Eddie’s comment betrays more than ‘just a joke’

If there is someone who lives by the dictum that “all publicity is good publicity” it must be Eddie McGuire.

Eddie McGuire referred to the Victorian sports minister John Eren as a “soccer loving Turkish born Mussie” during the AFL’s annual general meeting in March.

Eddie of course said that this was done ‘In jest’.

“The point I was making was that we’ve got a Turkish born soccer loving Mussie as sports minister, (it) shows you how far we have moved, this is what it is all about.”

McGuire said Mr Eren was a personal friend.

“John Eren’s a mate, I’ve worked with him, he’s the minister of an area I am heavily involved in, we talk every other day,” he said.

The Minister also took it in his stride.

“As a fellow Broadmeadows boy, I’ve known Eddie a long time. I’m sure he didn’t mean anything by it.

“As Minister for Sport for a great multicultural state, I’ll get on with the job of working with all codes.”

Although he also added that it was “a timely ­reminder that leaders in the community need to be careful about how they ­express themselves.”

Some on twitter also said this was a storm in a teacup.



Even the Islamic Council of Victoria wasn’t too fussed .

Its secretary Kuranda Seyit told Fairfax Media the term ‘Aussie Mussie’ was “a fun way” of breaking down misconceptions about Muslims and making them more acceptable to mainstream Australia.

“I personally don’t think that this should be an issue of debate, it’s really not a problem,” he said.

“We often shorten names, just like Aussie or ‘sanga’ for sandwich or ‘cuppa’ for cup of tea.”

So perhaps ‘mussie’ is not a big issue.  At school us ‘wogs’ called each other ‘wogs’ all the time.  Perhaps McGuire thought that as he knew John Eren he could make this comment.  But while everybody seems to concentrate of the word ‘mussie’ it is the context in which McGuire said it which I find it interesting.

This is exposed in something McGuire said:

“The quote that I said, because I referred (in) this to the Minister himself, is as a ‘soccer loving Turkish born Mussie’ to emphasise the point that no longer do we have an Anglo Saxon former AFL footballer as the sports minister,”

This was said in the AFL General Meeting.  What did Eddie wanted to say with that statement?  One thing is if you are in a joking mode.   In January this year McGuire he ‘roasted’ Australia Post boss Ahmed Fahour during a post race function after the KPMG Couta Boat sailing regatta at Sorrento.  “You’ve got to love Australia, when all the Muslims are delivering the postage and parcels.”  Funny? It depends. But a “roast” is meant to be light hearted and give a bit of a stir to the person being roasted.  I don’t think this is what is meant to happen at general meetings of major organisations.

What McGuire was saying is that the Sport minister in Victoria is not ‘one of us’  That he is foreign and supports a foreign code, and this may have implications for the AFL where they can’t rely on an “Anglo Saxon former AFL footballer” to ensure that Australian Rules football will receive preferential treatment as they perhaps could have relied in the past.

Of course this is nonsense.  John Erin is a keen Geelong supporter (and I guess member) and like many of us who are from Non English Speaking Background has no problems in following Australian Rules and Association Football.

Eddie McGuire has shown this irrational fear of soccer before, but more importantly it has exposed his belief that soccer is a foreign game.  He could as well called it wogball..of course in jest.



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Kick that footy Cristiano!

We’ve seen it before. A world famous Football team comes to town. And inevitably they are made to kick Sherrins.

It happened when Beckham came to Melbourne and now is happened with Ronaldo

This sort of thing irritates the bejesus of some Association Football fans.  Mainly because they feel that many in the AFL fraternity have been against Association Football in Australia, but when the glamorous teams come they fall over each other to get some attention. Somehow they feel that they are gate crushing on a party that should be exclusively be for those who like the code.  Not trying to get some reflected attention that they are not entitled to.

I used to get a bit pissed off too (despite being a card carrying Carlton member, and I like AFL) But now I really see it like Philip Micallef.


But there is one photo that has raised my attention.

I love Melbourne – a lot, but I irk at the statement ‘The most liveable city in the world’ (even when it goes down the ranks) and of course ‘sport capital’. I hate it because it smack of insecurity.

