No country for funny men

By Ben de Buen

It would not be a proper Thin White Line blog if it didn’t wander way off topic and somehow give buskers their place in the urban landscape. As a freelance jack-of-all-trades I don’t get out of the house much, so venturing to the city for Melbourne Victory’s meet and greet night was a chance to tick a few boxes.

I haven’t done any routine reporting since back in the early 2000s, my last event being an interview with Uruguayan striker Sebastián Abreu, then with Mexican side Cruz Azul. He wasn’t going to let my young age and obvious inexperience stop him from thumping me in the face for asking too many questions about the scoring slump he was facing.

A kickabout at Melbourne Gaol. And not a Barcelona top in sight . . .

A kickabout at Melbourne Gaol. And not a Barcelona top in sight . . .

The Victory night in an Adidas shop was not an official press event – it was off the record you might say – and also a chance for a soft return to journalistic battles, which means I was going incognito.

The list of errands included picking up a press pass for the upcoming A-League season, getting a new library card (after mine was stolen in Mexico – along with my wallet and credit cards) and if possible, after the Victory event, getting a special pillow which is meant to curtail all snoring as an offering to my long-term relationship.

Archie Thompson, Besart Berisha, Adrian Leijer and Leigh Broxham weren’t meant to arrive until 6.30pm. All my errands were completed by 5, except for the snore-preventing pillow, which I was not going to parade around town more than I had to, people might think I camped outside the Adidas shop to be the first one in. Luckily the store that sold the pillow – but hasn’t paid for an endorsement or sponsored any football events and will therefore remain nameless – was open until 10pm. I would get it on my way home.


Nobody knows but I was the first to rock up at the venue for the event, even before the sound system. I take my job seriously. But with an hour and a half to go, I was forced to tone down my work ethic.

It’s that time of night when the layers of nine-to-fivers are still peeling away from the city. The streets of the CBD become a haven for tourists, shoppers, international students, musicians, cops on bikes, down-and-outs, and a novice reporter taking photos of the Adidas shop front as though he were in one of the first two categories. Andean buskers added a soundtrack to my misadventure with their latest take on the signature song Humahuacana, which we were taught to play on recorders in Mexican secondary school.

I sat outside for a while, walked around, ate sushi, remembered my golden days as an electricity meter reader, thought of my mate CK who works in Chinatown on Little Bourke Street and calls me Mr Chicharito, then finally went to the store unafraid to look overenthusiastic amongst a crowd of mostly kids in Melbourne Victory gear.

At 6.30pm there was a modest but dense line of junior autograph hunters ready to meet the four guests. There would probably be a similar-sized line at a Windows phone launch.

The small crowd, which we will re-label as intimate (out of journalistic amity since the evening turned out to be entertaining and wholesome for the kids) gave the players a warm welcome.

Archie Thompson is probably way funnier than Lionel Messi; he’s probably way funnier than many Golden Ball winners.

“I don’t look myself up on Wikipedia” he said when asked about his overall goal tally. This earned him a collective laugh from the intimate crowd gathered at the Adidas shop on Bourke Street.

“My craziness comes out when I attack that corner flag,” he added in response to a query about who was crazier, Besart Berisha or Kevin Muscat.

Despite only recently joining the team, even Bez had heard Archie tell this joke before.

Despite only recently joining the team, even Bez had heard Archie tell this joke before.

The master of ceremony for Melbourne Victory’s meet and greet night had introduced Archie as the A-League’s all-time leading scorer with 78 goals. “I reckon I’ve scored about 70 goals but if I’d have taken as many penalties as Muscat I would be well over 100.”

Bez (not the dancer from the Happy Mondays) was sitting next to Archie. While Thompson walked into the shop sporting a pair of trés-Melbourne skinny jeans, and tattoos, new signing Besart Berisha had a different take on fashion, “It’s good to be in Melbourne, it’s an Adidas city. I see everything is in Adidas. It’s good to be at this club with a lot of supporters, very patient supporters. I really love that about it and they are a great team.”

Translation: Bez knows who Victory’s kit sponsor is.

Bez is the fourth highest scorer in the A-League. The MC commended him for not celebrating his decisive goal against Victory in last year’s finals. Of course, he could have simply not scored the goal…

Leigh Broxham was the third of four Melbourne Victory stars present on the night. When the A-League first started, Broxham was kit man for Melbourne Victory. Back then every team had Reebok kits.

“It’s been amazingly important moving to Adidas in particular. As a kit man, the Reebok product was really strong and they did a very good job at the time. The gear was very nice and folding them was an absolute pleasure.”

If nothing else, the crowd learned that Broxham really liked folding Reebok kits.

“My fourth game I won a championship with this club and thought that’s what happens every year, you win a championship. Lift the toilet seat, next year I’ll do the same thing, but it’s been few and far between.”

Adrian Leijer was the last to speak on the night. The MC introduced him as the record holder for most yellow cards with 51. Leijer was peppered with questions about training and prospects for the upcoming year.

Autographs and photos followed. Since I’m too old for autographs from players (who are all younger than me), I took some photos, in-keep with my incognito status, and perhaps accidentally photo-bombed a few selfies.

I left the Adidas shop pondering the cut-off age when it comes to asking for autographs. I’d get one from Zidane, Messi, or Pelé. I’d even get one from that robot they call CR7 but I wouldn’t admit it. None of those blokes look like they have a sense of humor.

In all of that I went home and forgot my anti-snoring pillow. I hope I don’t wake up long-term single.

Melbourne Victory’s season kicks off next Friday against last year’s runner-up Western Sydney Wanderers. Things will be different to tonight’s dalliances with humor. Football is no country for funny men. It’s serious business.