It was a night to remember for journalist Tony Armstrong who in June covered the Socceroos' momentous win against Peru landing them a spot in the FIFA World Cup which kicked off this week in Qatar.
The Socceroos play their first World Cup match on Wednesday morning at 6 am (AEDT) against France, the reigning World Cup champions.
But it was the ABC presenter's glorious celebration of the victory over Peru, and the scarf he was wearing, that took his now viral coverage global, as it resurfaced on a much bigger stage.
Armstrong was among hoards of soccer fans at Melbourne's Federation Square watching on TV as the Aussie soccer team qualified, taking out their opponents 5-4 in a penalty shootout in June. The nail-biting win sent the elated crowd into a frenzy, swooping up Armstrong in their excitement.
During the celebration, however, the popular presenter's brown scarf was swiped from his neck, sending him running into the crowd to fetch it. "He's got me scarf, that's me mum's," he can be heard screaming, evidently not ready to part with it. It was that moment that took him worldwide this week with his now famous scarf appearing on a popular US talk show — or at least that's what British comedian John Oliver made his viewers believe.
Armstrong's reaction to the Socceroos' win was played on Sunday's episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, with the show host saying, "there's nothing not to love about" it. The popular comedian then claimed to have had Armstrong's missing scarf, while holding up one similar. "Sure, it used to be your mum's but now it's all mine," the comedian joked. But the on-air skit has since come into question on Aussie breakfast television.
Armstrong's cameo on US television amused his colleagues with ABC News Breakfast hosts Michael Rowland and Lisa Millar sharing a laugh on Tuesday morning. "Tony has overnight gone global," Rowland said on air before commenting on his international status.
The ABC host said Oliver is a "great comedian and a great presenter" but jokingly claimed, "he's also a fraud". "I think he's making up that story about him having Tony's mum's scarf," the presenter said sporting a wry smile. Suddenly, the camera cuts to a smug-looking Armstrong who's sitting on the breakfast lounge donning his scarf. "Here it is," he said wearing it proudly. A longer version of the viral live footage shows Armstrong re-emerging from the crowd after successfully grabbing his scarf back off the cheeky culprit.
John Oliver highlights human rights concerns in Qatar
While his feature on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver was some light entertainment for viewers, the show host also delved into more serious matters, launching an attack on the World Cup hosts for "human rights violations" in Qatar. Not only did Oliver call FIFA "a cartel-like group of scumbags... who occasionally put on soccer matches" but he addressed accusations Qatar secured the World Cup tournament through bribery, something the country has reportedly denied. He referenced a 2019 New York Times article which claimed three of the officials who agreed to vote for Qatar in the bid to host the World Cup did so "in exchange for $1 million".
Oliver also detailed the 10-year struggle of building suitable stadiums in Qatar where hundreds of thousands of migrant workers, mainly from India, Nepal and Bangladash, reportedly paid big money to travel to the country, only to have their passports taken and forced to work for minimal pay in extreme heat. They were also forced to live in "horrifying" conditions with Oliver claiming "all the new stadiums and infrastructure were essentially built through modern-day slavery". The Independent reported thousands died during the build from 2010 to 2020, although Qatar said that it was just 37, with only three directly being related to work.
He then moved on to the country’s stance on women and LGBT+ issues calling out the country's "authoritarian regime". "The Qatari government is engaging in some truly horrendous behaviour, and we can’t just gloss over that and uncritically put it in the spotlight," he said.
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