Being the second city in Australia, the media and politicians in Melbourne seems to behave like our city is the second born in a family that is jealous of the big sibling. And this is even more reflected by the AFL wanting desperately to grab some attention from the big team.

I was going to tweet back to Daniel Andrews that we play Association Football in Melbourne as well. If he hasn’t forgotten we have a soccer team representing Melbourne which is the current premier AND Champion. But no, he is taking a selfie with Ronaldo with a Sherrin.

This tells me two things. The first is what I tell some Association Football supporters that say that ‘Soccer is going to be number 1’. I don’t believe that is going to be the case (at least for a few generations if ever) especially here in Melbourne. The game of Australian Rules Football is so ingrained in the culture of this city that I think it will remain the main code in our city. And we should be fine with that. As I said before Association Football doesn’t need to be number one if the code finds its niche and it is sustainable. The fact that the Premier of Victoria chose to use the AFL ball thus re-enforcing the cultural idea that this is ‘Victoria’s game’ is confirmation (he could have chosen to have a few Melbourne Victory/City players instead).

Second it confirmed to me the inherent insecurity of the AFL not being an international sport. I wrote about this back in 2012. . Again the same way Melbourne jumps up and down to be noticed seems to happen a bit when the AFL wants to rub shoulders with the big boys of world football.

Let’s the AFL have a bit of fun. It is harmless and the main focus will be on the game where the ball will be round and the goals will have nets. The main game for those who love Association Football in Australia are things like the viability of the A-League and Free to Air TV. Those are the important things.

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No more Royal Commission show trials – We need the politics of positiveness.

View image | gettyimages.com

I haven’t written much about politics in my blog. Basically because there so much of it about and I really haven’t anything original that can contribute to the debate. Especially if it comes form professional political analysts.

However there is one thing that I feel compelled to say. This refers to the Royal Commission into Trade Unions. There is no question that it is politically motivated Royal Commission created by this government to inflict political damage to the Labor Party and the labour movement as a whole. Many commentators have said so, even though they can’t resist amplifying the damage nevertheless in their approach to the story.

Overall I am in agreement with what Kristina Keneally has said on the whole matter.

But I also have to say that I am not a big fan of Shorten either. There is a great article by Jeff Sparrow that explains much better that I could my opinions about the opposition leader.

The royal commission’s an obvious political stunt, a manoeuvre designed to generate footage of yet another Labor leader grilled by lawyers in a courtroom setting. Will it damage Shorten’s political standing? Who knows.

He certainly came across as an uninspiring and slightly shifty bureaucrat, concerned more about his ambitions than anything else – but, then again, that’s pretty much the persona with which we’re familiar from his parliamentary career.

I think many of us hope for a Shorten’s win just to get rid of Abbott. But it is an uninspiring choice.  And the current ‘me too’ positions on things such as asylum seekers, the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill, and even voting against protecting the Liverpool Plains doesn’t give much sense of a different vision.

The ALP is now for same sex marriage but that position has arrived when they realised that many in the government were of the same opinion and I suspect are now using this to maximise the discomfort of the Government.

And this is where the political discourse has got to.  There’s no need for me to write a about the disenchantment in the electorate feels at the moment.  Waleed Ali has written about it a couple of days ago and he explains it much better than I could.

What I want to say is that when the ALP returns to government (may not be next election though) it should resist the temptation to set up its own ‘Royal Commission’ as a revenge act.  Kim Carr has already flagged that this may be the case.

This came from a statement  on the ABC’s PM program.

KIM CARR: One can only wonder where it leads Australia? We are turning a very dark corner here when it comes to the use of state power in an attempt to silence political opponents.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Senator Kim Carr indicated Labor may seek payback.

KIM CARR: The Labor Party, when it returns to office, will be under incredible pressure to respond to this precedent. It is the sort of issue that would make a very good royal commission, such as inquiries into how the Liberal Party funds its operations. Its fundraising arm has of course been subject to considerable attention in recent times, particularly with its links with the mafia, and I can see a circumstance where a Labor government would be under pressure to respond to the precedent that Mr Abbott has set with his royal commission.

Under pressure?  From whom?  I am sure that Labor supporters would love to see high level officials squirm and be under pressure as they have done to Rudd, Gillard and Shorten.  But I would urge the ALP to resist this tit for tat.

