If Peter Allen’s hit song I Go To Rio doesn’t make it back into the Top 40 this week, I’ll eat my maracas.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the celebrated ditty from the bloke who, no matter how far or how wide he roamed, still called Australia home.
I’ve been thinking of a fitting way to mark the birthday. The Matildas beat me to it. And how.
Against the odds — and after knocking off two higher ranked teams in Japan and North Korea — our women’s soccer team have booked a spot at their first Olympics in 12 years.
Three months ago, it looked an unlikely prospect. When the Olympics qualifying draw came out, it was described as ‘a horror’ for the Matildas.
Six teams, two spots. Five games in 10 days. No more than 20 players a side. And Japan first up.
But these girls love a challenge. Remember how they made it through the Group of Death in last year’s World Cup? And then beat Brazil in the knock-out rounds?
Yes, they don’t mind tilting at windmills, like some modern day Donna Quixotes. Two years ago, they took on the iron-fisted rule of former coach Hesterine de Reus. And won.
Last year, they gave the middle finger to Football Federation Australia in a long running pay dispute that had soccer boss David Gallop wishing he was back at the National Rugby League dealing with the latest act of player stupidity.
They had a win there too, though let’s not pretend they play this game for the money.
So they weren’t going to let a little thing like underdog status dictate their fate. They dispatched Japan. And kept going.
Japan, the London Olympics silver medallists and the hot favourites to qualify here, haven’t won a game. The Matildas haven’t lost one.Embed from Getty Images
On Monday, they defeated a North Korean outfit that played like it was conducting a hydrogen bomb test, interested only in maximum destruction.
We were 1-nil up and then we were level. That would have been enough to get us to Rio. Yeah, stuff that. We won 2-1.
And ever since my Twitter feed has been full of Peter Allen and scantily clad Latin American women dancing the samba. Beats the hell out of cats.
So we’re off to Rio. And we’re not just there to make up the numbers.
“We are aiming for a gold medal,” says coach Alen Stajcic. “This group is capable of doing anything.”
It’s foreign territory for all the players except one. Lisa De Vanna was part of the squad that came fifth in Athens.
The Matildas co-captain is such a force of nature, I reckon she could stop the Liberal Party infighting with a look. So don’t rule out an Olympic medal.
But for now, let’s enjoy the moment. Put on your tightest whites and your loudest shirt (or your Australia flag vest if you have one – as a matter of fact, I do), shake those maracas and sing.
Woah-oooh, when my baby, when my baby smiles at me.