Hearts were broken, dreams were dashed and around the world boomerang shaped-tears dripped into pots of Fosters beer when Australia bowed out of the World Cup.
Of course I am talking about the 2015 World Medical Football Federation Championships (also known as the Morell Cup after Spanish Doctor and Founder, Ferran Morell). And obviously I am talking about the infamous Docceroos. As the Matilda’s arguably enjoyed a higher billing in Canada, Australia’s Medics played in front of a slightly lesser crowd (give or take 50,000 people).
Source: http://www.sbs.com.au – originally supplied by the Docceroos
Played at Long Beach, California by Doctors of varying ages, levels and specialties by day, the keen footballers have just returned from playing on the highest stage of their sporting careers.
Take a step back two years and through my career in the health and general practice industry, an interest in football and pretending to be a part-time freelance writer, I discovered, and was transfixed by the Docceroos. You can read my 2013 piece from the Archives here.
At this last time of writing the squad, led by Queensland GP Dr Alan Jones, were preparing for the World Championships in Natal, Brazil, neatly coinciding with the professional World Cup.
The honeymoon ended with a thumping 5-0 opening group game defeat to Great Britain, inspired by Scottish GP Dr Kenny Deuchar, an ex-professional footballer that achieved cult-status in the UK after his incredible goal-scoring exploits.
The Docceroos rebounded to smash Belarus 6-0 and beat Sweden 4-2. Despite this win, agonisingly they were eliminated on goal difference by conceding Sweden’s second goal. Even worse the Swedes went through to the Quarter Finals at their expense and the Docceroos were left to fight for the minor places.
Beating Austria 5-1 and Russia 3-2, Spain would end the Aussie’s momentum with a late 2-1 victory and snatched the 9th spot finish, leaving Australia a final placing of 10th.
Late in 2014 the Australian Doctors State of Origin Cup was won on home soil by Queensland, but also served as trials for the World Championships in the U.S.
With competition fierce and with it’s popularity growing each year, the World Medical Football Federation (WMFF) created an over-45’s event in 2015 for the first time.
Doctors such as Thoracic Sleep Medicine Specialist, Dr Con Archis and 55 year-old GP Dr Hilton Koppe, had to pinch themselves to believe they were going to be representing their country at a World Cup.
Curiously there are some customised laws of the game, including there must be two players over 35 years-old and two over 40-years old on the field at all times. Even more intriguing is the pop-quiz at half-time based on medical questions that can be fired at any player (perhaps FIFA could consider similar tweaks to spice things up a little?).
As tradition dictates the Global Congress on Medicine and Health in Sport (GCMHS) is held in conjunction with the tournament. As both got underway the Docceroos put down their notepads and iPads to lace up their boots.
An opening 6-2 rout of Russia did wonders for their confidence, thanks to a hat-trick by Dr Brendan Mulcahy and one a piece from Janes, Tewksbury and Begley.
A technically gifted Hungary edged out the Australians 2-1 in a hot-tempered second group game, Janes bagging his second of the tournament. The result meant nothing less than a win was imperative against hosts U.S.A. in the final first round match.
The Docceroos fought valiantly but the Americans did enough to seal a 3-2 win in a game where Janes netted again and Jimmy Moran scored a powerful header and a harshly disallowed goal. For the second year running the consolation or “minor places” were the best Australia could achieve.
But they would fight for these minor places with gusto. Finishing the tour on a high, the Docceroos saw off Lithuania 3-1, Mulcahy scoring another two and Tewksbury chipping in. Then came a gruelling, late 1-0 win against Colombia from the on-fire Tewksbury.
With Sweden up next, the fight for 9th place was on and even more symbolic considering their 10th place finish last year. After 2-2 at 90 minutes, penalties would decide the winner. The Docceroos kept their nerve and won the shootout, clinching 9th place and recording a decent Championship of 4 wins and just 2 losses.
However I could attempt to claim some extended glory from a handful of nations.
My motherland is the UK, England more precisely, so naturally I followed how Great Britain were travelling. They would surely perform better than their professional counterparts.
I was right. They did, although destroying Mexico 8-0, seeing off Colombia 1-0 and losing to Sweden 2-1, they were sent out with a 2-1 defeat to Ukraine in the Quarterfinals.
Whilst being a duel British-Australian Citizen, my heritage is Irish and I could not hide my delight to see that their national team of medics, debuting at the Championships, beat holders Brazil and then somehow defeated 2013 champions Germany (you can see I am really clutching at straws here).
With a draw against the Ukraine in the final game they marched into the Quarterfinals with the Irish media getting firmly behind. Perhaps they forgot to stuff shamrocks into their socks as their final eight game saw the Czech Republic squeeze past with a 1-0 win.
But the dream tie was setup in the consolation games series; after losing to Brazil 2-0 Ireland has a chance to salvage a respectable 7th place as they were pitted against their former colonial over-rulers Great Britain.
The plucky Irish were pumped for such a symbolic game and easily swept past Great Britain 3-0, the latter settling for 8th place.
I did have one last card up my sleeve. My wife was born in Yugoslavia but her family is historically Hungarian (with some Serbian, German and Polish thrown in). However the limit of my “Hungarian-ness” is explaining my hunger or thirst at the dinner table.
Perhaps inspired by their heroes from the 1950s, the world-beating national team labeled “The Magical Magyars” (Golden Team), Hungary entertained with a 5-3 Quarterfinal win against the Godfathers of football, Brazil.
Their confidence remained superhuman and a clinical 1-0 victory over Ukraine in the Semi-Final meant it was to be a Hungary versus Czech Republic duel, the Czechs having beaten hosts USA 4-1 in their respective Semi.
The Hungarians matched their free-scoring opponents and at 90 minutes nothing could separate the two. The dreaded penalty shootout would decide the World Champions. The Czech’s slotted four of their attempts and with Hungary missing two; there was no need for a fifth.
The Morell Cup was on its way back to Prague (You can check a rather snazzy YouTube montage dedicated to Czechs here) and I was left crying into my Pálinka (Hungarian Schnapps).
Next year sees the birthplace of the tournament regain hosting rights, as it did for 10 straight years in the early years of the movement. Barcelona will proudly accommodate the 2016 World Medical Football Federation Championships alongside the Global Congress on Medicine and Health in Sport.
If there is one thing I take away from following this event is the spirit in which it is played. No overpaid egos or commercialism ruining the sport here (in fact I noted the WMFF website has not been updated since 2013, prompting me to want to get involved officially even more – but that’s another future blog…).
Combine this with the fact a Medical Conference is run concurrently and there is clearly real value for this tournament to thrive. Furthermore the squads worldwide do great work in their own countries for charity and health, particularly preventative and men’s health, topics close to my heart.
One thing is for sure, my Europe trip next year to the UK, Ireland, Hungary and France just got extended via Spain…let’s get behind the Docceroos for 2016!
1st – Czech Republic
2nd – Hungary
3rd – USA
4th – Ukraine
5th – Venezuela
6th – Brazil
7th – Ireland
8th – Great Britain
9th – Australia
10th – Sweden
- South Korea