Mahatma Ghandi is attributed to have said “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind”.  It is time to raise the politics away from the negativity that it find itself into.

The politics is so negative, so imbued with the narrative of threat of fear that it casts a pall over the whole Australian society.

Instead of looking at challenges with an outlook that we can deal with them, intelligently and capably and positively we are all stuck in this negative swamp.

It’s time to get out of the swamp.  Forget getting back to the Liberals about their Trade Union Royal Commission.  It’s time to see ourselves as a successful positive society that thrives of knowledge, ability and compassion rather than being cajoled into fear and inaction and anger by a narrative wanting us to be there for their political advantage.

Someone already faced an incumbent leader who was using fear and war to win power.  He won by offering positiveness and hope.  It can be done.


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Why some people have to sully a beautiful thing (Women’s football)

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Making sense of the National Club Identity Policy – Whose side are you on?


Melbourne Croatia were prevented to have these shirts by the National Club Identity Policy

There was a flurry of commentary on the internet about whether a team from Perth. Gwelup Croatia could be allowed to keep their name when playing for the FFA Cup. For those who may not know, the FFA instituted a National Club Identity Policy for all clubs affiliated to FFA-approved competitions, which stipulates that clubs do not carry any ethnic, national, political, racial or religious connotations either in isolation or combination. This policy has pushed the buttons of many in the community.  As I have written before in this blog, Association Football has tried to shake off the image of being a ‘sport for migrants’ therefore ‘not for Australians’ for a long time.  In the early 90’s the then Chairman of Soccer Australia dictated that all ‘ethnic’ names be removed from the teams.  Even prompting a politician  to question this as ‘ethnic cleansing’ in Parliament. Aldred This made many fans of the ‘traditional’ clubs wary of any attempt of wiping out references to their traditions. The introduction of new clubs in the NSL with no cultural links were seen with suspicion. As a Carlton Soccer Club fan I do remember some hostility from some fans of the more traditional teams towards Carlton SC and the schadenfreude when Carlton SC went bust.

When  Soccer Australia was disbanded and the A-League was formed, teams with connections to cultural groups became as popular as a turd in a lunchbox. .  The traditional teams such as South Melbourne, Melbourne Knights and Marconi were excluded and teams with no cultural backgrounds (such as Perth Glory) and brand new teams were included in the competition.  To add insult to injury, these traditional teams were seen as undesirables.  A bit like when Hindley humiliates Heathcliff by locking him in the attic in Wuthering Heights, these teams were shut out. “Old Soccer vs New Football’ was the motto. The fact that this initiative was being implemented by someone who did belong to ‘old soccer’, Frank Lowy who was involved in an ‘ethnic team’ added fuel to the fire.  The dislike (putting it mildly) amongst some football fans is palpable.

I still believe that the situation for Football in Australia was so dire that a clean break was necessary. The Crawford Report was the best thing to have happened for the code (the fact that all its recommendations haven’t been implemented is another story).  I could also see the reasoning why the FFA wanted to create a ‘new brand’.  Unfortunately we live in a market where perception is vital, and unfortunately traditional teams did portrayed Association Football as something as an import. I knew that this wasn’t necessarily right.  Whether your heritage is from Greece or Croatia you are as much Australian and in the spirit of multiculturalism the culture is as much part of the country as one coming from Britain and Ireland.  However in the cold fact of the sporting market this is not the case.

Many who supports the actions of the FFA refer to the dire situation the NSL found itself in the last years of its existence.  The attendances were paltry.  Even a derby between Sydney Olympic and Sydney United attracted 4,327 people.  But most attendances were around the 1K mark.  And of course no much of a media exposure. Some argue that this wasn’t necessarily the fault of the teams.  And that may be true.  Again it comes back to perception.

