Australia Re-United

aus_unitedTony Wilson is a Melbourne-based author and Socceroo tragic. He took time out from composing witty tweets to talk to us about the World Cup, psycho parents and Cherry Ripes.

You wrote Australia United about your experiences at the 2006 World Cup.  There don’t seem to be that many books about the Australian supporter experience at the 2010 World Cup, for some unknown reason.  Do you think that the 2014 World Cup in Brazil presents an opportunity for a new wave of football writing in Australia?

There actually aren’t that many World Cup supporter books. The one I read in advance o 2006 was ‘All Played Out’ by Pete Davies which told the story of USA 94. It’s okay without being great. My inspiration was the genius piece of football writing ‘Republic is a Beautiful Word’ by Booker Prize winner Roddy Doyle, about Ireland’s qualification campaign for Italia ’90. That piece is in the Nick Hornby edited ‘My Favourite Year’ which has some other great ones too.

I did go to South Africa 2010, but didn’t write, because I was making video segs for the Santo Sam and Ed Cup Fever show. Maybe the pick of those was our Spanish commentators ‘Longest Gooooooooal competition‘ or getting a very cooperative Martin Tyler to do a fantasy call for Santo, Sam and Ed. The Aussie story was maybe not as strong in South Africa, I was incredibly lucky to have such a dramatic narrative for Australia United, but I daresay a great football book could still have been written.

As for Brazil, I’d love to be going and would be rapt to one day write an Australia Re-United. But the economics of writing a sports book, if you’re not Mark Schwarzer or Tim Cahill, or Roddy Doyle for that matter, aren’t great. I hope somebody else does tell the story of what will be a phenomenal month for the lucky 50,000 fans who are going. Certainly, World Cups are so much more than just match reports. Anything fresh, or funny or insightful or different will be lapped up by fans back home.

There were predictions after the 2006 World Cup finals that the popularity of football in Australia would explode.  Personally, I think it’s the lack of a Brownlow-style end-of-season awards spectacular that’s holding the code back.  What do you think?

Absolutely! You can see what the Allan Border Medal has done for cricket. Certainly the dancing in the streets national team highs of 2006 are going to be hard to match, but Football Australia must still be pleased with how the A-League is progressing, the succession of World Cup qualifications (women, men and juniors) and how participation booms at junior levels.  It is perplexing that we haven’t grown a young prodigy to rank alongside Kewell, Viduka, Aloisi, Schwarzer, Cahill, Emerton, Neill, Grella, Bresciano and their gilded brethren. Certainly, we clung to those names to long, and that might be part of the problem, but the other half must be junior development, or perhaps even generational luck!

We do desperately need some stars. It’s sad Robbie Kruse isn’t going to be there, because perhaps he looked the most likely. Tommy Oar, perhaps? Rogic? All my fingers and toes are crossed.

Parents who go bananas watching their kids play junior football – what’s the deal with that?

I’m a parent and hope that the horrible temper, that once saw me throw a pool cue in disgust when my wife beat me by six balls (not at her!), is kept in check when I become a ‘soccer dad’. The thing about football is that it is a stressful game. I gather junior games can be just as exhilarating or cathartic as the big leagues, and people behave accordingly, forgetting that the players are ‘wee bairns’.  I actually capitalised on the ‘ugly parent’ factor to get on Race Around the World. My application video was about an under 7s football coach at the Essendon Royals called ‘Paulo’, who coached six years old like they were going to a World Cup – diets, tactics, general abuse. It was hilarious, in a ‘wrong’ sort of way.

If Lucas had eaten the Cherry Ripes instead of handing them to Harry, perhaps he wouldn't have given away that penalty...

If Lucas had eaten the Cherry Ripes instead of handing them to Harry, perhaps he wouldn’t have given away that penalty…

The in-stadium food and drink pricing for Brazil 2014 has recently been released.  While the prices are eye-watering, the real surprise is that there are no Cherry Ripes on the menu.  When will FIFA get the message that Cherry Ripes are a crucial part of the match-day experience?

Ha ha. I’m guessing you’re referring to the chapter in Australia United entitled ‘Cherry Ripes for Harry’. It’s one of my favourite football stories ever. My friend, Rita Zammit, who is the hardest core of hard core football fans and who is now an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria, heard on the radio before Germany 2006 that Harry Kewell missed Cherry Ripes, more than anything else in Australia. She duly bought a 20-pack at the airport, and hauled them around the tournament, trying to get them to Harry. They eventually reached him, via Lucas Neill and Archie Thompson. Here is a photo of her handing them over to Lucas. 

Who do you think that Australia will meet in the final of this year’s World Cup?  #jingoism

Australia will play Argentina in the final. There will be some nervous moments, watching Ryan McGowan backpedalling in the face of a charging Lionel Messi, but ultimately I expect a Matty Mackay cross to find the head of a towering Matthew Spiranovic and for him to calmly nod home. 1-nil. Should be tight though.

Tell us, Tony, how can people buy your books?

Australia United is on kindle only nowadays. ($3.80)  For paperbacks, email through my website. ($15 plus postage)

My tabloid-satire, football novel, Making News, about a fictional ex-Socceroo who is caught in a sex scandal, is also available.

My debut novel, the bestselling Players, you can get here.

More details at my website,

I’ll be bitching throughout the World Cup on Twitter, @byTonyWilson.