On today’s edition of Atri’s #hermitadventureupdates, I am cheating. It’s not quite a hermit adventure, but Tari wasn’t around so I’m considering it as one! Hah! “Try to catch an AFL game live.” Was the first advice I received when I first said I was moving to Australia. I scoffed, because why would I really? Australian football is played only in Australia, and even in Australia, not every city had a team. So really, it can’t be that exciting, right? Wrong.
So I headed off to the MCG, which boasts being the 10th-largest stadium in the world, the largest in Australia, the largest in the Southern Hemisphere.
I am a convert to the cult of AFL, I now worship its feet, and pledge my life to it.
No okay, maybe not to the point of feet-worshipping-cult-convert, but I see the appeal, and I am definitely a fan of watching it live. Though played with a vaguely rugby-ball-shaped ‘ball’, and dubbing itself ‘football’, Australian football has nothing in common with neither football, nor rugby. But it didn’t take long for me to really get into the game. And I mean, sitting-at-the-edge-of-my-seat-and-grumbling-swear-words in, with several giggle-sessions disrupting my building excitement, as birds continue to chill on the ground even mid-game. I could just imagine the indignant squawks as they scatter every time the ball comes their way.
I caught a game between the Freemantle Dockers vs. the Richmond Tigers, and I definitely picked the right match to watch. The game was fast paced, and utterly consuming. I barely had a chance to ask what was happening before someone started yelling “BALL!” in my ear. As I understand it, ball is short for handball – which is what happens when you, and I quote, “dishonourably and stubbornly clutch onto a ball while tackled.” It awards the other team a free kick – and that was about the only rule I fully understood.
Not that my lack of understanding in any way or form took away from the pleasures of enjoying the game. Though the endless bottles of cider might have helped some. This, I found utterly fascinating, drinking while watching a football game was fun. The last time I saw any sports game live was in Jakarta, and alcohol was strictly prohibited. Though I have a suspicion that the alcohol ban has less to do with religious reasons, and more because there would be drunken riots if beers were sold freely. Your average Indonesian football fan tend to think that being labelled a ‘hooligan’ is a compliment.
I now completely understand why most Australians I encounter enjoy AFL more than soccer. There’s less time spent faffing around, rolling around and arguing with referees in AFL. It’s just straight up game. The players rolled on the pitch and jumped straight back into the game without piteously pointing at opponents, and physical tackles seemed just a part of the norm. Though I did see an elbow to the face that couldn’t have been a legal move in the rule book. All I have to say right now is, I am currently #teamAFL! Tari also reminded me to say that for the record; dem short shorts. Thighs and butts. That is all.
Maybe one of the reasons I enjoyed the game so much was because the game I watched was mind-blowingly close. The Dockers had been leading for most of the game before the Tigers began smashing it in the last quarter, catching up by more than 10 points in less than 20 minutes, scoring their last goal just 2 minutes before the sirens wailed. But lo and behold, the Dockers rallied in the last seconds and managed to get a goal in with seconds to spare. Talk about a dramatic ending!
The Tigers fans by far outnumbered Dockers fans, probably because the Dockers hail from way up in Western Australia, while Tigers were a local Victoria team hailing from… just down the road. My train carriage home carried two purple wearing Dockers fans (yours truly being one of them), while everyone else was decked out in the yellow and black of the Tigers colours. I had terrible flashbacks of avoiding certain colours during football games in Jakarta, but standing in the train with a purple hat clutched nervously to my chest, I felt cautiously safe. A novelty when sitting in a carriage full of opposing team supporters.
Since I had a Dockers hat on for all of 5 minutes, I am apparently an official Dockers fan. I don’t mind since they use my favourite shade of purple for their colours. (Fun fact – my first ever uttered word was ‘ungu’, the Indonesian word for purple.) Right now I’m looking forward to their next game in the area. Which from the looks of it, isn’t until July. Bugger.
Let’s go Freo, let’s go! #foreverfreo