Since the formation of the FFA and the A-League, talking with people who followed the NSL, or are following their traditional teams I understand much more the emotional impact that the advent of the FFA and the A-League had on them.  These teams were part and parcel of their identity.  These were the teams created by their fathers and grandfathers.  These were the teams where they spent their childhood.  Being prevented to participate in the highest competition in the country and being told they were part of a ‘problem’ and ignored must hurt. So when the FFA Cup came along where these teams were able to go back to a national level, the NCIP was rubbing salt into the wound, re-traumatising again. Joe Gorman wrote a great article in the South of the Border blog about the NCIP.  In there he writes:

It’s a depressing irony – Australia’s first genuinely multicultural sport has internalised the logic of assimilation and unleashed its toxic influence on the few remaining clubs that wish to retain the most visible symbols of their identity. Ultimately, we need to move away from the idea that this is an issue simply for football. Someone  recently told me the NCIP is for the good of “the whole of the game in 2015”. My response was that I do not care for the good of the whole of the game in 2015. I care for the good of people and communities in 2015, and hope to see that expressed through soccer.

Gorman makes two very interesting points in this statement.  One is “Australia’s first genuinely multicultural sport has internalised the logic of assimilation” .  Football was not really ‘multicultural’.  It was infact monocultural as its most important teams associated themselves with one culture.  A Croatian culture, a Greek culture and so on.  And here lied the part of the problem in the perception of the sport in the late 90’s.  This monoculturalism presented a barrier for these teams to attract a broad spectrum of fans.  This is what the FFA tried to do with the A-League.  There was a lot of talk about ‘uniting the tribes’ whenit was formed.

The other is “not caring for the good of the whole of the game in 2015 but caring for the good of people and communities in 2015, and hope to see that expressed through soccer”. I think that in some cases, what communities believe is good for them may not necessarily be healthy for the game as a whole.  I remember discussing the advent of the A-League to a committed South Melbourne supporter.  I was espousing what I said above. That the A-League was necessary the appeal of football. That unfortunately, the perception amongst many was that the sport had become an enclave for certain groups.  He responded that he didn’t really care about how popular the sport was or if Australians of Anglo background came to watch.  He was happy with the 1,000 – 2,000 fans attending a match that was largely ignored by the mainstream media because that what he wanted and what the people who went to the matches wanted. Of course that may not be the general attitude.  But I do think we would make a mistake if we were to look as the Soccer Australia/NSL days as a time where the game was a more wholesome and community based game.  My perception wasn’t so. It was a game which was marginalised in the sport culture of Australia, and the idea that the game belongs solely for the benefits of certain communities would have condemned it to remain so.

The way forward

While I believe that the break from a broken NSL had to be made and the perception of soccer being a ‘game for migrants’ had to be made, the FFA was far too brutal in erasing the traditions of the past. The implementation of the NCIP shows that the FFA is still locked in a mindset that is now outdated.  The A-League despite all its problems has been a relative success.  We have now arrived at a point that any demonstration of ethnicity can be seen as an asset, rather than a burden.

The images of souvlakis being sold at Bentleigh’s Kingston Heath Soccer Complex may have irritated some.  But it proved that football can provide an identity which is totally different for any other sport.  So let’s drop the NCIP.  Teams can acknowledge their traditions, fans of traditional teams won’t feel like they have been entrapped in am Anglo white picket fence and it may even attract more fans because of the type of different community such teams and games can offer.


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FIFA scandal and Australia. Ethics and politics

The unraveling of FIFA is something that certainly is intriguing many of us on many levels. It is becoming a reality TV show that mixes Nordic Noir with Italian Mafia intrigue series.  The dawn raid.  The re-election of Blatter – only to ‘resign’ a few hours later, and the inevitable revelations of corrupt officials is something that it will be certainly compelling.

This is going to be good

Something for everyone

But the reactions have been certainly different.  For most football fans it was a rejoicing that finally something may act as a circuit breaker for an organisation that it was a rule in itself.  Because FIFA wasn’t behold to any government that had a sense of propriety or democratic processes, it could do what it wanted.  Until FIFA overstretched and US individuals and a USA company conspired to commit crimes with foreign co-conspirators using USA financial institutions, in order to exploit USA and foreign markets.  We may feel fuzzy warm when we hear Loretta Lynch talk about ‘cleaning the most popular game in the world’  But the real reason is that corrupt FIFA officials were corrupting using USA capital organisations .  And this is unacceptable in the most important capitalist country in the world.

So the reactions was from football people being really happy.

To people who hate football using the opportunity to shit stirring.

