“What a tragedy the #AUSvJAP game wasn’t on free to air so all Aussies can see what heroes our @Socceroos are & how proudly they represent us.”
This is what I Tweeted at the conclusion of last night’s epic World Cup qualifying match between the Socceroos and Japan.
And it struck a nerve with the Twittersphere because 40,189 spectators, at the potato field known as Suncorp Stadium, and hundreds of thousands lucky enough to have Pay TV, had just witnessed one of the great chapters of Australia’s football history; the Socceroos legend burnished for another 90 minutes.
The tragedy in this piece of sporting lore is that less than half a million people in this country watched the game when it should have been many times that.
For those unlucky enough to have not watched the match, technological progress has seen oral history joined by the printing press, radio, television, the internet and social media as methods of conveyance to pass on the great story.
This story will be reprised countlessly, not only over the next few days, but over the years.
It will end up touching millions.
But those millions would have preferred a chance to watch it live and let the images sear into their memories.
The big sumo sized irony of this tale is that tens of millions in the Land of the Rising Sun did.
According to Simon Hill of FoxSports in his pre-game review of the impressive Japanese football media, over 30 million people watched the Japan’s last game against Jordan; a 6-0 romp which had the nation beaming like a Sony Jumbotron.
Last night, Japanese football fans sat glued to their televisions as a band of ageing green and gold football warriors, who were supposed to be no match for their special generation of Samurai Blue, put on a display of such dauntless spirit and courage they could not help but think that they were watching an old Akira Kurosawa classic.
But it wasn’t the “Seven Samurai,” it was the “Eleven Aussie Samurai.”
In Tim Cahill, they saw a modern day Toshiro Mifune. A veteran samurai, fallen on hard times and his reputation questioned by the local gossip. He led from the front with a fearless display.
The two Japanese central defenders shuddering with trepidation as he took to them as if wielding a flashing blade.
Behind him a motley collection of football professionals followed suit as they made the Japanese suffer on the pitch. All this from a team, who on the international market, could not even fetch the price of one of their golden warriors, Shinji Kagawa.
In every great drama there is comic character, in this case the referee, to not only add entertainment to proceedings but to also give the story and added moral dimension. He did this by reducing the Aussie Samurai to ten.
The Australian goal was finally breached.
Our comic friend intervened again to even the scales of justice by awarding the Socceroos a penalty. Luke Wilkshere, with ice running through his veins, blasted the penalty past the Japanese custodian.
The two teams then battled manfully to the end.
The odds were still against the Socceroos, but they fought on unbowed. They were not to be beaten and with a bit of luck could have come out victorious.
For the Japanese football public, what the Socceroos did not win in points, they gained in respect in this action packed classic.
An international football rivalry to cherish.
The sequel will be held in Japan in June 2013.
Japan has six times the population of Australia, but sixty times more people will get to watch their heroes in action.
On a day where we proudly bask in the heroic efforts of our national team, The Socceroos, it is also a good time to reflect on this sobering reality.
Athas Zafiris is on Twitter @ArtSapphire