At last, Australian sport’s Great Rematch is upon us.
Is it the Collingwood vs St Kilda Grand Final Replay replay? No.
Anthony ‘The Man’ Mundine vs Danny Green? No.
Michelle Ford vs Tracy Wickham? No.
I’m talking about Craig Foster vs Ange Postecoglou.
For readers who may not be familiar with Round 1 of this epic contest, let me paint you a picture …
It is Remembrance Day, 11 November 2006. The Young Socceroos have just crashed out of the Asian Football Confederation Championships in the quarter finals, losing 2-1 to South Korea. By failing to make it through to the semi-finals, they have also failed to qualify for the Under 20 World Cup – to be played in Canada the following year.
Postecoglou is a Greek born former South Melbourne Hellas legend. He played in two National Soccer League Premiership sides during the 80s and 90s – the second as club captain. He went to coach the club to further NSL success in 1997 and 1998, to the Oceania Club Championship in 1999, and a berth in the FIFA World Club Championship in 2000. But today, he is under pressure. As coach of the Young Socceroos, he’s having to answer for the team’s poor results. Star striker Nathan Burns missed the South Korea match due to suspension, while the team finished the game with just ten men after defender Sebastian Ryall was red-carded for a reckless tackle. But they’re just excuses, and the football media is after blood – none more so than the pundits at SBS.
Like Postecoglou, Craig Foster is a former Socceroo. Born and raised in Sydney, Foster had stints with Portsmouth and Crystal Palace in England, before moving back to Australia to finish his professional career with the Northern Spirit and to become Chief Executive of the Player’s Association. After finishing his career he moved into the media – eventually taking over from the late great Johnny Warren as Les Murray’s sidekick on The World Game.
Foster is making a name for himself as a straight shooter – and for his occasionally over-the-top commentary style. His incoherent screaming after John Aliosi rammed home the winning penalty in the 2005 World Cup qualifier against Uruguay has gone down in Australian sports commentary history. (Remind yourself of the glorious penalty shoot-out at the Olympic Stadium– as described by Foster and Simon Hill http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZdbW7PSPGk).
Foster is considered to be earnest, if slightly excitable. Postecoglou is considered to be uncompromising and a hard taskmaster on the track. Both protagonists take themselves, and their profession, very seriously.
The Young Socceroos have failed to live up to expectations. The undergrowth is tinder dry.
Back at home in Melbourne, Postecoglou has been invited to appear on The World Game by satellite link. In the Sydney studio, Foster lights the match.
“That’s the second time you’ve failed to qualify. You can’t just blame the players, you have to take responsibility yourself don’t you?” he starts. “You lost to China and to Laos.”
Postecoglou fights back, accusing Foster of not doing his research. “You said we lost to Laos. We drew nil all with Laos … The thing is they were disqualified for the use of overage players.”
It’s now a bonfire. “Do you take responsibility?” asks Foster.
Postecoglou dismisses him. “So you’re saying I should resign. So you’re saying I should resign. That’s your opinion. Is that right? OK, so let’s move on.”
Oh no. Foster is not moving on. He’s barely begun. “Are you going to resign then? That’s the next question.”
“Of course I’m not going to resign.
By now Les Murray is desperately searching for an extinguisher before the whole forest goes up. “I guess the question has to be asked, what went wrong over there?”
But it’s too late. “It’s quite obvious what’s happening here, you guys think I should resign.”
Surrounded by flames and with no way out, Postecoglou battles on through the entire excruciating 13 minutes of fiery hell. At the end Murray thanks him for having “the good grace to come on the show”. Foster sits silent, exhausted by the effort of it all. A few weeks later Postecoglou is sacked as coach of the Young Socceroos.
Relive all the glorious drama here – http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=5226347474716947834#
Ever since that day, football fans have been talking in hushed tones about the prospect of a Psotecoglou vs Foster rematch. Whispers behind palms, behind closed doors, and between ad breaks.
“Do you reckon Ange will ever go back on The World Game again?”
“Nah mate, Ange is mates with all the guys at Fox Sports, and he has a regular spot on The Offsiders with Gerard Whateley. Why would he bother with Fozzie and Les – especially after what Fozzie did to him in 2006.”
Well, the time has come. Les Murray has announced that Ange Postecoglou will be a guest on this week’s show.
Postecoglou has returned to coaching with the Brisbane Roar. Under his leadership, the Roar have turned around years of underachievement and are riding high in second place on the A-League ladder. Purists are calling them the most attractive team in the competition. Finally Postecoglou is in a position of strength.
What will happen between these two raging bulls of the round-ball code? Will Foster apologise? Will Postecoglou demand Foster’s resignation from reading the sports bulletin on SBS World News? What is Les Murray’s real name?
We will all know the answers soon. Tune in the The World Game on SBS 2 on Monday night, October 25, at 9.30pm – or to the replay at 11.30pm on SBS 1.
And then take a deep breath, get a glass of water, and brace yourself for the 12-inch remix of Kewell vs Slater 1 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jcqrwb72HTk
– Stew Prins
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