But it was strange to read tweets and comments from people who normally I think couldn’t care less about Association Football, immediately becoming experts in football administration.  One of this was Senator Xenophon who became immediately an advocate for FIFA reform.  He certainly got quite a bit of media attention, which he lapped up with much glee.

Australia’s role

All bound into this was the discussion about our bid for the 2022 World Cup.  Firstly I have to say that this is something that has to be investigated.  Any spending of taxpayers’ money has to be examined if there is any suspicion that it may have been misappropriated . However this topic has brought up quite a intricate number of arguments.  One is the fact that Australia should go it alone and ‘take a lead’ in FIFA reform.  This is echoed by the investigative journalist Andrew Jennings

Lots of credit must undoubtedly go to Jennings about his relentless work in exposing FIFA for years.  Something that he has been proven right.  Despite this I think he comes across as a know it all and as this has become his personal crusade his interviews lack that sense of detachment that I think journalists should have. I also think he swaps and turns his arguments to suit his agenda at a particular time.  I wrote some years ago that he is no friend of football in Australia, being very dismissive of it. But recently exhorting Australia to leave FIFA

Which is a curious suggestion considering four years ago he stated that football in Australia was a minority sport and we are not a ‘football nation’.  If that is the case then us getting out of FIFA would be of no consequence.

But interestingly even if I don’t agree with his dismissal of football as a sport in Australia he should have stuck with this statement if he wanted to be accurate about how realistically Australia has influence in the politics of world football…very little.

The high moral ground

Apart from Andrew Jennings telling us to get out of FIFA, there also have been others who have proclaimed that Australia should boycott the 2022 World Cup.

There are two different issues here (which are albeit connected).  One is FIFA and how that organisation has used graft and corruption for the personal benefits of officials.  The second one (and much more important) is the exploitation of foreign workers in Qatar and their appalling conditions.

On the first question I believe that Australia is a relative minnow in world football terms and any gesture such as leaving FIFA would not make one iota of difference.  It may make some feel like we ‘took the moral ground’ but in the end it would basically destroy viable football in Australia, and FIFA would still carry on happily and our absence won’t be noticed.  Same about boycotting a World Cup, which to be honest it seems to me comes from someone who know little about football in Australia and its history and struggles.  Coulter’s call to boycott the Qatar World Cup ignores the fact that a World Cup is not like the Olympics where you just turn up. A nation has to go through a qualification process.  So if anything Australia would have to withdraw from the qualification round.  Again our absence will be largely unnoticed and perhaps it may make some dictatorship in the Middle East very happy that a World Cup spot would be free once we were out of the way.  And do you think that our absence would make the Qatari think “shit, Australia is going to boycott our Word Cup we better treat our workers fairly” ?

Of course the argument is also that it doesn’t matter whether we make a difference or not.  Making a stand is the ethical thing to do.  But in that case we shouldn’t have gone to the Beijing Olympics where workers were also exploited. And let’s forget about Rio de Janeiro as well considering the forced eviction of poor people from the city.  The fact is that these big sport events involve massive amounts of money and when we talk about profit is the poor and the workers getting abused.

I am not saying that this is right. Not at all.  What I am questioning is whether Australian soccer should be the sacrificial lamb to uphold our morality, while other sports escape scot free.

That doesn’t mean that Australia should do nothing.  Australia should so what it had done in successfully in diplomatic circles for years. Support and work within a group of more powerful football nations for change.

What about the FFA? 

“Never ascribe to malice that which can be explained by incompetence”. Robert J. Hanlon

Parallel to that we also have questions about the conduct of the FFA, Frank Lowy and the role of some media figures such as Les Murray.  Claims and counterclaims have swirled around social media since the FIFA arrests.

I got lots of information second hand.  As I was not part of the inner workings of the bid I have no authority of what really went on.  All I have to form an opinion is what people have reported.

One of the persons I believe the most is Bonita Mersiades.  Bonita lost her job after querying the tactics of consultants working on Australian bid for the 2022 World Cup, and now actively involved in advocating for a total reform of FIFA.

People like Bonita and Jesse Fink questioned the bid both at the FFA and at SBS and obviously became persona non grata.

