When I have to fight my #codewar instinct.

I pride myself to be ‘bicodal’.  I have to admit I derive a sense of smugness in the ability of following Australian Rules Football (in the form of the AFL) and Association Football (aka soccer) mainly with the A-League, but also as an Italian born the Serie A.

My best sporting memories have been with aussie rules.  Feeling welcomed in Melbourne after a rocky start migrating to Sydney.  Following the VFL (as it was then) was an integral part of finally feeling that I was living in a city where I could belong.  The fact that we moved to Carlton, following the local team was an important factor.

I still follow Carlton, although not as assiduously as I did when I was 17.  And I kept my membership.

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Of course I also maintained my interest in Association Football. With the National team, with Carlton Soccer Club and afterwards with Melbourne Victory.

With this attitude I eschew any ‘codewars’.  Although sometimes I have to confess I do indulge it on social media.  But I see that as a bit of banter or pisstake or if flagged propely as good natured trolling.

But  I will react when I perceive Association Football being attacked by unwarranted soccerphobia.

Codes will of course compete for fans, ratings, best athletes etc.  But this is no different from running businesses in a market economy.  Overall I think we in Australia can count ourselves lucky that we are able to follow more than one code in national competitions.

However there are cases where I also have to fight the codewars demons.  Situations where my rational brain has to suppress the emotional one.  Where I have to stop myself on social media.

Which are these?

Western Sydney – Greater Western Sydney Giants vs. Western Sydney Wanderers

 

AFL Rd 16 - GWS v Collingwood
Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Whether it is Western Sydney, or ‘the Shire’, it seems that sport executives are desperate to put teams ‘where the fish are’.  The issue is whether the fish are interested in the first place.

The issue of whether the AFL could place a successful team in Western Sydney was bubbling for a while.

And so the advent of the Greater Western Sydney Giants.  As a Victorian sometimes it feels that the whole of Australia is run from that part of Australia.  Politicians seems to make their decision according to ‘what the battlers of Western Sydney will think’.  During the election campaign both parties placed plenty of resources and time there.

Of course it is one of the fastest growing areas in Australia and it was inevitable that the honchos of the AFL wanted to put a team there.  But I can’t get rid of the feeling that somehow the AFL is trying to muscle in an area which has been (at least since after WW2) a soccer loving Non English Speaking area….’our patch’…

I am not from Sydney, so I stand to be corrected.  But to me Western Sydney is not that dissimilar from Western Melbourne. A part of the city where working class migrants lived there because close to the factories where they worked and where it was cheaper to live.

An area where the rest of the population would look down to and ignored because of it’s ‘undesirability’ but now because of its economic and political power has become a centre of attention.

These were the areas where migrants set up their soccer clubs with their own hands.  Where they got up early on weekends to get the team and the pitches ready for the teams.Where they trained their children.  This is a territory where Association Football became an integral cultural expression of many migrant communities.

Ignored for decades, once it became economically significant..puff! like magic it was discovered by the AFL which with its financial might is putting a huge amount of resources in the GWS.

But then I think: Why not?  If the AFL wants to give the opportunity to the people of Western Sydney to support a team in a game which I personally think is a really good one, that’s great. And besides.  The A-League and the AFL don’t overlap much.  I follow both Carlton and Melbourne Victory.  There is no reason why someone from Western Sydney can follow both the GSW and the WSW.  No sport has a oligopoly on any areas. They have the right to place teams and have a go at making them successful.

Women AFL competition

 

FOOTBALL-AFL-AUS-WOMEN
PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images

The first thing I have to say is that the introduction of a women’s AFL competition is a great thing.  But I can’t help feeling that the AFL, in its perception of grandeur, of being the ‘most important code in Australia’ has annoyingly hyped this to the max.

I was not the only one that felt this way.  Greg Baum who is a senior sport writer at The Age tweeted:

And another sport writer, Richard Hinds, responded jokingly

By reading all the hoopla generated by AFL House it seems that there was no other football code being played in Australia before they came on the scene and gave all this ‘opportunities’ for women to play.

Why do I feel somewhat peeved? Is it because I feel (a bit like the AFL ‘discovering’ Western Sydney) all of a sudden the AFL wants to involve women only when it looks it may be good financially and don’t want to lose to other codes?

Somewhat I felt like another totally bicodal journalist about this.

But then I think so what?  Even if they come late any sport that gives more exposure to women athletes (which is a big issue) is a good thing.  The AFL with its media exposure and money can do this very well.  Ultimately it is a positive thing if  women feel they can go out there and play sport, any sport and be valued as athletes for it.

So I think the last word goes to sport journalist Angela Pippos

 AFL overseas competitions

 

If perhaps there is one thing that I haven’t yet come around not to be dismissive about, is the effort for the AFL to have an international dimension.

Of course there is no reason why any sport wouldn’t want to spread its wings and make itself knows overseas.  And really the AFL itself plays a straight bat.  It’s some of its advocates that tend to guild the lily a little bit.  Although sometimes I am not sure whether they are taking the piss themselves, or they really believe it.

I wrote about this four year ago and despite trying to see it more from the other point of view I really haven’t changed my position all that much.

