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Socceroos World Cup Qualifying Game vs. Iraq

Chief Funster Challenge #3

Invite 4 people to the Socceroos World Cup Qualifying game vs. Iraq then tell the story of my guests, my interaction with them and why I invited them.

Knowing that my third challenge revolved around the Socceroos game, I started interacting with the Socceroos and ANZ Stadium twitter accounts with anticipation and excitement about the game. Both were following me by the time game day rolled around! What was even cooler than this was finding that the Socceroos are staying in the same hotel as we are! I was a little star struck when I called for the lift and when the doors opened there were these 4 tall men in gleaming gold uniforms making room for me to enter the lift chamber. We had a brief interaction where I told them I would be in attendance at the game and I wished them the best of luck. Central Defender Lucas Neill thanked me for my luck and inquired where I was from. I replied, “The US” and he looked at me and replied, “Well… yeah… but where in the US?” I keep forgetting that I’m the outsider while visiting Australia. I stick out like a sore thumb as an American. I then went on to tell the 4 [rather handsome] Socceroos how I’m from Massachusetts and they inquired about Boston and such and before I knew it, the lift ride was over and it was back to reality! But not just yet…

As I was walking outside to find a sandwich shop for lunch, I ran into Mark Bresciano who was happy and willing to take a photo with me and other Chief Funster finalist, Cameron Ernst. Thanks for the pic and smiles, Mark!

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Seeing all the Socceroos mulling about the hotel definitely got me  way more excited for the game than I already was! I don’t really follow soccer, but it’s hard to not get into the Socceroo spirit for such an exciting and meaningful game! I know you’re dying to know now… who did I bring?

One of my tickets was an easy choice. I decided to bring my friend Jacqui, whom I met on the plane on my way from the US to Aus. Jacqui was super nice to me during the course of our flight and helped me understand a lot of the nitty gritty things in Australia that the tour books don’t tell you. Jacqui was so sweet and gave me tips of how to not get jet lag and some sights I should see while in Aus. I sincerely appreciated Jacqui’s hospitality (on a plane that we shared, no less!) and knew I wanted to bring her along. What’s even cooler about Jacqui is that she was born and raised in the US and is now a permanent resident of Australia. She is engaged to an Australian and the reason she was flying home from the US is because she had just had her hen party in the states! Such an exciting time in her life! It was both interesting and rewarding speaking with Jacqui on the plane and learning about how she met her fiancee, her decision to move to Australia and leave her family, differences between the US and Aus, plus her life plan in general. When I told Jacqui about the Socceroos game, she gladly accepted and it was SO cool to see her again! We had arranged to meet up after the contest sometime, but it was such a cool opportunity to have her along in the contest especially because she was very curious about everything I have been doing and wanted to do whatever she could to help. When I met up with Jacqui before the game, it was like I was seeing a close friend after a few weeks apart. Jacqui and I had a lot of time to chat flying from the US to Aus and it felt so natural to see her again and hang out!

I found Jacqui’s story so powerful because of how she made the most out of her opportunities, took a leap of faith and stretched out of her comfort zone to live her best possible life. Moving to Australia was a huge step and meant leaving the life and foundation she had built for herself in the US to start all over, brand spankin new in Aus. What if she and her boyfriend (now fiancee) broke up? Would she still want to live in Australia? Imagine how her parents must’ve felt when she told them she was uprooting her life and moving the the other side of the world! Jacqui is such a sweet and inspiring person to be around. I admire her taking a leap of faith to allow her the chance of an even better, happier life. I am so happy for her and her fiancee, Chris and look forward to keeping in touch with her as she travels to and from the US and Aus. Jacqui said she will show me around her neck of the woods in Coogee once the contest wraps up. I’m excited to see where she lives and learn more about her life in Australia!

Jacqui and I at the Socceroos game!

Jacqui and I at the Socceroos game!

