Socceroos players have returned to a heroes’ reception at a packed Sydney airport, with fans clapping and cheering for the players after a historic run into the knockout stages of the World Cup.
About a quarter of the side that bravely lost to Argentina in the round of 16 returned to Sydney on Monday night, with another touchdown in Melbourne.
Supporters carrying shields and flags chanted and stamped for the players, causing a riot to welcome a team that had captured the heart of the country.
Fans flocked to the airport to show their support and appreciation for a gaming group that was not expected to go far. Photo: Jeremy Ng/AAP
Australia captain and goalkeeper Matt Ryan said the reaction from fans was “phenomenal”.
“After the games we would have over there we would see the reaction of the Australian public through footage and video in Federation Square and many other places and the support was unreal,” he said.
“And it’s nice to come back here and see it with our own eyes, we can’t thank the Australian public enough.”
“We loved every second,” said striker Jason Cummings. “It was a dream come true to go there and what we did was incredible.
“We saw the supporters’ video in Melbourne and it really motivated us, it really cheered us up, the support was absolutely amazing.”
Fans flocked to the airport to show their support and appreciation for a gaming group that was not expected to go far. Ryan said Australia’s performance proved the Socceroos could take on the best in the world.
“We showed the world that Australia can play football at a very, very good level,” he said.
Many of the assembled fans agreed with Ryan, although there was a constant feeling that the Socceroos had “proved the doubters wrong”.
“It was a somewhat unexpected journey,” said supporter Alexis Laffont with a big grin.
“But it was unforgettable, the game against Tunisia was one of the best moments of my life. We came tonight to thank the players and show them how proud we are of them.”
Garang Kuol signing autographs at the airport. Fans hoped Socceroo’s success would give momentum to the A-League. Photo: Mark Evans/Getty Images
Signs showing appreciation and pride for the players were littered with many fans saying they just came to show the players some love after a tough loss.
“We came down to support the boys tonight,” said Michael, another fan. “We want to show them how much we love them, they did a great job whatever the result.”
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Others expressed hope that the Socceroos’ success would give a boost to the A-League, which includes part of Australia’s squad.
Michelle, an A-League fan, said Australia’s successful campaign reflects how good the level is in domestic competition.
“What makes it amazing is that the majority of the players are from the A-League or have played in the league and as an avid fan it’s been great to see them doing so well and everyone watching them,” she said.
“Hopefully that means they come to A-League and W-League games too.”
She said the huge turnout and passionate support at live viewing sites reflects a country that has already embraced the Socceroos and the sport itself.
“The atmosphere was incredible, the turnout was great despite what some had to say about the torches being lit,” said Michelle. “We’re not hooligans, we love football.
“We just want to see that momentum being channeled here into grassroots football, into the game here and especially in the run-up to next year’s Women’s World Cup.”
Momentum was also a recurring theme among the returning players, with goalkeeper Daniel Vukovic saying it was important to seize the moment.
“We need to keep building the game in this country and seize this moment. And the best way to do that is to go out and support your local team,” he said.
“The support we’ve received has been fantastic and we just want to see that continue to grow.”