I don’t know if getting there is half the fun or half the battle. For the US6 National Team getting to the 2019 WMF World Cup in Perth, Australia was an epic voyage (by today’s relatively comfortable standards).
My journey from Baltimore started with a 3:40am alarm for a 7:00am flight from BWI to LAX. My general overview was a five hour flight to Los Angeles, a 12 hour layover there, a 15 hour flight to Sydney, and a five hour flight to Perth and all kinds of time changes to play havoc with my mind.
With players coming from all over the country, everyone got to Los Angeles at different times. The team rented us a room for the day so we had a place to keep our stuff and hang out.
At the hotel I was soon joined by VcMor Eligwe, who recently signed with the Mesquite Outlaws, Drew Ruggles, newly of the Florida Tropics, and Utica City’s Slavisa Ubiparipovic. It was our first time meeting each other, but we were like old friends before too long.
In the lobby while deciding what to do, we met a guy wearing sunglasses with the price and security tags still attached, who alerted us to the “fact” that the government stole “59 zillion dollars” and everyone was going to get a check for at least $250,000 this Christmas and maybe more after they finish counting it all. So keep an eye out for that.
We seemed destined to hang around the hotel all day, but Slavisa took the initiative of calling us an Uber to go to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which was about a 45 minute drive.
We wandered around and took in the sights. Drew geeked out over the stars of Disney characters. I pointed out a few actors and rock stars like David Bowie and Jimi Hendrix. We all snickered when we saw Bill Cosby and Michael Jackson’s stars.
A couple aspiring singers were hawking CDs on the street and me and Slavisa got talked into buying one from different guys. On the Uber ride back, the driver was game to play our CDs. Slavisa’s guy promised tracks 8-10 were good for “in the bedroom” but his CD only had two tracks, which seems like a good song topic in itself.
When we got back to the room James Togbah was there and he met Slavisa for the first time. The two will be teammates on Utica City this year.
After having nothing but time, we were suddenly pressed for time after late showers and getting our stuff together. We got to the airport about 20 minutes late, where team GM Bernie Lilavois was handing out Hummel team gear, which we changed into and checked our bags.
I met up with old faces like Gordy Gurson and San Diego Sockers announcer Craig Elsten and, met some new ones like DeBray Hollimon and USMNT star Jermaine Jones, who has played in a FIFA World Cup and is now trying to win a World Cup with our team.
Our Qantas Airbus A380 had two floors and 10 seats across with two aisles. I was sandwiched between Sockers trainer Paul Savage and Togbah. The flight attendants quickly began piling things on top of us including a pillow, blanket, travel kit and customs papers.
I watched in-seat movies and TV shows most of the flight, while Paul and James were fast asleep. Slavisa was sitting on Togbah’s right and the two tried to synchronize their screens to watch John Wick 3 together, but I think they were both out cold about 20 minutes into it. I don’t sleep well on planes and I was awoken a few times by nudges from Paul and James. Despite the length of the flight I never felt anxious and Qantas kept us well plied with food and drink.
We left Los Angeles on the 28th and arrived in Sydney on the 30th. With some flight delays and customs, we missed our connecting flight so the airline rebooked everyone on various flights. My new flight was three hours later, but it was still a direct flight to Perth. Others left earlier but had to connect through Melbourne.
The Western Force rugby team was on our plane, and while we were boarding, Craig Elsten turns to the biggest guy and says, “What do they call you, Tiny or Pee Wee?” “They call me Trouble,” he good-naturedly replied.
I was in a row with a couple and their sometimes-crying one-year old, who spilled water on me and woke me up a few times, but it really didn’t bother me and the couple apologized several times and the flight attendant applauded my bravery.
The four of us from this flight, me, Craig, Bernie, and DeBray, waited outside for the shuttle to the hotel. I was interested in the local cars. We saw some cars commonly found in Europe like Peugeots and Renaults, and then we discovered a Holden, a local carmaker.
By the time the shuttle came, the rest of the players had arrived. We had to do a double-take when Bernie, while sitting in the erstwhile driver’s seat, turned around to talk to us while the shuttle was in motion. Having the steering wheel on the right and driving on the left side takes some getting used to. Crossing the street has also become perilous because we’re looking in the wrong direction for incoming traffic.
We are staying at the Quality Perth Ambassador Hotel, which is about three blocks from the stadium. I am rooming with assistant coach Craig Rhodis, which is kind of a reunion. I was the Director of Media Relations for the Utah Freezz when Craig was playing there in 2001.
I walked over to look at the field and then took a stroll around the area. I bought a couple things at a convenience store and there was an additional 10% tax “in honor” of the Queen’s Birthday.
Some people call Perth the San Diego of Australia and it really is an apt comparison. It’s gorgeous here.
I tried to write this at 9:30 last night, but after slumping over at the keyboard three times I decided it was time for bed.