North Korea and Saudi Arabia faced off at Melbourne’s Rectangular Stadium. The Saudis bounced back from an early goal to delight their fans with a 4-1 victory. The competition’s southernmost venue saw its smallest crowd thus far in the tournament, with an occupation of nearly fifty per cent. Let’s call it a glass half full.
Despite the summer, which is meant to be peaking as we speak, the sky remained bandaged under a layer of cotton. The strength of the wind forced the organizing committee to remove the two team’s flags that had initially hung from the stadium’s roof. In plain words, it was cold.
Unstable weather is typical of Melbourne, the World’s Most Liveable City®. It is also a UNESCO City of Literature, a title it shares with Edinburgh. Not bad for one of civilization’s furthest corners. It is a plural and progressive city with environmental activism and plenty of cultural life. Any national team that plays here would likely find expats or hipsters to support them in the stands.
But no place can ever be perfect: due to its geographical condition, Australia is never on the same day or match day as the rest of the world. Following international football from Melbourne will test anyone’s devotion. The Champions League final stages take place as winter takes hold – midweek and at four in the morning when temperatures are at their lowest. World Cups take place during the frozen hours between midnight and sunrise. From that perspective, few matches in Brazil and South Africa were worth the sacrifice, particularly the grand finals. Even the Socceroos play their offshore matches at times that are incompatible with their own country.
Cristiano Ronaldo (and Real Madrid and Roma and Man City) will come to Melbourne next July for a series of marketing matches at the MCG, where 95,000 fans recently sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone” to the visiting Liverpool.
We all know that Real Madrid’s presence in Melbourne will be a mirage, the True Madrid plays in the middle of the night.
Without the demands of proper competition, these northern summer classics lack authenticity. They are less consolation than watching North Korea play Saudi Arabia, where both teams are at least fighting for survival.