Again by all means it’s great that the AFL makes Australian Rules football known overseas, it is a great game.  But I again I can’t help it being somewhat bemused by what I regard over estimating how popular a game indigenous to Australia can became overseas.

When I go on social media and have a bit of a (good-natured) dig at this I often get responses such as ‘x amount of players/teams exist in <insert country>’.  Yes of course.  But is Aussie Rules going to become more popular than lacrosse here in Australia overseas?  Then I think.  Even if some advocates to overestimate a bit.  Does it really matter?  It is a great sport and people playing sport is always good. Whatever that is.

iceland

Another example is the big fanfare about Port Adelaide being involved with China.

That’s great.  There was great coverage in the media, even saw a bit of commentary in Chinese.

However the fact that Newcastle Jet was purchased by the Ledman Group, a leading high-tech LED signage manufacturer, operator and integrated sports business headquartered in Shenzhen China, this  was hardly news.

Let’s leave the issue of whether the purchase by Ledman may be a good or a bad thing. We have to admit that the Newcastle Jets have a lower profile than Port Adelaide, as the A-League has a lower profile than the AFL.

Why the fact that when and AFL team creates links with China is news and we get articles, comments and videos, but when another Australian team from another code is actually purchased by a Chinese consortium there is hardly a ripple?  Would Chinese interest, or any overseas interest (viz. Melbourne City) be interested in purchasing an AFL team?

But maybe I am being petty.  The reason why Port Adelaide and China is news is precisely because Australian Rules is virtually unknown in China, while Association Football is one of their national sport. By the fact that soccer is the ‘world game’, overseas interest in an A-League team goes with the territory.

 

So will I continue to suppress my inner code war instincts?  Yes I will.  But always be tempted (and sometimes yield) to some code war banter once is a while.

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#Brexit viewed from #Italy

BELGIUM-EU-POLITICS-BREXIT

Italy’s Prime minister Matteo Renzi gestures as he arrives before an EU summit meeting on June 28, 2016 at the European Union headquarters in Brussels on June 28, 2016. / AFP / PHILIPPE HUGUEN (Photo credit  PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)

As stated by the previous post I have been fascinated by the fallout of the UK referendum on European Union membership. I’ve read voraciously about it. This is what the internet allows you to do. But another thing about the internet is that if you can read another language often you are allowed to see things from another perspective.

This is especially the case about Brexit. Reading Italian media I got a different sense of this event.

If they want to go, let them.

Many commentators congratulated Britain for making a choice. It was recognised that it was a democratic choice and if that’s what they want to do is up to them. There was a sense that the EU can survive without the UK (as long as France and Germany are in it).

Italy is not part of the domino

Some say that Italy may be part of the next domino to request a referendum and thus leave the EU. There are certainly plenty of Eurosceptic in Italy, or even anti EU, but I sense there isn’t a big move against it. Italy has been part of the EU since its inception as the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1957, unlike Britain that was a reluctant participant from 1972.

Besides a referendum would be difficult as under the Italian constitution they can only be carried out to:

  • Repeal a law or laws
  • To alter constitutional legislation
  • To join regions together or create new ones
  • To move a province or city to another region

There is no provision to ask Italian citizens to do a type of referendum like the one carried out in Britain. This would need a change to the constitution itself (which can be done by Parliament in certain circumstances) and that presents its own problems.

The interesting aspect is what will be the attitude of ‘new parties’ which have arisen out of the dissatisfaction of the old ones, and this is especially the 5 Stars Movement. This party wants to call itself a ‘movement’ rather than a party as it wants to distance itself from the old order. It arose from an idea of Beppe Grillo, who is a satirical comedian who made jokes about the Italian political system.

While it may seem strange that a comic started a political movement it is not surprising given that the political situation in Italy was locked amongst two parties which seemed to do little apart from attaching themselves to as many ministries as possible. Grillo decried this situation for years and started a movement that quickly snowballed into a political party much to everyone’s (and I think Grillo himself) surprise. In the recent elections for mayor the 5 stars movement won the capital, Rome and a major city of the north Turin.

As a protest movement 5 Stelle has attracted support from a wide range of people. Imagine ranging from Jacquie Lambie to Tony Windsor and you may have an idea. But a positive thing is that unlike other parts of Europe it has channeled  the anger and dissatisfaction towards it, rather than going to some nasty right wing groups. Its stance is to remain in the EU and with other like minded European groups work to reform it from within. It is however against the Euro which they see it as a disaster and would like a referendum to abolish the law that has instituted it in Italy. Their policy is outlined here.

It pushes Italy up the ladder

While Italy has major financial problems, it is nevertheless a major economy. The exit of the United Kingdom (which was second after Germany) means that Italy goes from the fourth biggest economy in the EU to third after Germany and France.

This was reflected at a press conference ahead of the EU summit meeting where the Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi was invited with Merkel and Hollande. I think Renzi beamed like he scored the goal to win the Euro football championship for the Azzurri.

GERMANY-EU-BRITAIN-DIPLOMACY

(Photo credit JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images)

Let’s face it. The UK was a bit of a nuisance.

