautern

We celebrated, danced, sang, drank. I remember Muscat walking through the crowd and I jumped on his back in excitement ……even Kevin was smiling…Media commentators were coming out of the woodwork. Even those not remotely related to football were turning up in Germany.

Pre game Reg Reagen
Mullets (is that Ryan Grant?), speedos and Fosters were flowing

I honestly haven’t experienced a vibe like it. The crowd swelled by thousands and the anticipation was palpable.

Aussie crowd pre game Kaiserslautern

Sitting in the Stadium next to thousands of hopefuls we cheered our team , even though it appeared we were going down. A mixture of complete sadness at the thought of losing our first game after waiting so long, but jubilation at being witness to our team on the highest stage. In the end we would have been dissapointed, but the joy of actually being there was far greater.

Then 8mins of magic. Its hard to explain the feeling. The guy next to me and his partner were in tears. Autograph books of NSL players, signed shirts, soccer patches from camps, grainy pictures of 74 Socceroos all came back to me as I witnessed our team perform on the world stage. It took 32 years to get there …and that’s what made it special. 32 years of heartache and sorrow culminating in an experience that will never be experienced again. To feel great achievement you need a degree of adversity. Nothing will ever take away the feeling I experienced in 2006.

I have since attended South Africa and recently Russia . The experiences were amazing. A highlight was flying low over the plains of Africa in a light aircraft before the Germany game, an unforgettable experience to see a Nation so diverse, torn, yet coming together during 2010.

About to takeoff over the plains of Africa before the Australia vs Germany game.

The Fanfest on the beach in Durban was amazing. Putting aside the temporary deafness from vuvuzela, it was a fantastic experience. The locals were absolutely into it. Standing up on a small brick wall at the beachfront, looking across what would have been thousands of people crowding the sand. I heard a vuvuzela blare right behind me. I turned and saw a guy with a portrait of Nelson Mandela, proudly displaying it for all. The crowd was a sea of celebration.

Nelson Mandela portrait – Durban Fanfest 2010

Russia was an amazing experience. I cannot for a minute do it justice in a few words. The people, the culture, the fans. It was a fantastic World Cup. I completely spoiled myself and watched the games in a style I was not accustomed too…and dare say wont experience again!

Australia vs Denmark – Russia 2018
Australia vs France Russia 2018 – Pre Game singing

I have been really fortunate to be able to travel and watch the Socceroos like I have. I never would have imagined that the little kid in 1981 from the Soccer Camps, watching the 74 team wide eyed, could now say I have been to 3 World Cups and travelled the world to watch the Socceroos.

In everything I have experienced, nothing will compare to that one game in Kaiserslautern, I feel privileged that I was there. However, the feeling of traversing the globe and joining up with thousands of fans to cheer on our Socceroos is a joy. Every 4 years my family give me the leave pass to attend. I kiss the wife and kids goodbye and enjoy an experience that I will never take for granted.

Here’s to plenty more.

Paul