Kieran Yap reflects on what Australia and New Zealand have to look forward to when overseas fans come to the World Cup next year, with Kris Goman, Impetus’ Euros roving reporter getting the views of fans at the games across England about the tournament Down Under which starts in under a year (21/7/22).
Above: Coming to a state capital in Australia and New Zealand in less than a year – fans show their true colours at the Euros. Photo: Kris Goman.
Euro 2022 has given Australian and New Zealand football fans a taste of what the 2023 World Cup might bring to our shores. On the field, the tournament’s group stages have more than delivered, but the supporters and travelling fans have made just as big an impact from afar.
Australians have watched as streets packed with Orange-clad Dutch fans jump from left to right to strangely comforting pop music. We have hummed along to videos of Swedes singing ABBA songs at the pre-match pub.
Impetus spoke to the fans, some of whom are locals enjoying a tournament in their own backyard, and some who crossed the continent to get there. Many are planning on making the much longer trek to Australia and New Zealand next year. Surnames have been removed because most have not told their families or work just yet.
Patrick from The Netherlands looks like the prototypical Oranje supporter at first glance. But the Ajax Amsterdam member of over 25 years and Victoria Pelova fan has a strong affinity for Australia.
“I always say I was born in the wrong country,” he told us. “I have been to Australia 11 times. I love it there.”
He is underselling it. Patrick has multiple tattoos, a few signifying his passion for Dutch football, then some surprises. He has a kangaroo on his upper arm, an Australian flag on his wrist, and the emblem for AFL side the Hawthorn Football Club on his other arm.
“They were champions three times in a row, but now they’re shit.” He says with a laugh.
Patrick is eager to get back to Australia for the World Cup, but is not booking tickets until The Netherlands have qualified. They may be the runners-up from 2019 and boast a star-studded squad but the superfan thinks it may come down to a group game against Iceland on 6th November.
“We will have to win that game,” Patrick continued, “Otherwise, we will be second and have to be in a playoff game.”
Callum and Emily are both English, they are soaking up the atmosphere of a tournament on home soil and attending as many games as they can. It is something that the pair hope to do in Australia and New Zealand.
The expense of travel might be an issue for them, but if they make it, they will want to enjoy as much of the tournament as possible.
“I’d probably do one England game to be honest,” says Callum. “We’re planning to go to more neutral games in the same sort of area.”
Emily is optimistic about England’s chances at the Euros and at the World Cup. “I’d like to hope we can go all the way,” she says. “We’ve got a good squad. We’ve got a lot of depth now, it’s the first time England have got such a good squad so there’s no reason why we can’t go and win this.”
Krista from Austria is nearing retirement from her job as a teacher. Her enthusiasm for the women’s game is evident on her face, figuratively and literally. She lights up when she talks about her nation’s side who have become famous for their exuberant celebrations, but Krista also has a temporary tattoo of an Austrian flag on her cheek.
Krista is more than just a fan, she feels a strong sense of personal pride in the Austrian side. “The coach (Irene Fuhrmann) was my student,” she says proudly. “I told her to join a football team.
“She’s very ambitious and also, she has the heart of a lion. She is a very important person for the players. Every match is progress for them. They get better in every match. They’re loved by the Austrian population.”
Krista is basking in the rise of the women’s game. She has long been a supporter of the men’s team and the women’s side, but loves the atmosphere and personality of the Austrian side in England.
“The young girls come to the football; every match is on television. The women come and greet (the fans), its more personal.”
Like The Netherlands, Austria will likely need to survive a playoff the make the World Cup, but Krista is confident and already planning ahead for her first visit to the host nations.
“In this form, they will win the playoff. I’ve taken away some money already to finance my adventure. I will be retired next year so it will be possible. I’m looking forward to going to Australia. i have to ask some friends to join me because it’s a very long distance. There is a friend of mine in Australia so I can visit her.”
Krista has been a fan of the women’s game for decades, and actively encourages young girls at her school to take up the sport. “You have to promise them a good atmosphere, so they come. If you train them and give them self-confidence, they will play for 10 years and have fun.”
Callum is from a town near Manchester, he has coached in the women’s game for almost a decade. He is at the Euros as a fan, but as a youth coach he saw some of England’s current stars take their first steps in the game
“I’ve delighted in coaching Georgia Stanway, Kiera Walsh, and Ella Toone. Many were about 13 and 14, they were always brilliant. I remember the first session with Georgia, she was outstanding. I went up my dad and said I’ve just seen a female Thierry Henry.”
He hopes to continue the Euros momentum to the World Cup where he intends to take the scenic route to games. “I’ve got a lot of friends in Australia, so I’m looking to going out there and soaking up some sun and football. I might hire a camper van and get no sleep.”
The lifelong football fan has been a regular at stadiums for most of his life, but the matches at these Euros have felt different. “The atmosphere, like the one last night was just electric. I go a lot of men’s matches and this was ten times the atmosphere of that.”
For now, Australians and New Zealanders watch on in anticipation and slight envy at the celebration of football underway in England. But it will not be long before it is happening in the host nations.
Right now, if the Lionesses have their way, football is coming home. Soon it will be coming here. The fans across the world, old and young are already planning for it.