Sergio Romano is an editor in the Corriere della Sera, one of the major newspapers in Italy. He also has been the Italian ambassador in Russia. In his opinion while the UK was one of the most important countries in the EU, it often obstructed more integration because it feared about its sovereignty, or feared that it would diminish its global importance. According to Romano the push to include Easter European countries was a strategy by John Major to weaken the EU. Which remarkably is almost exactly what this clip from ‘Yes Minister’ says.

So according to Romano, without the UK placing impediments, the EU will be free to continue its program of integration. Although if we see what happened with the Euro, I am not sure many Europeans will be that willing to go down this path.

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#Brexit a view from an Italo-Australian

&lt;&gt; on June 24, 2016 in UNSPECIFIED, Unspecified.
NOLA – JUNE 25: Italian newspapers declaring about Brexit and UK leaving the European Union are displayed on June 25, 2016 in the town of Nola near Naples, Italy. The results from the historic EU referendum has been declared and the United Kingdom has voted to leave the European Union. (Photo by Laura Lezza/Getty Images)

Sometime in the 80’s I went to the UK with my parents. Five years earlier I became and Australian citizen, and at that time there was non double citizenship. It was your own personal ‘leave’ statement. If I acquired a citizenship of another country, I relinquished the one I had. So I stopped being an Italian citizen and was an Australian one.

It was somewhat bemusing that while my parents, who remained Italian citizens went straight through the ‘EU’ door at Dover no question asked, I went to the ‘Non EU queue’ which took half an hour and got asked how long I was going to be in the UK, where was I staying etc. Especially considering I had to swear eternal allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II and her successors to become an Australian citizen.

But I thought that it was good. It was good that the UK was part of a union that recognises its place in Europe. I always knew that a large proportion of UK citizens never like it, and I felt that the UK didn’t really feel part of it, a reluctant member so it wouldn’t miss out.

As a non EU citizen, the UK referendum on whether to remain in the EU was interesting with the assurance that it wouldn’t impact me very much at all.  A bit like watching the EURO Football tournament.

I am no economist but I think the impact on Australia of brexit is somewhat overstated. Of course in the current election mode the press gallery commentariat is interpreting this as a possible boost for Turnbull, but I personally can’t see the average punter being swayed by it.  Remembering that a much more serious and real upheaval in the form of the GFC didn’t save the government that saved us from it.

mix_vignette_altan252c2bbrexit252c2brep25giu16

Somewhat crude Italian cartoon by Altan. “Necessary to guarantee a future for you young people” A bitter observation on how the old UK citizens didn’t care about the possibilities the EU gave to the youth of Britain.

 

#Lexit.  The left wanting to leave the EU and an Australian parallel.

Lexit

There is good reasons why left leaning people don’t like the  European Union and also wanted to leave initiating the #Lexit movement.  These are outlined by Matt Turner in his article I’m a left wing Brit, and I want us to leave the EU. Here’s why.   The main argument is that the EU is a globalist capitalist project, which disadvantage the working class.  Socialism was a product of Europe and the idea was the collectivisation of political power in the hands of the masses, but the EU model is the antithesis of this: centralising decision-taking in the hands of an unaccountable technocratic elite.  And as we saw with Greece more interested in saving banks than people’s welfare.

The issue here is that the left is wedged.  While the reason why the current EU model favours capital over people is a good argument, the main motivation for leaving the EU by most voters was dislike of non British people in the country and perhaps a perception that ‘Brussels was interfering’ with 50+ somehow thinking that leaving the EU would bring back the UK to the halcyon days before the Suez crisis.  So there was no altruistic socialist drive in the result.

There have been many sad examples in history where instead of turning their anger towards their capitalist exploiters,  these exploiters (with the aid of some media etc.) are able to deflect this anger towards other disadvantaged people.

A great explanation was given by Elizabeth King on a Facebook reply.  Entire communities in the UK have suffered generational poverty. A series of governments have removed public sector resources and job opportunities for these communities and privatised resources in the belief that ‘less taxes’ would benefit everyone (which it doesn’t)  Since 2006 there has been an influx of EU citizens from Eastern Bloc countries who are prepared to be exploited by working below the minimum wage, thus boosting profits but disadvantaging workers. In addition, these citizens legally have the right to access Britain’s social and health resources.

From the perspective of the (many) disenfranchised and impoverished British, this is threatening. They perceive that EU workers are taking their jobs and their services. Were all persons in the EU equally educated, this would not necessarily be a problem. But for a British person who did not complete their education and is unable to speak any language other than English and who has no money – there is no immediate benefit of being in the EU. They cannot simply relocate to Spain or France and work or start a business there. They will never be able to utilize the reciprocal health and social benefits of EU Citizenship. For the middle classes, EU Membership offers real and tangible benefits. For the millions of British people living in poverty – and living in communities destroyed by Thatcher-ism – there is no advantage. They are now competing with EU immigrants for employment and social services – and at a time when the Cameron Government has massively reduced the latter. The visible element of this equation are the EU immigrants themselves.

So we have here working class people who are disadvantaged by the economic rationalist policies of successive Conservative and Labour governments blaming the EU migrants for their plight, and older UK citizens who ‘want their country back’.  But they relinquished that country on the 3rd of May 1979, when they elected the Thatcher Government.

