Before heading out to Sydney Olympic Park for this game, I called my dad up to ask him when midfielders peak.

Dad’s seen his fair share of midfielders, so I figured he’d know. He said late twenties, which checked out when I looked it up on the internets.

Try telling that to Craig Foster. Craig Foster is 46 years old. He was born in the sixties, for God’s sake. Yet 12 minutes in, while nothing was really happening on the field, Foz was at the edge of the Australian bench stretching out his calves, swinging his elbows, scratching his new beard, and thinking about the triangles he was about to bring into the game. A few minutes later, he was swigging from what looked like a Gatorade bottle, but it was far away and sort of hard to see – he wasn’t preparing to sit with the substitutes for another half hour, that’s for sure. He left the bench, taking a ball with him, and went to warm up by himself behind the goal.

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I went back to watching the game for a bit. Robbie Fowler tried to chip Zeljko Kalac but couldn’t, John Arne Riise went for a charge up the left flank that came to nothing, and Steve Corica had a shot cleared off the line by Jason McAteer.

It was entertaining enough, but Craig Foster was warming up by himself and that was pretty cool too. Back on the Australian Legends bench, Robbie Farah and Jarryd Hayne were squeezed in beside staff and subs — which seemed weird. I know that they’re Liverpool fans, but so were 40,000 other people at the stadium and they didn’t all get to sit on the bench.

Struggling to muster up much individual brilliance, Ned Zelic’s legs started wobbling at the base of the midfield just before the half-hour mark, and Arnie summoned Foz. He came on and a cheer went up, but I’d be lying if I described it as anything other than mild.

Foster was immediately amongst the action: setting up triangles, telling other people where to stand, and being skinned by Patrick Berger for the first goal; the Czech sliding a ball through for Luis Garcia who hit his shot under Kalac to give the Liverpool Legends the lead. If Foz had been watching himself on a multi-TV touchscreen on The World Game’s air-conditioned set at SBS HQ, he’d doubtless have been sickened by his positioning and effort.

Halftime came, a guy proposed down on the field and the girl said yes, and halftime went. It was a slow first half, only really picking up when Craig Foster came on, and there was little doubt among the 40,000 Craig Foster fans present that the game needed more from SBS’s finest. It got more from the Liverpool FC Legends instead. Steven Gerrard drifted off Foz on the edge of the area and to take the ball on the right, stopping for a moment before sinking a cross to the back post where Garcia was unmarked to head in his second for the night.

Ian Rush came on after the hour and scored a little under five minutes later, unmarked at the edge of the six-yard box to tap home a low cross from Riise to give rise to the biggest noise since the teams had walked out onto the field. Foz, five metres behind his man, shook his head. Arguably at fault for three goals – a pretty pointless argument to make in a meaningless match between mostly grey-haired men, in all fairness – this probably wasn’t his finest showing, but nobody seemed to care as play moved on and Gerrard took his obligatory shot from the halfway line, the ball falling a metre over the bar.

Arnie brought Foz off in the 78th minute and he settled back between Zeljko Kalac and Tony Vidmar on the bench, who probably congratulated him on a great exhibition of triangles, two-versus-one situations and general tactics. Nobody was under the illusion that this was going to be a good game of football – some of these guys were picked in the Australian Legends team because they’re Australian legends – Emerton, Vidmar and Tobin come to mind – and some of them were picked in the Australian Legends team because Harry Kewell is coaching at Watford, Mark Schwarzer is clinging to a career as a backup English Premier League keeper, and nobody knows what happened to Mark Viduka.

Zeljko Kalac came back on as an outfield player, a 57-year old John Aldrige scored a tap-in as the seconds ticked over into injury time to make the final score 4-0, and everyone in the stadium recognised the game for what it really was: only worth watching when Craig Foster was on the field.

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