When Andrew Redmayne’s penalty save against Peru sent Australia to a fifth successive World Cup, he reminded a generation of fans of just how much we love the Socceroos.
Redmayne’s shoot-out heroics came at the start of a momentous week for the Socceroos.
Just three days after the Aussies booked their spot at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, the men’s national team celebrated the 100th anniversary of their first-ever game against New Zealand at Carisbrook in Dunedin way back on June 17, 1922.
That squad featured eight players each from Queensland and New South Wales – those being the two states that stumped up the cash for the 14-game tour of New Zealand, which including three official ‘Tests’ against the Kiwis.
And according to authors Nick Guoth and Trevor Thompson, who recently released Burning Ambition: The Centenary of Australia-New Zealand Football Ashes through Fair Play Publishing, the team wore light blue shirts with maroon trimming to represent the colours of those two states.
The current generation of Socceroos are drawn from considerably farther afield.
Indeed, it’s the fact the Socceroos have long been such a diverse group of players that leads many to believe they’re the most visible representation of a modern, multicultural Australia.
There were some suggestions in the mainstream media that Redmayne himself was ‘an unknown’ before being substituted on to become Australia’s hero in Doha, but of course the Sydney FC shot-stopper has been one of the most effective goalkeepers in the A-League Men ever since joining the Sky Blues.
A few mainstream journalists even questioned the sportsmanship of Redmayne throwing Peruvian goalkeeper Pedro Gallese’s penalty notes over the advertising boards, which is the sort of tactic South American teams have been getting away with for decades.
Here’s the thing about those sort of editorials: I honestly don’t know what they said, because I never bother reading them. That’s always been an option.
Most of us prefer to source our journalism from those who tune into a game more than once every four years, so Redmayne’s heroics – as surprised as many of us were to see him enter the fray – came as no huge shock from a goalkeeper who performed similar feats to help Sydney FC win the 2019 grand final.
Redmayne, just like the man he replaced in Mat Ryan, comes from a humble background and it’s remarkable to note just how down to earth most of these Socceroos players are.
You wouldn’t have picked it judging by the penalties, with Aaron Mooy, Craig Goodwin, Ajdin Hrustic, Jamie Maclaren and Awer Mabil all converting their spot-kicks with astonishing confidence.
Even Martin Boyle’s shoot-out opener wasn’t the worst spot-kick you’ve ever seen – although it was, as they say, ‘a good height for the goalkeeper’ – and the winger with the thick Scottish accent made up for the miss by seemingly partying harder than every one of his Socceroos teammates.
Not only was Boyle spotted wearing his full kit in the pool in the post-match celebrations, he then tweeted a photo of himself in, shall we say, ‘recovery mode’ in his darkened hotel room.
But perhaps the most moving sight in the entire penalty shoot-out came from watching Awer Mabil stroll to the spot.
Born in a Kenyan refugee camp to South Sudanese parents, Mabil grew up in South Australia and started his professional career in the A-League with Adelaide United.
He’s now won almost 30 caps for the Socceroos and it showed in sudden-death, as he simply ignored Pedro Gallese’s time-wasting tactics and sent him the wrong way from the spot.
After Redmayne saved Alex Valera’s subsequent penalty, Mabil slumped to the ground in tears behind the goal.
He later told journalists he “knew he was going to score” because “it was the only way to thank Australia” for taking his family in as refugees.
But it’s us who should be thanking Awer.
It’s never mattered to Socceroos fans where you were born. Once you pull on the green and gold, you’ll always be one of our own.