As John Harris writes in The Guardian

Most of all, Brexit is the consequence of the economic bargain struck in the early 1980s, whereby we waved goodbye to the security and certainties of the postwar settlement, and were given instead an economic model that has just about served the most populous parts of the country, while leaving too much of the rest to anxiously decline.

More on ‘Lexit’ – The Australian parallel

As I stated earlier I don’t really think that Brexit will have a significant impact on Australia despite Boris Johnson’s utterances that ‘Brexit would bring Britain and Australia together’, I think that ship sailed away long ago.

While very different, the EU UK referendum and the referendum we had about the republic in 1999 had one similarity.  The belief that it would be better for something to happen, or not to happen to get something better.

One of the factors (not the deciding one, but significant) that the republic referendum failed in 1999, was because many on the left didn’t like the Turnbull’s minimalist model.

republic

They argued, with merit, that just replacing the Governor General with a President elected by parliament would be an opportunity lost.   If we were going for a republic, it had to be the right one.  If we went for such a major constitutional change we should review the constitution to make it more equitable etc.  So many voted against the republic.  The monarchist movement sensed this and in the last week their advertising emphasised voting no to “this republic”, implying that a model more to their preferences was likely to be put in the future.

Of course they knew very well that if the referendum was lost, any idea of a further referendum would be dead and buried.  And in fact this is what happened.  The talk of a republic is hardly heard now days.

On a similar note is the notion that exiting from the EU would facilitate Britain to be a more just and equitable society.  In the article I mentioned earlier Matt Turner writes:

The answer is not to cede power to the European Union. The answer is to become politicized and win a battle of ideas against that floppy haired Etonian through persuasion, media strategy (particularly digital + crowdfunding), in essence, a genuinely competent political strategy. Society in general, and millennials especially, are fleeing from an intellectually and morally bankrupt centre-ground. They’re looking for new answers to the world’s problems, and most of them have found answers in platforms offered by the likes of Jeremy Corbyn (whose platform, by the way, will be incredibly difficult to enact should we vote to remain). A Johnson victory in 2020 is by no means certain……

If we can unite the left around a strong policy platform, a scenario where Boris Johnson doesn’t get a whiff of power is entirely plausible. Furthermore, it is infinitely more likely of coming to pass than the reformation of the European Union, which I view as a naïve pipedream that can only end badly.

And in another article Jenny Jones writes:

I don’t feel like a winner, even though the majority of the country has voted for leaving the EU – something I have argued should happen for the last 40-odd years. I’m at Glastonbury, in the Green Fields, surrounded by people who feel hurt and disillusioned at the referendum outcome and the way that outcome was achieved.

For many of us, the referendum result was a rejection of power being taken into fewer and fewer hands. This crisis could be a fantastic opportunity to bring back control to a more localised level and assert more democratic control of our economy.

What many on the left fear is that we will be grabbing power back from Brussels bureaucrats in order to pass it over to the rich elites and globalised companies. That is what Farage, Boris and Gove want, but that is not what most voters want. With Cameron going, the Greens and the left now have an opportunity to argue for a very different vision of an independent Britain.

I hope we can now join together with the trade unions, the Corbyn supporters and the various social justice and environmental campaigns to push a positive vision of how an independent Britain could look. Grieving and anger have to happen, but then we have to join forces to create the better society we all dream of.

What I fear is that like the Australian republicans that voted against the republic in 1999 hoping to get a better one, and 17 year later they are still waiting, exiting the Euro for Britain will not create the ‘better society we all dream of’ or the left rallying to create a strategy for a more equitable UK.  This is because the main driver of the Brexit was not altruistic, but quite the opposite.  And because the isolationism and resentment were main factors in many people voting the legacy of this vote will be this trend.  If somehow this feeling switches to a push for am more equitable Britain great, but the signs are not encouraging.  In fact this referendum has stripped bare the inequities that have been created by the economic rationalist policies of the last three decades as explained earlier.

Beside that, I fail to see why Britain could not have pursued a more equitable society within the EU, considering that Britain has had some exemptions for some rulings etc.  And many points to the treatment of Greece, which is a good point.  But the issue with Greece wasn’t the EU as such, but the fact that it had the Euro as its currency (something the UK doesn’t have).

What about Italy?

People in Australia may be surprised, but many in Italy welcomed Brexit and praised the fact that a major nation decided to break away.

There is anti-EU sentiment in Italy as well again driven by immigration.

Italy: Coast Guards Rescue 1053 African Migrants in Palermo

PALERMO, ITALY – MAY 25: Aid workers assisted over 1,000 migrants off an Italian coast guard vessel which arrived in Palermo, on May 25, 2016. About 260 of the 1,053 migrants rescued were reportedly unaccompanied teenagers. The coast guard reported rescuing some 3,000 migrants in a single day on Tuesday, as the number of people attempting the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean reaches record levels. (Photo by Antonio Melita/Corbis via Getty Images)

 

Italy has rescues thousands of immigrants coming by boat in Africa, and as the first port of call has faced the brunt of the refugee wave.  However the EU has often done precious little to help Italy, leaving it to sort this problem by itself.

Earlier this year Austria was thinking to erect a wall between the border so refugees could not leave Italy.