There is no doubt that Mersiades and Fink were treated badly for holding an ethical line.  I was irritated by Fink’s questioning of FIFA and the bid process because I thought that Australia having the World Cup was the best thing ever.  I imagine that if I was part of the ‘bid team’ I would have kept quiet, thinking that the prize of a World Cup would be worth not raising too many issues.

I do wonder whether this mindset (if this was what was happening at the FFA – only speculating) derived from the belilef that there have been some greasing of palms in previous bids and we had to go along with it if we had any chance to be competitive.  But more importantly from the sense of inferiority that we football as the football community developed over the years as being derided as the ‘Wogs, sheilas and poofter’ sport.

Here is a chance to get the biggest sport event in the world that would have dwarfed all other codes…all other sports in the country.  We would have all the attention.  Soccer would reign supreme.  And perhaps this may have clouded some judgments.  ‘Whatever it takes’ is a motto that has put sport in trouble before.  Just ask the Essendon Football Club.

Who knows whether this is what happened to people like Les Murray.  Another ‘Murray’, Martin McKenzie Murray has written a devastating expose of the role of Les Murray (and Frank Lowy) in the bidding process. Especially in engaging Peter Hargitay to consult on the bid which Martin McKenzie Murray describes as ‘unctuous’.

And what about Frank Lowy?  Again a few in the media (and social media) are clamoring for his resignation.  Andrew Jennings amongst them who have stated in an interview that ‘ He’s led Australian football into disaster’ which really is hyperbole.

Lowy is no saint.  He’s a wealthy capitalist, and as all wealthy capitalists would have exploited opportunities and cut corners.  Back in 2008 his family’s finances were audited by the Taxation Office when a US Senate report alleged he hid assets to avoid Australian tax.  Lowy stated that he did anything wrong but the mentality of an entrepreneur is that you search and use any possible advantage.  And when Australia bid for the World Cup Lowy did just that.  He decided to ‘play the game’ as he believed others bidding nations were doing and did before.


Sepp Blatter giving Johnny Warren FIFA’s Centennial Medal of Honour.

There were two problems with that.  One was that it got Australia involved in some corrupt schemes and shady deals and second that while the FFA tried to ‘play the game’ it was outplayed by others who played the game much better or had more influence.

There is considerable hatred for Lowy amongst some in the Australian football community.  Most of this seem to come from ex NSL fans that see Lowy as instrumental in establishing the FFA and the A-League that excluded the traditional clubs such as South Melbourne and Sydney Olympic to be part of the top competition of football in Australia.  Lowy himself was part of the traditional NSL family being involved with Hakoah a Jewish team that then became Sydney City.  But as the crowds dwindled (in 1984 Sydney City average crowd was 1019) and Soccer Australia became dysfunctional Lowy tried to take hold of the game by unsuccessfully standing for the presidency of the ASF against Sir Arthur George.  Believing that the ASF and NSL leaders did not share his vision for the game he withdrew from both football and the presidency of Hakoah at the end of 1988.  Some claim that the demise of Hakoah started when Lowy initiated the Sydney City Slickers experiment, thus removing any ‘ethnic’ connection with the team.  And some believe that he has done that with the A-League and with teams participating in the FFA Cup.   Some also believe that His and Andrew Lederer’s long standing determination not to allow any sort of involvement by anyone else in the running and administration of Hakoah is repeating itself again in how he’s been running the FFA.  The way he ran the World Cup bid being one example and the other when John O’Neil contract was not renewed because of ‘creative tensions’ with Lowy.

While many will disagree with me, I believe that overall Frank Lowy influence on the game has been positive.  Since he became chairman of the FFA we qualified for World Cups, and despite inevitable hiccups the A-League is still with us, and getting more mainstream exposure than the NSL ever did.  Of course the World Cup bid is a big black mark.  A Sydney Morning Herald editorial on June 4 stated:

 For the good of the game he has done so much to develop in this country, Mr Lowy should step aside from FFA immediately until all questions can be resolved. There is no suggestion the shopping centre mogul has done anything illegal. He has a proud legacy to protect. But he must realise that if he stays during the inquiries, FFA will be sorely conflicted, doubts will linger and his hopes for a smooth changeover in five months’ time to his chosen successor, his youngest son Steven, will be jeopardised.

