The Roar
The Roar


An NRL fan's guide to that soccer tournament in Russia

Newcastle Knights fans. (AAP Image/Darren Pateman)
16th May, 2018
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Come June, everyone from Milan to Mogadishu will pause for the most significant sporting event known to mankind. Then once Origin is done, it’s time to focus on Russia.

Despite its abundant popularity and opportunities to kick Englishmen, soccer has been long condemned by rugby league fans for the same reasons they shun the Roosters; for being effeminate, teeming with cash and controlled by a European autocrat.

But trust me on this; despite being weighed down with a terrible time difference in the sub-zero temperatures of a country that appears to dislike the rest of the world, I’m guaranteeing Russia will capture your imagination, or at the very least, be on television.

A simple glance at Wikipedia tells us that soccer is not defined solely as juggling tricks and early-morning games on SBS.

In fact, while the game cops an unimaginative wrap from us sophisticated mungoes, it’s pretty much identical to league.

Ball, grass and cannibalising self-interest aside, both codes are played by a bunch of manicured sun-tan oil addicts who flail for penalties, and both are also despised by the Daily Telegraph.

This is a slight variation on the game’s status in Victoria, where the Herald Sun equally hates football but maintains its showpiece tournament should be staged at halftime of the AFL grand final. So please allow for regional tweakage.

Nevertheless, I forecast the Russian tournament to be a cracker, chiefly because it is the first edition marrying video intervention with impulsive football fans.

The world game has blatantly plagiarised The Bunker with its Video Assistant Referee (VAR), obviously desperate to reap the benefits of over-analysing critical decisions in a bid to attract unbearable scrutiny. And if I know eternally-reasonable soccer fans, we’ll be appreciating Bernard Sutton in no time.


And what about the players? If there’s anything we cherish about rugby league, it’s the blue collar, approachable everymen plying their trades.

Soccer is full of them.

How white are Cristiano Ronaldo’s teeth? I’d wager he’s probably the planet’s most recognisable baller outside of Kalyn Ponga, on weekends whenever Newcastle have the bye anyway.

Ronaldo is all of rugby league’s most aesthetically desirable traits melted into one stunning undercarriage, all with the dripping sexual magnetism of Martin Bella. With his chiselled visage, arrogance and thirst for procreating, he would look fabulous playing for any NRL team, provided they had a cap matching Europe’s GDP.

Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo

(Photo: Reuters)

But what about the rest of the battlers?

Keep an eye out for famed Egyptian rugby league name Mohamed Salah – brother of Wendell, and cousin to Hassan – and little-known Lionel Messi, a fairly handy talent who’ll be desperate to rectify that one missing accomplishment on his resume; a biting charge.

Until then, he’ll never be a Luis Suarez, the Uruguayan who returns to the world stage to again emulate fellow international sporting chompsmen like James Graham and Anthony Watts. When this man calls for the ball, you pass him the salt.


And if you’re going to attempt pronouncing Colombia’s James Rodriguez, make sure you’ve got a hair stuck on the back of your throat. Stay classy, and say it properly like you would NSW’s halves combo of ‘Ha-mez’ Maloney and Luciano Brooks.

But rich players aside, why should we care about the tournament?

Because its international eligibility rules are completely bananas. Can you believe players have to choose a country based on their nationality?

It’s the main reason David Beckham regrets not playing league. He could’ve picked up a cheque from England, played for Monaco and represented Essex, which I believe is in Queensland. Then he could’ve signed for Melbourne, where he could Bend it Like an Ulna.

Finally, if you’re looking for a hot pick, you can never go against the Russians.

While the host nation’s team is reportedly experiencing spats between coach and player, and organisation and coach, I won’t believe the worst for the Soviets chances until I sit down in front of my TV and see Lyall Gorman front a press conference in a Cossack.

You won’t want to miss any of the memorable footballing moments in Russia this year. Catch all the action in the best way possible by coming together with your friends and family and watching it on an epic big screen Samsung QLED TV, so explore the big screen range now.

Haven’t seen your friends lately? Send them a personal message from Tim Cahill with TIMVITE and get ready to watch the big games.