The leader on the Northern League tweeted: “(UK) Free! Now it’s our turn”

A new party that has grown in popularity rapidly in the last few years due to the discontent with establish parties has been the Movimento 5 Stelle.  So much so that its candidate just won to become Major of Rome.

While its position is not to leave the EU, their position is that it needs reform, otherwise Italy also should have a referendum regarding its membership.

Some Italians may hail this result, but they forget that a significant number of voters who have voted brexit did that because they despise Southern Europeans and think of them as inferior.  But the fact that even in a foundation member such as Italy there is this anti-EU feeling shows that there is work to do if we want to salvage the European Project.

The future

What will happen next will be really interesting.  Of course I hope that the EU will see this as a major lesson and reform to be more accountable and democratic.  Moving away from a top-down system of policy initiation, The Commission is  unelected, and unaccountable to all those living in Europe and affected by its actions.

Or this result will bolster the xenophobic movements of the far right in Europe.  Maybe not actually winning elections but shifting the whole political spectrum further to the right.  Any idea of co-operation amongst European nations will dissipate in isolation and self serving interests.  And the experiment of an European Union will be seen as a brave experiment that lasted  about 70 years, a blimp in the history of a continent spanning millennia.

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Eddie McGuire is the AFL’s flare

 

AFL Rd 12 - Melbourne v Collingwood
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – JUNE 13: Eddie McGuire goes down the slide for Freeze MND during the round 12 AFL match between the Melbourne Demons and the Collingwood Magpies at Melbourne Cricket Ground on June 13, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

 

While the FFA may fear flares and a few broken chairs to undo any good work they’ve done, the equivalent for the AFL must be Eddie McGuire’s comments.

Eddie has form in uttering crap.  And frustratingly for the AFL negating some of the work trying to change their image.

The AFL introduce a team in Western Sydney with a high middle eastern population and not into aussie rules? He talks about ‘the land of the falafel’.  AFL having an indigenous round? After Adam Goodes was racially vilified by a young Collingwood supporter at the MCG, who labelled the dual Brownlow medallist an “ape”,  McGuire suggested that Goodes should promote an upcoming King Kong  musical.

And the latest is that he would pay $50,000 to see journalist Caroline Wilson stay under a pool of iced water and charge an extra $10,000 for “everyone to stand around the outside and bomb her”. Danny Frawley chimed in by saying Wilson should be held under the freezing water, adding: “I’ll actually jump in and make sure she doesn’t [come up] … I’ll hold her under, Ed.” Much to the guffaw of all the blokes on the radio show, including the president of North Melbourne  James Brayshaw.  This just after the much publicised and heralded introduction of an AFL women competition and the White Ribbon campaign to prevent male violence against women.  Since then  Frawley has apologised for his “insensitive, inappropriate”.

I won’t go into why these statements were not ‘just a joke’.  Others have done this much better than I could do.     But another article by Russell Jackson  titled ‘Eddie McGuire’s ‘banter’ exposes the rank hypocrisy of AFL football’ caught my attention.  He writes:

But the problem here is that there’s far too much precedent for us to believe that McGuire will face any lasting punishment. In that sense, his blasé response to the controversy shows how well he knows the game. This is the real embarrassment for football – not that it’s incapable of involving women, because it now does so in performative and often crowd-pleasing ways, but that its cult of personality and craven worship of bullies makes rank hypocrisy like this its default philosophical setting.

This made me think about how we attribute ‘culture’ to a particular sport.  Association football has been accused to have a cultural problem of misbehaviour both from those who follow the game,   and of course from those outside (as we have seen many times from the likes of Rebecca Wilson, Tom Elliot and more recently Aaron Langmaid) this behaviour is seen to be ‘foreign and un-Australian’.

On the same token can Australian Football also be accused to have a problem in misogyny, sexism and racism?  And the way these comments are justified in some quarters about ‘boys just having a joke’ is this accepting that this is part of an Australian ethos?

This is not to say that misogyny, sexism and racism do not exist in Association football.  Examples is calling a player from Albania a ‘gypsy’ as an insult and the twitter comments the Matildas have received about being inferior sportpersons (and alas plenty of homophobia as well..from some of the chants I’ve heard on the stands).  However while I have read plenty of articles rightly denouncing McGuire and Co.  I haven’t yet seen any commentary stating that these are outside the cultural Australian context, that in some way they separate the sport from the Australian norm and therefore are foreign.

Often in the past Australian Football supporters that dislike football have cited that it is a game for ‘weak men’.  The accusation that players fall over unlike AFL ones etc.  is an example that in  Australian Football strength, and traditionally male strength is a major aspect of the game and this may have, so far favoured a very masculine blokey  culture.

players

Association football, as other sports which have had major female participation in the such as basketball, cricket etc. where also masculine strength is not a major part of the game may have a different culture (that of course does not negate that sexism still occur) and that the AFL has come quite late to the party.   The problem with comments from high profile AFL figures such as McGuire, and the AFL reaction to it may risk to create a perception that an AFL female competition is somehow tokenistic and that it was initiated because the AFL suddenly realised that other competitions such as the WNBL, the W-League and the women’s BBL were attracting plenty of interest and they didn’t want to be left behind purely on marketing/business grounds, rather because it was a good thing to do in itself.
I think that the AFL women competition is an excellent idea and hope it will succeed. As Melissa Barbieri said on the Daily Football Show the AFL money power may make other women sports, especially the W-League not become complacent.

