Jock: You did some nice things last week. Not one of your best games but you did some nice things. Glorious mark you took in the second quarter. You just seemed to go up and up.
Geoff: I felt like Achilles.
Jock: Who’s he?
Geoff: A Greek guy who could really jump.
Jock: [nods] Some of our new Australians could be champions if they’d stop playing soccer and assimilate.
The Club, Act 1. David Williamson – 1977
It is not everyday that I get an unsolicited tweet response from a newspaper editor (as I am sure they have more pressing things than reading and responding to my tweets) but I am always chuffed when it happens. I got one yesterday from Andrew Tate, editor of the Sport section of the Sunday Age in response of my questioning of two articles in the paper.
Other tweeters like Athas Zafiris picked up on the story.
Then Ezequiel Trumper continued:
Even Michael Lynch, who writes for the Sunday Age got into the fray.
The fact that the article was titled ‘The World Game’ was a probably a bit of a light hearted reference that that term is used when we talk about Association Football. Interesting considering that some Aussie Football fans get a bit agitated when we use ‘football’ instead of ‘soccer’. But this is a minor point really.
The article in question then quotes the AFL’s international development manager Tony Woods:
There is almost a paradox that we all share in the belief that it is the best game in the world and most spectacular, yet sometimes we are a little bit slow in opening our arms to letting other people play it.
“At junior and grassroots level kids are really looking for an alternative to rugby. That has basically allowed soccer in New Zealand to get a foothold.”
Apart from the fact that soccer was ‘allowed’ a foothold (heavens forbid) what escaped may have Mr. Woods, but more importantly the journalist Jared Lynch, is that in New Zealand soccer was there yonks before any kiwis even knew the existence of the Aussie game. As Ian Syson states in a tweet:
Maybe the fact that a New Zealand team was able to represent (very honourably) their nation in the most popular sport event in the world (something that Aussie Rules can’t do) in South Africa may also have something to do with it.
Anyway, this banter must have attracted the attention of the Sunday Age Sports editor who tweeted:
I didn’t respond to this, because discussing issues on tweeter with a 140 character limit is very difficult. The article Andrew refers is about Lucas Neil and his perfect footballer. Which was interesting enough, but I think he missed the point. One is a ‘AFL is the best thing ever’ story, while the other is about Neil idea of the perfect footballer. They are not the same. And again I have no problem with the article in itself. The issue I have is that we hardly have any pieces which place soccer/football in the same cultural level. Have we read about soccer/football importance in Australia’s history? or that soccer/football has been part and parcel of Australia’s sport landscape long before post war migration? And it doesn’t stop there. On Saturday we learned that apparently AFL is going to solve the Israel – Palestinian conflict. The power of the AFL knows no bounds.
What these articles show is not only the fact that the AFL, despite its hegemony in the mainstream media is strangely feeling anxious of not been international, but also ignores the fact that soccer/football is the international sport par excellence and the fact that the media, in general, doesn’t give it much credit. Football doesn’t need to push to become international. It’s already there. The worldwide audience for the recent Australia – Japan match dwarfed anything that the AFL or NRL could achieve, and Adelaide United is in the quarter finals of the Asian Champions League. We don’t read much about that, and how that promotes the image of Australia overseas. And sorry, but playing in one of the major FIFA tournaments is a bit more significant than a few kids playing footy in a paddock somewhere in China or India, in a sport that despite being a great game – will be probably as popular as lacrosse is here in Australia. As an example we only have to read the FFA ‘s submission to the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper. That is the reality of the game.
And by the way. It may have escaped the editors of the Sunday Age, but in the picture of the article the kids are playing with the footy are wearing AC Milan, Tibet National Football Team and Chelsea shirts. World Game indeed.