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into the Australian way of life : DATELINE: SYDNEY

Getting Acquainted on a Patch of Grass

September 28, 2000|LISA DILLMAN

"Watch out for the syringes," said Ollie, our barefooted striker from Melbourne.

Syringes? Ollie, take some of your own advice and put on some proper soccer cleats.

This particular patch of grass was Victoria Park, near the University of Sydney. This particular international game of footy was invaded by a reporter who had been on a lost afternoon, searching for a swimmer from Equatorial Guinea, supposedly training at the school.

The five-on-five game in the hours before the opening ceremony was taking place a few corner kicks away from a tent village--the Aboriginal Tent Embassy--that had formed in the lead-up to the Games, an indigenous protest against the Olympics.

A 5-year-old Aboriginal boy from the village was playing, along with a foursome of students from Singapore, a student from India in street clothes, and John Tingey of Canberra, another student and intense Liverpool fan.

"It's the only team," he said.

Don't they always say the quickest way to learn about a new city is to attend a soccer match? Maybe it's even faster if you play a game of soccer with the locals.

Koh Enghwee and his three friends have tickets to the men's soccer final Friday. Tingey helpfully supplied a reason for Australia's love of swimming.

"We're no good at running," he said.

An invitation was issued for the weekly game Friday night. Good thing the decision was made to keep Arsenal out of the conversation.

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