Face to face with the golden boys

The Socceroos meet their fans after their World Cup qualifying win against Iraq last night at ANZ stadium. Photo: Ben RushtonTim Cahill is bigger than Jesus, bigger than the Beatles even. Perhaps the only Australian whose nickname is longer than their chosen name, Timmy was embraced by the crowd and he hugged them right back, signing footballs and scarves and posing for photographs with children skipping school and skiving tradies in tell-tale fluorescents.

The soundtrack chosen for the Socceroos World Cup qualification celebrations suited the star midfielder: no Lennon/McCartney but Angry Anderson’s Bound For Glory and We Can’t Be Beaten; before the undimmed optimism of Starship’s Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.

Several hundred football fans gathered in the winter sun at Sydney’s Customs House to congratulate the national team on its safe passage into the 2014 World Cup. Its spot at Brazil was sealed when substitute Josh Kennedy scored against Iraq on Tuesday night.

He has cut and gelled the long, lank hair that earned him the nickname Jesus – but the title has stuck. Some wags online have already put him in place of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro. ”It would probably be funnier if I had long hair still,” he said.

Among the crowd on Wednesday was Kennedy’s sister-in-law Lucille Bailie, who said he is known at home as ”Uncle Josh”. She watched Tuesday night’s game in the rain from the front row at ANZ Stadium. ”I was ecstatic like everybody else when he scored that goal,” she said.

”One little moment in time and now we are going to Brazil.”

Australia has now qualified for its third consecutive World Cup, a feat still so special that every such moment is a defining one. And here was another one for the fans: greeting the players the morning after the night before.

Brisbane nursing student Ben Clark, 28, dressed in head-to-toe green-and-gold (including a Seattle SuperSonics cap), was still shaking his head in disbelief. Environmental consultant Roy Bartholomew, 69, vowed to gather a crew from Dee Why to see the Socceroos in Brazil. ”I intend to charter a jet,” he said.

”They have done a great thing for the nation. If the nation could only back the Labor Party the way they are doing this.”

Coogee motor mechanic Chris Charles, 30, had given himself a public holiday. Karen Armstrong, from Minnie Water, on the north coast, had given her two grandsons a few days off school. ”They have their headmistress’ approval,” she said.

”Kennedy, give us a wave!” a supporter shouted towards a tall player, who turned out to be centre-back Robert Cornthwaite.

Better still to be confused for Cahill, who lingered the longest with fans. ”Onya Timmy!” they screamed. One supporter made a strangled attempt at an ”Oi! Oi! Oi!”, before a loud trumpet blast that sounded alarmingly like a vuvuzela.

”This is the best feeling ever. This will last for a while because we’re at Brazil. It’s crazy,” Cahill said, smiling.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.