So here we go…
Prior to the 2006 World Cup, when we almost beat Italy and drew with Croatia, “soccer” (your European football) was seen as something exotic played only by the Italian and Yugoslavian immigrants at Olympic Park – hence its nickname “Mario football”. I well remember the year 1974, but I have no recollection of our participation in the World Cup that year; it seems to have hardly registered with most Australians. We also call soccer the “round-ball game” to distinguish it from real footy, i.e. Australian Rules Football. Actually, rugby is still the preferred game of many inhabitants of New South Wales and I think Queensland, and they have been known to call this game “football”. But that has changed since the original Victorian Football League (VFL) expanded in the 1980s to become the Australian Football League (AFL). “Aussie Rules” was the game I grew up with, and I was a boundary umpire at school; I was also one of 121,696 spectators at the 1970 Grand Final (imagine the noise!).
Our 2006 World Cup appearance was a big boost for soccer in Australia. When we were kids, we often used to play “kick to kick”, with two packs of boys kicking the ball to each other in turn and jumping up to take a “mark”; on one of my recent visits I was dismayed to see that soccer balls now seem to be becoming the standard utensil for kids playing in a park.
But the kids still refer to this game as “soccer”; calling it “football” would be misleading.
BTW, our Finals series is now under way, and the Grand Final will be staged in Melbourne (as always) on 30 September.