Why can’t Socceroos’ active fans be more active?

Sitting in a first-floor hotel bar in Doha with some USA fans in the aftermath of a second-half show from Brazil in their match against Serbia, the subject of active fans was raised. Which nation has the most lively supporters?

The awkward shuffling and immediate response was that it most certainly wasn’t Australia.

So, why is it that the Socceroos fans can be so boisterous and so noisy at times, but they simply cannot string a tune together to help the players reach the heights?

The FIFA World Cup in Qatar has given us some magnificent displays of support in this first round of group stage games.

For those lucky enough to be there, the Argentina-Saudi Arabia match was something to behold. The metro journey to the stadium was all about the South Americans, the Albiceleste shirts were everywhere, the carriages were rocking and there was genuine belief that this was the team that deserved to be the popular favourites to take the crown.

Even the pre-game in the stadium was dominated by the bank of raucous supporters behind the goal at one end, and the infectious chants took over the massive Lusail Stadium. The songs were sung by everyone in sky blue and white.

But then Saudi Arabia turned the game on its head, and we discovered that the Saudis themselves had an extensive hymn book that every one of their fans could sing from, and the backs-to-the-wall rearguard action that saw them see out a good 40 minutes before the final whistle was the backdrop for some passionate and vocal support.

At the other end of the spectrum, the likes of the USA and Switzerland are not renowned for their vocal and passionate football support on the international stage.

That damned “U…S…A…” chant is the antithesis to any number of beautiful-sounding Spanish chants, the simple difference in beauty of the language being enough to grate on the supporters of any other team. But the thing is, it works. The USA vs Wales game on Monday showed that a simple chant, delivered as is or as the Viking clap, can be effective if everyone gets involved.

It’s loud. The players notice it. Even the Swiss fans, roasting in the afternoon sun in their game with Cameroon, could still manage to belt out a simple chant involving only a few syllables and turn the atmosphere up a notch as a result.

So, when the Socceroos found themselves on the back foot after a terrific start against France on Tuesday, why did the vocal support simply dry up? The elation that followed Craig Goodwin’s early strike, the vocal barracking of Kylian Mbappe and the cheers that greeted everything good that the Australian team produced was on point for a good half an hour.

(Photo by Jonathan Brady/PA Images via Getty Images)

But then, just because the impetus had been lost on the field, the will to sing and chant was sucked out of the Aussie fans to be replaced with a somewhat negative vibe. This is not simply an observation as someone in amongst the majority of green and gold fans in the corner of the stadium that night, this is something that was the subject of much discussion the following day after the boys had endured a tough second half at the hands of their assailants.

Where was the singing? Where was the chanting?

The more cynical of commentators would allude to the fact that the pre-game had ended some three hours before and that the inability to top up on the Dutch courage en route or at the game was a factor. It may well have been, but there’s no excuse to simply let the game pass by without giving the team the vocal support they deserve.

For every fan who tried to get a chant going, for every fan who gave it their all with the handheld horns and did their part, holding up their scarves in defiance, there were twentyfold who were simply not interested or who couldn’t force themselves to at least give it a go.

This is not to be critical of the individual. Perhaps it is simply an Australian trait that avoids being the centre of attention whilst being dismissive of those who are.

A typical A-League game would have your capo and a core of fans who love to express themselves as a tribe through song, a Matildas game would have Michelle Morris and the active crew, but in the second half of the opening fixture of this prestigious tournament on Monday, the Socceroos were missing that vital ingredient.

Sydney FC fans

Sydney FC fans at the SCG (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Looking in envy at the Japanese block of supporters in their momentous defeat of Germany, they had a perfect block of tickets allocated to them. Someone, somewhere had orchestrated the fans to be dressed in similar fashion and they belted out the simple national songs all together, forming a wall of noise.

Now look at the Socceroos block, straggled between French fans and locals, more like a stain than a mass, and this could well be the result of the ticketing process that didn’t quite go to plan when the national team surprised the world by qualifying for the World Cup in June. What should have been a solid block of Australian supporters, was now diluted with French fans who were quite happy to sing their patriotic songs surrounded by enemy foot soldiers.

We have a game on Saturday, a must-win game against the other team expected to finish third or fourth in Group D. Al Janoub Stadium had the first low-key game of the FIFA World Cup 2022 today, a good chunk of empty seats for the meeting of Switzerland and Cameroon, and the absence of the huge swathes of thobes and guthra suggested that this was not a game to be seen at for the Qatari locals.

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It will be the same this weekend.

Expect the crowd to be lower still and expect the stadium to be crying out for some noise to fill it. That’s where we need to stand up and be counted. The 1pm kick-off means that there literally will be no pre-game.

When the Socceroos are at their time of need for some vocal support, are we going to cast aside our reservations and go for broke? Can the team count on their sober supporters to drive them home to victory against Tunisia?

This is a watershed moment for Socceroos support.

Let every man, woman and child find their voices and roar on the team to victory to set up at least a chance of making the round of 16. Your country needs you.

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