Optimism wears many disguises but none so utterly convincing as the start of a new sports season.
Last weekend, rugby league got back underway in Canberra and, amid a sea of green polyester merchandise and a flurry of beer-buying, we were back at the Canberra Stadium, among friends and toasting the heady possibility of a winning season for the Canberra Raiders.
There are times when, as a newcomer to Australia, a topic of hot debate is brought up and, while others raise voices, all you can do is raise your eyebrows.
It started with a phone call from the Canberra Raiders’ Fan Engagement office.
“The final home game of the season is Members’ Appreciation Day, and we’ve selected 40 members who have attended every home game this season to form a guard of honour as the team runs out onto the pitch. Would you like to be one of them?”
Excited match-day mascots wait for the Canberra Raiders to take to the pitch. The cheerleaders proved distracting to one little fan.
I would, but I hesitated, because I knew someone who’d like to do it even more.
“Absolutely,” I said, “but would it be possible for my son to do it instead?”
Luck is a funny thing. When we first arrived in Canberra, last November, one of the things I was sure I’d miss most about Europe was football and supporting my favourite team, Liverpool. More than that, I was concerned that I’d struggle to fill the gap that left in my life.
As a potential solution – and as part of my policy of ‘make the most of your new life by trying new things’ – I signed up for a season ticket (known as a membership here) for Canberra’s local rugby league team the Canberra Raiders.
The Canberra Raiders in action.
The Australian Institute of Sport, home to the country’s elite athlete training programme, but also a fascinating afternoon out.
Tucked away in one of Canberra’s northern suburbs is a university-like campus which serves as a training centre for Australia’s prospective Olympic athletes. Such a purpose suggests a secret camp with high security fencing but, in fact, the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) offers daily public tours of its facilities, where you can see how Australia prepares its future champions… and you don’t even have to be an Aussie to go along.
The Canberra 5k was our first race in Australia but it won’t be our last.
This post is going to make me sound all athletic, and really, I’m not. But since we moved to Canberra, I’m a darned sight more athletic than at any point since childhood.
Last weekend, Canberra hosted the Australian Running Festival. A two-day series of races ranging from a 5km run to a 50km ‘ultra-marathon’ (as if a marathon wasn’t enough of a challenge).
Back in December, fresh off the plane, a 5km run through the heart of the city’s parliamentary triangle seemed like a fun thing to sign up for, so we did – me, mini-CBRbound (aged 8) and maxi-CBRbound (aged 11). Continue reading
The boys definitely participate in sports a lot more in Canberra.
Regular readers will know that my two sons, mini-CBRbound (8) and maxi-CBRbound (11) were big factors in our decision to move to Canberra.
There were all sorts of reasons why we thought Australia would be good for them, but a big one was the prospect of a more outdoor and active life, made possible by the climate and the Aussie obsession with sports.
The West Indies take on Zimbabwe at Manuka Oval in Canberra.
For those old enough to recall it, there’s a fabulous episode of the original 1960’s Star Trek series (and a concept revisited many times by its successor shows) called ‘Mirror, Mirror’.
It imagines a world where, but for a turn of fate here, a different decision there, the universe might be a very different place. In ‘Mirror, Mirror’, the end result is an aggressive Vulcan race and a Federation that is more warrior than explorer. It’s kind of ‘Sliding Doors’ for sci-fi geeks.
Supporting a sports team is a lifelong commitment, one that defies logic, rises above setbacks and, once established, pulses deep in the veins. But what does that mean for a new migrant, thousands of miles from his homeland, in need of a regular fix of sporting action.
It’s a question that has nagged at me for years, ever since I gave up my Liverpool season ticket when my family moved to Denmark. But at least Denmark was close enough for the occasional pligrimage to see the boys in red play. Australia, well, that’s another matter entirely.
The famous Shankly Gates at Liverpool’s Anfield stadium.
Canberra Stadium: time for a replacement?
I love a bit of football. Aside from my lifelong devotion to Liverpool FC, the highlight of which was a seven-year spell as a season ticket holder at Anfield, I’ve always gone along to support my local team wherever I’ve lived, and have been known to pause to watch the odd interesting park game for more than a minute or two.
Imagine then, my disappointment at learning that Canberra is one of the few Australian cities not to have a team in the country’s national league, the Hyundai A-League. Imagine then, also, my delight at learning that the AFC Asian Cup – one of the world’s biggest tournaments outside of the FIFA World Cup – was being held in Australia this year and that Canberra had been named as one of its host cities.