Bob Hawke was a visionary and one of the true greats of this nation. When he muttered the immortal words, “any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum,” he demonstrated why the people loved him and what the America’s Cup meant to Australia, a nation still trying to forge its own post colonial, post White Australia identity.
An emerging nation, down three nil in the best of seven races against the might of the USA, the America’s Cup which for 132 years belonged only to the undefeated USA. Yet the courageous Aussies of John Bertrand prevailed against all odds in the seventh race against Dennis Connor’s USA. Australia was on the rise in sport and we had a Labor leader who was charismatic and one of us. A Larkin, a sport lover and a top bloke!
I remember those races in 1983 and it made me proud of Australia. I was beginning to really love sport, as a Canterbury Bulldogs supporter and a regular at Sydney Olympic with my Dad, it was a wonderful era. Slowly our boxers, footy teams such as the Kangaroos, cricketers and tennis stars dominated international sports, though to be fair tennis was an area where Aussies shined.
If you had told me in 1983, a six year old boy, that Australia would be captivated by the Matilda’s in 2023, I would have thought you were a “bum!” Women’s sport, except netball was not high on the radar, certainly not in the mainstream.
Yet it’s the women’s version of the football that is now arguably the biggest sporting brand in the country. Bigger than the NRL Kangaroos, the Diamonds, Opals, Boomers, the failing Wallabies and on par with the men’s cricketers and our Socceroos. Maybe the Matildas are bigger…. should they win this World Cup.
Already the match against Denmark was the highest rating program of the year, bigger than an AFL match or State of Origin.
Our Prime Minister has said we should have a public holiday if the team wins. We should. Maybe a half day or a few hours, for make no mistake, this is the biggest sports event since the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and the most significant if we win. Football is the biggest show on earth, the galaxy even, and if we win, it has to be celebrated. Yes, some businesses may not be happy, though industries such as hospitality and creatives making big cash on a day like a Monday will be worth it. It has brought the nation together in a sense of unity and happiness, priceless. Melbourne already provides a public holiday for a horse race and the AFL grand final, neither really truly represent the whole country.
It is 1983 all over again. It is Sydney 2000 all over again. For many of us in office “sweeps” we have learned about Zambia or how big women’s football leagues are in Europe, how brilliant the Jamaican team is and how the talented USA finally lost a match after over a decade at the top of the World Cup. We learned that they can still be bullied by men who don’t get what football is about, ala Trump, who is now a rapist under US law (Trump has also being accused of dozens of other sexual harassments against women), who took to his social media to deride the women instead of consoling them. No words on how great the World Cup is, just pathetic attacks on women. Something I may have seen in 1983 by men like Trump, who are quite simply, bums! We move forward, yet sometimes we remain stuck in a misogynist past. Thankfully that is not the case in Australia.
This has been a transformative tournament. I drive through many public streets and I see the Matilda displays. The Inner West and the City have really embraced the spirit. Women, little girls are being feted when in 1983 it was almost unheard of.
Some people, notable dour opposition politicians, same ones who wont back the Voice or simply do not want fun in life for example, are against a public holiday and will make it an issue. Grow up. Let’s celebrate the team and the nation, and while you are at it, keep an open mind on the Voice. Go Matildas, and no matter what happens, no one is a bum at this World Cup. Congratulations to every team, organisers and the fans, bravo!
*Billy Cotsis is the author of The Aegean Seven Take Back The Stolen Marbles and failed footballer.