As this column has its roots in soccer -“ it started as a diary of my participation in the parties, problems and occasional soccer match of the 2002 Gay Games -“ it’s fitting that its author can get occasionally swept up in the sport.
For Pitch Bitch really began in 1979 when, as a five-year-old tomboy whose gender could only be distinguished by my long blonde hair, I joined the under 6s boys AFL team my dad was coaching. Unfortunately, the other team responded by attacking me in a four-man-child gang tackle.
When you’re five it doesn’t hurt to get slammed to the ground by four boys, so I didn’t really understand why my dad was crying.
Or his suggestion: I think you should play soccer, he said, pointing me over to the next field, where my Croatian, Vietnamese, Italian and Greek-Australian classmates kicked a round ball.
And so I did. I was hopeless but enthusiastic, and always the only girl on the pitch. By high school I was the only girl in the Adelaide inter-school competition.
Luckily by then I’d gotten quite good. At 14 I was as handy on the left as the right, and my coach was talking about getting me to try out for the Adelaide City women’s team.
But I hated girls more than anything then, and playing soccer with them sounded like hell.
By the next year, I’d discovered a serious interest in playing with girls off the pitch, combined with an enthusiasm for night-time pleasures. Early morning weekend matches became impossible, and I eventually stopped playing.
Then, in 1998, I was in Turkey for the month of the World Cup, which I watched on generator-powered televisions from a tree-house village. I was hooked.
The next year I found myself in a long-distance relationship, and took up university soccer to burn off some energy. I found myself five-years-old all over again -“ hopeless but enthusiastic, a description that still applies. But I bloody loved it.
In 2002 I suffered Australia’s World Cup non-qualification, but still loved watching the finals at restaurants in small towns in Vietnam. I cried when Australia qualified for this year’s tournament and when we beat Japan.
And I cried again on Monday night, as just one of the millions of kids who know the feeling of kicking the ball into the back of the net.