In case you missed it, the Socceroos today unveiled the uniforms they will be wearing at this year’s World Cup in Brazil.
As far as football jerseys go, they are nice, although yellow (or gold, if you can call it that) is probably not the best choice for removing the bloody stains sustained while getting smashed by superior footballing sides.
Colour, design and Napisan considerations aside, the exciting thing about the new uniform is the return – after a 21-year absence – of white socks.
It is fair to say this is the most important development in Australian football since we convinced Guus Hiddink to coach the national side.
First of all, white socks just look good. They are virginal, pure and in certain contexts denote class. They also pick up dirt easily, which can serve as a good indication of a player putting in a good shift.
Just like how Simon Katich earned plaudits for picking up dirt on his whites when batting, hopefully the Socceroos will be doing similar when going up against the likes of Spain, Holland and Chile in this year’s World Cup.
The adoption of white socks may also lead to comparisons between the Socceroos and the Chicago White Sox baseball team, who in 1919 infamously threw the World Series and in-turn inspired the baseball fantasy-drama Field of Dreams.
Given the standard of their opponents at the World Cup it is doubtful the Socceroos would ever be in a position to intentionally lose matches like Chicago did. It is also unlikely that, years from now, ghosts of current Socceroos players will seemingly randomly appear at a farmyard field to play a game of football while at the same time teaching Kevin Costner important life lessons.
A far more likely scenario is one of the Socceroos players being given the moniker of the 1919 White Sox’s star player “Shoeless” Joe Jackson. Doesn’t Shoeless Timmy Cahill have a great ring to it? Or Shoeless Jimmy Holland? Or Shoeless Carl Valeri? Maybe not so much.
All these considerations aside, the Socceroos wearing white socks makes the statement Football Australia has hitherto been unwilling to: They acknowledge the rich history of football in Australia.
The old Socceroos teams had always worn white socks. The first Socceroos team to play in a World Cup (1974) wore them, and so did the heroic sides of the 60s, 70s and 80s who toiled for their country, all the while their country sneered derisively referred to their game as, like Johnny Warren’s tome of the same name, a sport reserved for “Sheilas, wogs and pooftas”.
Then sometime in the 90s, kit manufacturer Adidas did away with the white socks, Harry Kewell and the English Premier League came along and suddenly it was cool to watch football again. We haven’t seen them since.
By re-introducing the white socks, Football Australia is rekindling a link to the game’s past. The white socks speak to our past, something which has been ignored by the FA – who have been hell-bent on breaking with the past, and probably with good reason given the ethnic divisions and poor quality that plagued the old NSL.
But just because the history of football in Australia is complicated by feelings of shame, xenophobia and marginalisation, doesn’t mean we should just ignore it.
Until now the FA has put forward the image of an ex-girlfriend trying to get on with their life after a break-up. Unwilling to identify the boyfriend by name nor discuss the past. Instead incessantly talking about the future. I’m ready for the perfect man to come along. Football will one day be Australia’s biggest sport. As if positive self-talk will get you out of every problem in life.
Like the ex-girlfriend, Football Australia eventually has to acknowledge its past, warts and all, if it is to ever move on and find its soul mate/become a fully-fledged mainstream sport in Australia.
Wearing white won’t make you a virgin again, but it makes you look good, so it’s a start.
By Ben Shine