In the wee hours of this morning a large percentage of Australia’s Greek Australian population mobilized themselves to camp out in the chill of dawn while their Greek national soccer team sweltered in a knock-out world cup qualifier against Costa Rica, in Brazil.
For me there was only one place to be - Melbourne’s version of little Greece – the Greek-centrified suburb of Oakleigh. It is now indisputably Melbourne’s new Greek precinct – and 5000 revellers squeezed into the mall before first light proved it.
In Brisbane there were similar scenes at Goodwin Park.. Sydney hosted fans at the Enmore Theatre and in the nation’s capital the welcome combination of baristas and egg and bacon rolls were ready to rock from 5.30am in the CBD.
When I arrived at Oakleigh mall, I could hardly contain my delight. Greek Families filled the booths of the main opposing café franchises, youth lined the balconies, the elderly filed in, the toddlers stared in wonderment at the giant screens, and many a souvlaki was consumed as the breakfast of choice.
It was a big fat Greek party repeated around the world.
The game itself did not disappoint. Like a Greek play, it contained a central theme (the world cup), it was a spectacle of truly dramatic action, the protagonist with a tragic flaw (the Greek player who failed to score in the penalty shootout who shall remain nameless), and a stage filled with triumph and tragedy.
You can imagine the ensuing commentary that followed Greece’s spectacular loss.. Social media exploded with heated dissections of the game, a breakdown of the best and worst players and the strategies that failed to secure us a spot in the top eight. Passionate commentary you would expect from a passionate nation.
But it wasn’t just about being a proud Greek-Australian. Nor was it about being knitted together by strong cultural ties. To me it reinforced our basic human instinct of the need to belong, regardless of your background. Why groups that play together, stay together, no matter what the outcome is.
It’s wonderful to see a sense of community still so pervasive outside the realms of social media too. It proves we humans inherently need one another to truly strive for an enriching experience, standing side by side, that we still heed an innate desire to connect in big social settings, be it a concert or footy game. Whatever that social context may be, we love being in it together. And that’s just grand.