Classy on the field and classy off the field. Australian football said farewell to one of its finest today as Mark Bresciano announced his retirement from international football.
The movement, the vision, the timing, the touch, the guile. Bresciano had it all. It’s what made him stand out as one of Australia’s finest ever players. He might not have had the eye-catching speed and sheer brilliance of Harry Kewell, or the profile of Tim Cahill, but he was no less important. A golden player in the golden generation. He was a pure footballer. A technician.
That was on full display in Cuiaba last year when Australia took it to Chile, led masterfully by Bresciano. His performance deserved a goal, and were it not for a fine save by Claudio Bravo he’d have had it.
In the modern day of celebrity, where players record their every movement on social media and become brands in their own right, Bresciano was from the old school and shied away from the spotlight. Never one to seek the limelight, the 35-year-old let his football do the talking. He didn’t speak in clichés and became known for his long pauses before he would answer a question. He thought carefully about what he would say; it made what he said all the more meaningful.
So when he says he never took wearing the Socceroos shirt for granted, we all know he means it. He took a break after the 2010 FIFA World Cup and missed the 2011 AFC Asian Cup, potentially missing the chance to win a continental title. But it was never about him and his own personal ambitions; it was always about the shirt.
And so it is with today’s announcement. Whereas some other Socceroos have continued on too long, striving to meet personal targets and tarnishing their reputation and legacy in the process, Bresciano’s timing is, as always, perfect. He goes out on top with his reputation and legacy only enhanced by his timing. Shirt first.
Of course, it wasn’t all serious. He developed a cult following for his “Bresciano’s Diary” segment on Santo, Sam & Ed’s Cup Fever, delivering dry lines that developed into popular catch phrases – “chicken or fish?” the most popular.
The “statue” goal celebration became his signature, as iconic as Cahill’s corner flag boxing. And he delivered it when it mattered most. Few will forget the scene of Bresciano, standing perfectly still in the penalty box, as his team mates jump all over him having scored the crucial equaliser in the two-legged World Cup Qualifying playoff against Uruguay in 2005.
While that was undoubtedly his most important goal, it wasn’t his best. That too was in Sydney, but against Bahrain. His spectacular scissor kick effort will go down as one of the great Socceroos goals of all time.
For every step along the Socceroos journey over the last 15 years, Bresciano has been there – from the fairytale run at the 2001 Confederations Cup where he made his debut and the heartbreak in Montevideo just months later, to that night in Sydney in 2005 and all the way through until that other magical night in Sydney just a few weeks ago.
He was a player who commanded respect because of his actions on the pitch and the way he carried himself off of it. And respect is what he has, from everyone in the Australian football community.