But if it were to succeed is important that Australian Football realises that the old days of blokes and sheilas is now over.

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My opinion: Clickbait journalists. My response to Aaron Langmaid @aaronlangmaid

&lt;&gt; on June 11, 2016 in Marseille, France.
MARSEILLE, FRANCE – JUNE 11: England fans react after police sprayed tear gas during clashes ahead of the game against Russia later today on June 11, 2016 in Marseille, France. Football fans from around Europe have descended on France for the UEFA Euro 2016 football tournament. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

When I first read it I thought that it was a bad attempt at sarcasm

THE greatest threat of terror on the streets of Australia is born not of the twisted ideology of young jihadists but at the hands of emerging new radicals who don’t need guns or bags packed with explosives

Soccer thugs come armed with a mindset for street warfare, waging their belligerent campaign that has far less to do with any scoreboard and more with mob mentality.

They wrap their faces in scarves, light flares, hurl bottles and issue ugly rants in guised ethnic cleansing campaigns legitimised by light-footed politicians and left wing hypochondriacs.

But Aaron Langmaid article in the Herald Sun was meant to be serious. (It may be paywalled in some instances, so I reproduced here)

What the article does is to link the violence between hooligans that have occurred at the The 2016 UEFA European Championship, with what could happen in Australia.

The scenes that have plagued one of the world’s biggest football competitions has overshadowed any talk of which nation will emerge victorious.

But the tentacles of this kind of violence have already begun to strangle the streets of Melbourne.

It began a few years back when racist goons doing Nazi salutes stormed their way into the Australian Open.

It continued two years ago when A-League morons crusaded along Swan St, Richmond ahead of a showdown between the Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne Victory.

Then, earlier this month the same kind of nitwits raised their flags and lit flares to mark a soccer friendly between Greece and the Socceroos.

This was beyond the pale for many, including many journalists that cover other codes.

The anger on twitter was palpable. Equating football fans with flares with terrorists that kill was ludicrous at best and deeply offensive at the worst. But I immediately saw that this article was written by some fairly unknown writer wanting to create click and attention. And it worked.

I wasn’t angry about what Langmaid wrote. My responses tried to be ironic and not to serious. We should know by now that the Herald Sun is tabloid journalism, and tabloid journalism always have tried to create outrage through division. Whether it was dole bludgers in the 70’s 80’s to Asians in the 90’s and Muslims now. We know that that paper has already writers like Rita Panahi and Andrew Bolt who are employed to create controversy and conform the prejudices of their readers. Perhaps Langmaid hoped to join that ‘exalted’ company.

But the main issue lies behind the ludicrousness of the article and the fact that the author tried to somehow portray Association Football back to ‘wogball’ and a violent one as that. The narrative remains that ‘soccer’ is either still foreign and falls outside the mainstream Australian culture, or that its presence will create discord and violence, something which is un-Australian (and by implication unlike other codes such as AFL and NRL).

Unfortunately some turn their anger towards the AFL as a whole, but I think that’s not the right target. As tweets above have shown many journalists involved with the AFL have been angered or have ridiculed Langmaid article.

What articles like the one Langmaid has written is to seek attention by exploiting the xenophobia (and I stress ‘phobia of foreign’ nor racism, that’s a different thing) which exists amongst many of the Herald Sun readers. Maybe for the – let’s say – less informed reader the link between the hooliganism in France and some flares in Melbourne (the tentacles of this kind of violence have already begun to strangle the streets of Melbourne, as Langmaid writes) is not much as a stretch as most of us.

But this stuff is not new. Whether it was Communism in the 50’s the ‘Yellow Peril’ and keeping Australia ‘white’ this fear of the foreign was always there.

And many believe that the FFA also is pandering to this xenophobia by having excluded any club with a non-English speaking background from the A-League and still suppressing any demonstration of ‘foreigness’ when these clubs play in the FFA Cup.

The best way to approach these articles is either to ignore them or taking the absolute piss out of them and show the contempt they deserve. As stated below they are designed to heckle us football supporters and generate clicks or social media trending, and to confirm the prejudices of tabloid press readers, which are unlikely to be Association Football supporters anyway.

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Why Aussie Rules not popular overseas? A response to Mitchell Toy article

Last Tuesday, on the day of the friendly between Australia and Greece the Herald Sun published an article titled We know Australian rules is the best so why isn’t it popular overseas? (For some reason in certain instances it is pay walled, so a transcript is available here)

Not sure whether the fact that an international friendly was being played in Melbourne on the same day was a coincidence (these types of articles tend to appear when Association Football increase its profile, such as during World Cups etc.) but a title like that was certain to raise plenty of hackles from the round football tribe.

While the title is a bit daft (and I am sure designed as click bait) and the piece is a bit fluffy, the writer Mitchell Toy does raise some interesting points (despite some cheap barbs at Association Football). Let’s look at some.