As for the other 3 tickets…

earlier in the week we met a few players from the Sydney Swans so I had invited Mike Pyke and Adam Goodes to join me at the game. Unfortunately their practice schedule didn’t allow them to be able to make it to the game but their media manager said that they would’ve really wanted to go and were disappointed they had to practice. I must say that I appreciated getting a response from the Swans’ media manager. Sometimes people say that they’ll get back to you, but they never intend on actually doing so. I was pleasantly surprised and happy that they respected my invitation and took the time to RSVP, so thank you for your kindness, Sydney Swans!

So who did I end up bringing?

My friend Kelley studied abroad [and left her heart] in Sydney a couple semesters ago and when she returned from her travels, she absolutely raved about her experience in Australia. Since I am in Sydney, I reached out to Kelley to see if she knew anyone from the university that she studied at who would be interested in coming to the game with me. She knew just the people to ask! So I ended up bringing along 3 lovely lads from Macquarie University to attend the game with me: Josh, Tom and Kristian.

Josh, Kristian, Me, Jacqui and Tom face painted and decked out in green and gold at the Socceroos game

Josh, Kristian, Me, Jacqui and Tom face painted and decked out in green and gold at the Socceroos game

All three boys are leaders at Macquarie University. Josh is president of his college and Tom is the treasurer. Kristian is an orientation leader and RA. Having just graduated from college, I enjoyed comparing stories with the guys and comparing their college life to mine in the states. It was really cool to get to meet some of Kelley’s good friends from Australia especially after hearing  about all of her fabulous adventures here. The boys were very appreciative of the invite and served as wonderful hosts to me as a guest of Australia! They surprised me and bought me a Socceroos jersey to wear at the game and keep for my own Aussie memories. Part of the way through the game they had left for a little bit and came back with a meat pie for me to try! It was quite delicious and I would definitely have another! The ketchup packet was even more interesting than the meat pie! It had a slit in the middle and you squeeze the ends of the ketchup packet together so the ketchup squirts out the middle… GENIUS! and no mess! I swear it’s the little thing throughout traveling that really stick with you and make the biggest impressions when you leave.

IMG_0406I enjoyed my time with the boys and we all quickly became good friends. The Socceroos game was the most fun I’ve had in Australia so far. The boys and Jacqui taught me some Aussie cheers to chant during the games and explained to me how soccer works. I appreciate my new aussie friends introducing me to different parts of their culture (like trying the meat pie) and explaining how things work on their side of the world. We all had high energy throughout the course of the game and were certainly a lively crew! Tourism Australia and Destination NSW have been lovely hosts to me, but there’s nothing like having someone your age explain to you how their world works. There’s just a different connection there. I think it’s important when traveling to interact with people your own age. You learn so much from people who are similar to you on paper, but different culture wise. Now I know more about Macquarie University, Sydney, college life in Australia and Australia in general and the boys know more about Marist College, Massachusetts, New York, the US and the Best Jobs In The World contest! It’s these connections and interactions that make you want to spread the good word and share what you’ve learned from other people when you “write home”. BMAC is still Building Memories Across Continents and not stopping here!

In case you haven’t heard the news yet, the Socceroos won the World Cup qualifying game and are off to Rio!!! WAHOO! Way to go roos! When the roos finally scored, the entire stadium jumped up in excitement screaming, cheering and clapping! Josh was so pumped that he picked me up and hugged me and then continued screaming at the field in sheer thrill!

Me and my aussie crew after the Socceroos won the World Cup qualifier!

Me and my aussie crew after the Socceroos won the World Cup qualifier!

I’m so glad the boys and Jacqui were able to make it! Thanks again to Kelley for introducing me to her wonderful friends. Boys, thanks for the Socceroos jersey and the experience of eating a meat pie! Jacqui, thanks for comparing everything here to that of the US to help me better understand and appreciate everything in Australia! We had a fabulous time and it was a FABULOUS game!

Screen the hotel put up to welcome the Socceroos back!

Screen the hotel put up to welcome the Socceroos back!