These little Aussies from all different cultural backgrounds seemed to know without being taught that sport is fun, not just because you might win a trophy at the end of the season, but because you get to be part of something bigger with your friends.
That’s what they were interested in: one another. It was a game of “I’m here with you, mate.”
Ever since that first soccer match, I’ve come to realize just how tightly the rituals of Saturday-morning sport are woven into the fabric of Australian families’ lives: the early-morning rush to find lost jerseys and shin pads, the piling of siblings into the car, collecting other teammates on the way to local sports grounds to cheer on loved ones little and large, and have a yarn about the week.
It’s not just about whether you win or lose, but how many sausage sandwiches and jelly snakes you can score once the game is over.
It’s now my son’s third season of club soccer. This year he made into the “development squad” for top players in his club. These days, my almost-8 year old is intently focused on holding his position on field, and going for the strike. As his skills as a sportsman grow, I hope he continues to channel the joy of his goofy, unskilled 6-year-old self.
It’s the heart of what sport and mateship in Australia really is.
Share your stories with us. Or share your thoughts in the comments.
For guidance and inspiration, here are a few other recent entries: about birthday cakes, a road trip, for the birds, no hat, no play, a housewarming party, tales of nippers, growing up on the creek, generational angst, paying with pineapples, magical mermaid pools, lizard friends, nude beaches, music and road trips, curious lifeguards, death and kindness, plus poetry and #metoo on the work site.