AUSTRALIAN rules football is intensely popular in one small pocket of the world and rarely played anywhere else, and that makes many Victorians very insecure. …… But the one rebuttal that is always difficult to get past is this: If Aussie rules is so good, why is it only popular in mostly one state in one country and nowhere else in the world?

I am not sure how many ‘Victorians are insecure’ (what about the other footy states?) but it is true that some of that feeling is there. And this has a deep echo in the Australian psyche of ‘invasion’. While (fortunately) most Victorians are not xenophobic like past days of the White Australia Policy, and the ‘Yellow Peril’, there is still a latent unease about this huge continent being swamped by a larger force. This fear is quite ingrained in the Australian psyche. Both from a conservative perspective as expressed by Geoffrey Blainey, or by people such as Martin Flanagan on the left. Interestingly these articles were published in 2005, around the time Australia qualified for the World Cup for the first time after more than thirty years in a famous match in Sydney that got huge exposure and interest.

While people like Flanagan are light years away from the bogons commenting in the Herald Sun about ‘Soccer Wogs’ and associated anti-refugee sentiment, there is a common thread in these comments that somehow the ‘soccer juggernaut‘ with it’s global power will overtake the native game of Australian Rules football.

Even those who do not fear Association Football like sport journalist such as Rohan Connolly have highlighted it’s global dimension compared to the local nature of the AFL.

So let’s continue with Toy’s article:

Soccer is the real football, they say. It’s the World Game and brings people together in peace (even though Victoria Police might sometimes have a different view), and that’s why it’s a multibillion-dollar global behemoth. And it’s true. Australian rules has not become popular overseas even though there have been plenty of attempts to make it so. High-profile competitions happen between sides from different countries in Rugby League, and Rugby Union has its own World Cup. Cricket has become a monster with first one-dayers, then Twenty20, now Big Bash. Soccer remains a force almost bigger than Jesus (with more and more players actually called that) and its tentacles are reaching deep into Australian suburbs. The closest Australian rules gets to the big Quidditch-style showdown with any foreign power is the International Rules match with Ireland. And even then it’s not really Australian rules because the ball is round and the pitch is rectangular. Our code’s own International Cup features teams from America, Asia and Europe, but is held at such ovals as Royal Park, and are not televised in prime time. A parade of prominent former players and coaches have led delegations overseas to boost engagement, the latest being an announcement that Port might play in China for premiership points in 2017. King among the advocates is Kevin Sheedy, who has pressed for international take-up of the game throughout his lengthy career, and who has suggested playing the opening game of the season on foreign soil. And he doesn’t mean foreign like the WACA. So despite all the diplomacy, why aren’t any kids in London or New York wearing Nick’s number 12 and yelling out “ball” in the schoolyard?

We can start with the comment that soccer ‘and its tentacles are reaching deep into Australian suburbs’. This statement reminds me somewhat of the infamous 1886 the anti Chinese cartoon named ‘The Mongolian Octopus’ in The Bulletin, his tentacles poised to squeeze the life out of ‘white’ Australian men, women and children.

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But continuing on, it is said that ‘football is a religion’ and while this is a cliche there is an element of truth in this statement. Some follow a code of football is a bit like Christianity. The object of worship is the same but believe the variations they follow is the best, and fervently believe that once they ‘see the light’ they will abandon their inferior version for the new one. This happens both in Association Football where some believe that football will become the number one code (and an aim of the FFA alas, something I think is silly, but that’s another story) and of course by the Aussie Footy code, like mentioned in this article that can’t believe that such a superior product can’t convert people overseas.

But following a code of football is not simply kicking a different shape of football around. I have personal experience of this, as I count myself fortunate that I follow both Association Football and the AFL. Back in the 90’s I went back to Italy to volunteer for an environmental organisation. During final times I got my parents to send me a tape of one of the finals where Carlton and Essendon were involved. In those days those teams were at the top of their game. Matches between the Blues and the Bombers were legendary, tough, uncompromising and often very close.

I showed a bit of one of these games to my Italian colleagues who were all committed Association Football fans, believing that they would be impressed by the athleticism and ball handling skills of the footy players. They became dis interested after a few minutes “All I can see is bodies clashing against each other” was the comment. And this showed me that following a code of football often is not just following a sport. There are other cultural elements involved with it. Just living in Victoria for a few years you can see how Australian Rules is deeply interwoven in the culture of this state. It is following a team for generations, attachment to places, friends, family. And of course growing up with the sport. My Italian friends saw ‘bodies clashing with each other’ while a footy devotee would have seen a superb tackle or a great hip and shoulder. Same with an AFL follower getting bored with a scoreless draw at an Association Football game while we are at our edge of our seat that a small mistake would mean victory or defeat and impressed by the defensive strategy.

And that is why – despite liking Aussie Rules and defending it amongst some of my Association Football friends – Thinking that Australian Rules will become anymore popular than Lacrosse is here overseas is just wishful thinking. I wrote about a similar thing back in 2012. Something that Toy acknowledges:

To the AFL’s credit, a number of affiliation leagues have been dotted about the globe including the US, Canada, the UK, Japan, South Africa and a bunch of countries in the Pacific. But there’s still no need to book tickets to many of those matches.
Part of the answer might lie in the unique format of the game, that requires a lot of physical space and grit that only Australians can manage. Maybe we could try making the field smaller so you don’t need to clear out three blocks in Shanghai to make a suburban ground. And roll back contact rules to encourage broader participation across all age groups and genders.

