Cheering crowds welcome home Australia’s World Cup Socceroo heroes

Football fans packed Sydney airport on Monday night to welcome home the national team after their valiant performances in Qatar

Socceroos players have returned to a heroes’ welcome at a packed Sydney airport, with fans clapping and cheering for the players after a historic run to the knockout stages at the World Cup.

About a quarter of the squad that lost valiantly to Argentina in the round of 16 arrived back in Sydney on Monday night, with another contingent landing in Melbourne.

Supporters carrying signs and flags chanted and stomped for the players, creating a ruckus to welcome back a squad that had captured the heart of the country.

A Socceroo fan cheers the players as they arrived at Sydney airport
Fans flocked to the airport to show their support and appreciation for a playing group that was not expected to go far. Photograph: Jeremy Ng/AAP

The Australian captain and goalkeeper, Matt Ryan, said the response from fans had been “phenomenal”.

“After the games we’d have over there, we’d see the reaction from the Australian public, through footage and videos, at Federation Square and lots of other places, and the support has been unreal,” he said.

“And its nice to come back here and see it with our own eyes, we can’t thank the Australian public enough.”

“We loved every second of it,” striker Jason Cummings said. “It was a dream come true, going there, and what we have done was unbelievable.

“We saw the video of supporters in Melbourne and it really motivated us, it really geed us up, the support has been absolutely unbelievable.”

Fans flocked to the airport to show their support and appreciation for a playing group that was not expected to go far, with Ryan saying Australia’s performance had proven the Socceroos could match it with the best in the world.

“We’ve shown the world Australia can play football at a very, very good level,” he said.

Many of the assembled fans agreed with Ryan, with a recurring sentiment being that the Socceroos had “proven the doubters wrong”.

“It was a bit of an unexpected journey,” supporter Alexis Laffont said through a wide grin.

“But it was unforgettable, the Tunisia game was one of the best moments of my life. We came tonight to thank the players and to show them how proud we are of them.”

Garang Kuol of the Socceroos signs autographs at Sydney airport
Garang Kuol signs autographs at the airport. Fans hoped the Socceroo’s success would translate into momentum for the A-league. Photograph: Mark Evans/Getty Images

Signs showing appreciation and pride in the players littered the crowd, with many fans saying they had come just to show the players some love after a difficult loss.

“We came down to support the boys tonight,” Michael, another fan, said. “We want to show them how much we love them, they’ve done an amazing job, no matter the result.”

Others said they hoped the Socceroos’ success would translate into momentum for the A-League, where a portion of Australia’s squad plays.

Michelle, an A-League fan, said Australia’s successful campaign reflected just how good the standard was in the national competition.

“What makes it amazing is that a majority of the players come from the A-League or have played in the league, and as an avid fan it was awesome to see them do so well and to see everyone watch them,” she said.

“Hopefully this means they’ll come along to A-League and W-League matches as well.”

She said the huge turnouts and passionate support at live viewing sites reflected a country that had already embraced the Socceroos and the sport itself.

“The atmosphere was incredible, the turnouts were great, despite what some had to say about the flares that were lit,” Michelle said. “We’re not hooligans, we just love football.

“We just want to see that momentum channelled into the grassroots here, into the game here, and especially in the lead up to the women’s World Cup next year.”

Momentum was a recurring theme among the returning players as well, with goalkeeper Daniel Vukovic saying it was important the moment was capitalised upon.

“We need to keep growing the game in this country, and to capitalise on this moment. And the best way to do that is to go out and support your local team,” he said.

“The support we received has been amazing, and we just want to see that continue to grow.”


Mostafa Rachwani

The GuardianTramp

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