Melbourne, Australia | “I didn’t expect to see a second Greece here,” said Angelos Charisteas on arrival for the 25 May friendly against the Socceroos. There should have been no surprises in store for the scorer of the winning goal in the 2004 European Championships. The Melbourne area, with one of the world’s largest Greek populations, hosts the Antipodes Festival, billed as the largest celebration of Greek culture outside Greece. More than 10,000 attended the Greek players’ festival appearance on Saturday, 20 May, on Lonsdale Street. The first Greek migrants arrived in the Antipodes (from Gr. anti- + pod-, or “with feet opposite”)—the Greek term for Australia and New Zealand, considered diametrically opposite to the western hemisphere—during the gold rush of the 1850s.
Melbourne, despite its passion for Australian rules football, has snapped up seats for the Thursday friendly. The city is in a tussle with Sydney as to which wears the title of national soccer capital. Football Federation Australia recently announced that Australia’s national team would play two international matches per year, through 2010, in New South Wales. The Age editorialized,
[T]he federation should tread warily. Soccer’s cause in this country is not served by any decision that sidelines the city that could well muster a record soccer crowd while its beloved AFL season is in full swing.