Still, there’s nothing wrong in introducing a new sport in new countries. I do know of people overseas that enjoy Australian Rules.

So what is Toy’s conclusion?

There can only be one firm answer.

We are the weird ones. We are the ones unreasonably obsessed with this game for reasons that nobody else can understand. For reasons that we ourselves can barely understand. Our efforts to push this game on other parts of the world will likely be futile and will only make us look crazier.
And, really, why would we want to do it? The game works for us, it has been passed from generation to generation with undiluted passion for more than a century and nowhere else in the world shares our history with this code. It is time to accept that our game, in this form at least, may never be enormously popular overseas and we should be completely OK with the limited progress we’ve made.

We are the unusual ones here. And, God willing, we’ll stay that way.

Here Toy shows a trait that I have discerned in some Aussie Rules fans, and often a major reason why there this irrational ‘fear’. Precisely because it is a game played in some parts of Australia a certain degree of insular vision can occur. Something that I haven’t seen in follower of other codes such as Rugby, which do have an international dimension and perhaps allows them to see beyond the horizon.

There is no ‘unreasonable obsession’ with AFL. Just see how Association Football is followed in Europe and South America. And yes, we can accept that Aussie Rules will never be enormously popular overseas. And while the strength of Association Football lies in its global dimension, for Australian Rules is its unique position in Australian culture.

But we still have major AFL media spokespersons such as Eddie McGuire stating that “FIFA and the PlayStation is as big as a threat to AFL football as the game of soccer itself,” Or Tom Elliot saying “But if Aussie Rules does not succeed in this city, if young kids growing up in Victoria and the southern states don’t want to play Aussie Rules and instead play soccer, then Aussie Rules as a sport is dead.” This irrational fear about the future of the AFL and the ‘soccer threat’ is deleterious on a variety of levels. It drives a unnecessary anti-Association Football dog whistle commentary that Association Football is ‘not Australian’. The popularity of Australian Rules football in the Aussie Rules states in undisputed. And unlike Toy I know why it is. Because as I explained before it is bound by culture, family, and place.

Association Football may not be or become the most popular code but that doesn’t matter. It belongs to Australia like any other sport and it is part and parcel of Australia’s culture – and has been so – for many years. It’s importance in Australia’s culture has to be recognised and respected. Not seen as some foreign alien import. One thing that Toy and some other AFL aficionados may not understand is that fans in the main do not ditch one sport for another. Like adding to the daily diet of meat and three veg, they can now have a variety of different cuisines to add to it. Not to substitute. So those you count attending an AFL match or watching it on TV will also be at an A-League game or at a pub watching it with friends.

I also hope we remain ‘unique’ but not in the way Toy intends. I would like us to be unique where we are comfortable and happy to follow a variety of sport and codes, without being fearful or wanting one of the other to disappear. But be glad that we can all enjoy a plethora of codes and sports in a country which, especially with sport, is truly blessed.

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Turnbull wrong to use family history, but feeling should bot be mocked.

There’s lots of nastiness on twitter. Perhaps is because it’s easy to just tap a few things and just hit that ‘tweet’ button.

The latest example is about Malcolm Turnbull and his claims to have had a struggle in his childhood. Personally I don’t like it when politicians directly uses their past to gain votes. I believe that the personal and the political has to be separate, otherwise we go down the USA path where the offspring of politicians are fair game and I think that’s deplorable.

On that level the criticism of Turnbull is justified, and perhaps the dreaded focus groups have shown he’s perceived as aloof and not in touch with the average person. In that respect it looks like the strategy has backfired.

However whatever we think about Turnbull’s policies a mother leaving his child when he’s nine can’t not be a fairly traumatic event at some level. An episode of ‘Australian Story’ showed that with the marriage of Turnbull’s parents fraying, they decided to put him in a boarding school when he was eight. He must have been very unhappy as he begged his parents to take him back home but a year later, in 1963, Turnbull’s mother left the family to follow New Zealand-born academic John Salmon to New Zealand. Turnbull’s mental state would not have been helped by the fact that Turnbull’s father told him that his mother was just away on a holiday. Maybe in those days this was thought to protect the children, but psychology says that it is better to know the truth and deal with it. In fact when young Malcolm arrived at Auckland airport for a visit with his mother promptly told him she was marrying Salmon.

To his credit Turnbull’s father must have done a good job to raise Malcolm. And his tragic death in 1982 in a plane crash could have very well re-awaken those feelings of emptiness that he felt as a child after his mother left. I always felt that when it comes to loss Turnbull was one of the few Liberals who reached across the political divide, perhaps out of a sense of deep empathy. One example when he went to offer his condolences to Julia Gillard after the death of his father, or when he broke up at the end of the eulogy for Gough Whitlam in parliament imagining Gough being re-united with Margaret.

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Turnbull has shown many times to have poor political judgement, and this ‘we were not rich’ electoral strategy is another example of it. However it doesn’t mean that his feelings of grief, that he may still have, should be mocked.

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