Today wasn’t exactly a marquee day in sports. (I know, pennant races, but they’ll be there tomorrow too.) So instead of talking about tonight’s Louisville-K State clash, I’m going to relay a personal story from my time in Australia. Plus, it’s my birthday and I like this story even better than the kiss-cam story.
In the Summer of 2006, my parents and I got to take a trip to Australia for about 10 days. We got to go to Melbourne, Sydney, and Cairns, which I would highly recommend to anyone.
When we first got to Melbourne, we went to our hotel, which was a short walk from the Melbourne Cricket Ground. During check-in, the guy at the front desk told us our reservation had been lost due to “the big match on Thursday.” I wasn’t aware of any “big match on Thursday” so I asked him.
“The football match, at the MCG, Australia-Greece,” he said. At the time, Greece were the current European Champions, making this quite a tantalizing matchup.
I wondered aloud how hard it would be to get tickets and the front desk attendee said, “No chance, mate. Match has been sold out for three months.”
This minor detail has never stopped us before, so I decided it would be my mission to find tickets to the game. The next night, we had to go to a dinner (my Dad was there on business) served at the MCG. Apparently, the host committee didn’t know I would be attending, so I was separated from my parents and put at a table with seven people I had never met. I figured this was a perfect opportunity to try and get tickets, so I set about meeting everyone at the table.
After eating some indigenous Australian animal, I broached the subject of the soccer match. The guy sitting next to me, who’d had his fair share of wine, says, “You want to go? Let’s go talk to Trevor, he runs this place!” And so we did.
Trevor was a nice guy and agreed to give the three of us tickets. It was open seating in the reserved section, so we were encouraged to get there early. We were also told that since we were in the reserved section, we had to wear a collared shirt. It was a little odd.
Dad and I went down to the suite level, where the security guards weren’t paying a whole lot of attention. Once they had turned their backs, we walked casually into the first suite. Since they were all connected, we were able to make our way down to about midfield. We looked out of the suite into the seats and saw three empty seats, two together and one two rows behind.
I stayed in the seats while Dad went back to retrieve Mom, who was saving our seats in the other area. Once mom stumbled into the section, we thought we were home free. I did notice that most of the folks around us were extremely well dressed, in suits and dresses. I felt a little out of place, but I wasn’t too concerned.
The first half was great, Josip Skoko scored a beautiful volley from the top of the box and that half ended 1-0 to the Aussies.
At half time, the real fun began. About two minutes into the half, a well dressed man came down and tapped my Dad on the shoulder.
“Are you all squatting?” he asked. We all looked confused. He explained. “Do you all have tickets for these seats?”
Dad responded with something like, “Of course…we have tickets….in this stadium…”
The man laughed and said, “No, you don’t understand, I know you don’t have tickets for these seats. These are the Prime Minister’s seats.”
You can imagine the surprise when he said this. I figured we were getting arrested and sent back to the States. The man quickly eased my fears: “No worries, mate, he’s not here. Trouble in East Timor. You all aren’t causing trouble anyway. One question though, how did you get past my security?” We answered his question as best we could, since it didn’t take much. He then proceeded to point out every high ranking government official who was sitting in our immediate vicinity and then it became apparent that we stuck out like sore thumbs. I suppose it was okay though, he invited us up to the suite after the game for tea.
Australia ended up winning the game 1-0, and I truly don’t remember a whole lot about the actual match. It was a crazy atmosphere with 95,000 people and we got our free tickets courtesy of the MCG manager and an uprising in East Timor. I’d suggest if any of you get to go to Australia and there is a soccer match anywhere near, go see it. You may get caught up in the Prime Minister’s box too.