It was all a blur.
A mangle of limbs and jumping and shouting.
When it finally settled down, I was jubilantly standing arm-in-arm with a man I’d never met before and couldn’t identify in a line-up today.
But in those scenes, we were all the best of mates, deliriously celebrating the Socceroos finally making the World Cup, after John Aloisi had buried that penalty kick.
Seated 20 rows from the fence at ANZ Stadium, it was a near-perfect viewpoint to watch keeper Mark Schwarzer’s heroics in the shoot-out and remains the greatest live sporting moment I’ve experienced.
It rekindled an interest in football which had waned over the previous decade, as the National Soccer League imploded and after Manchester City disappeared down the English league black hole, in an era without mass television coverage, long before becoming today’s rising petro-dollar-funded powerhouse. It provided the perfect timing for the A-League launch on to the national stage, Football Federation Australia riding the moment for the best part of a decade.
Now as the Socceroos chances of making it to Russia are on a knife-edge, the game’s governance is threatened by a FIFA takeover – the vision for the game in neutral.
On Saturday morning, Australia play the most important game in their history since beating Uruguay, in the hostile central American environment in Honduras, needing to stay in the contest for the return leg in Sydney on Wednesday.
The whole situation is as precarious as Ange Postecoglou’s future as coach and Tim Cahill’s fitness, but also vital for the growth of the game.
Falling at the final hurdle would only feed into the growing perception football has stalled. As discussed in last week’s column, the frustration continues to grow in the Wolves, Football South Coast and Southern Expansion camps about the prospects of expansion, or at the very least a timeline for promotion and relegation.
City fans know better than most how quickly times can change, but the Socceroos need to be at the elite table next year to buy time for renewed domestic success.