I don’t think Lowy should step down.  I think it would serve no purpose unless it is shown he was directly involved in anything dodgy.  However I do believe that it would be very wrong for his son Steven to take over without proper consideration.  The FFA is not Westfield where Lowy can put whoever he wants in charge.  It is not Lowy’s plaything.  As Simon Hill rightly puts it “having the son take over the family business is accepted practice, in football (where there are many more stakeholders), it is not.”  The FFA is not a dictatorship like North Korea where the leadership gets handed over from father to son.

At least the FFA has done a couple of right moves recently.  It hasn’t voted for Blatter in the election for president, and has decided not to bid for any further FIFA events until it gets a “overhaul”.

The way the bid has to be conducted has to be investigated. Lowy succession has to be open and fair, and Australia must be part of a movement to reform FIFA with other nations, rather than going on its own in a futile blaze of glory.  This processes will strengthen Association Football this country and potentially position it to be an influential member of the football world community.

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The link between Goodes’ dance and soccer

As a long-suffering Carlton supporter here I was watching my team being demolished again.  As  I do when I watch a game at home I was on tweeter.  Goodes scores a goal and to be truthful I didn’t pay lots of attention to his celebrations or the commentary.  Was yet another goal against us.

But then twitter exploded about his post goal celebrations.  Some thought it provocative.  Some thought it as a great way to celebrate his heritage in a round which is supposed to celebrate aboriginal heritage and tradition in Australian Rules Football.

For the record I thought that it was great what he did.  And I would say as a Carlton supporter that it was great he involved us in an indigenous celebration (I mean, we were getting slaughtered anyway).

But as I was reading the reactions on twitter something immediately came to my mind.

Many have written about why Goodes was singled out.  One of the main issues is because Goodes refuses to play the game of being the good aboriginal who is part of the mainstream.  He refuses to be part of those outsiders (such as Andrew Bolt and Rita Panahi) that desperately seek acceptance by verifying the most bigoted and right wing views in Australia.  He confronts the fact that he  comes from a culture which was invaded and almost wiped out by colonisation.  This in an environment (Aussie Rules) which has strong assimilation sentiment.

One of the things that attracted me to VFL in the 1970’s was that there was lots of Non English Speaking Background (NESB) players, and this sort of made me feel welcome.  But later I realised that underneath that there was a strong undercurrent of assimilationist thinking. “you are in Australia now. You follow our sport”.

This was not uncommon.  Even included the current National Team coach, Ange Postecoglou.

Postecoglou’s family arrived in Melbourne in 1970 as migrants from Greece when Postecoglou was five. “All I wanted to do was fit in,” he says as we settle in and prepare for our protein. “So I rejected all the Greek culture . . . and I didn’t want people to know I was Greek. I wanted to play Aussie Rules and I remember the hatred Dad had for it and I didn’t understand why.”

But the little boy didn’t want anything to do with football (soccer)  at first, grappling with the vexed issue of assimilation, as many migrants do….

I’ve discussed what I think is the relationship between Australian Rules Football and multiculturalism before, so I won’t reiterate those arguments.  But the Goodes incident has implications about Australia views real diversity.

The same way Aussie Rules culture demands assimilation in what is perceived to be mainstream Australian culture from migrants, it showed that it demands that from indigenous Australians as well.

However here is where the AFL narrative comes unstuck.  While assimilationist culture can pinpoint at migrants as outsiders, this cannot be done to indigenous Australians.  The roles are now reversed.  The white mainstream culture becomes the outsider in this context, and this creates all sorts of conflicting emotions.  Especially when the AFL uses indigenous culture to affirm its ‘Australian uniqueness‘ against other codes.  When you have Goodes, an AFL champion, who has not been backwards in telling Australia about its racist attitudes towards Aborigines, expressing his culture during a match – especially during a round who is supposed to celebrate the indigenous tradition in the game – then some assimilationist chickens come home to roost.

In past decades, both migrants and aboriginal Australians were outsiders and Association Football was an ‘outsider’ game.  One of the most known activists for Aboriginal rights, Charlie Perkins,  (Kumantjayi Perkins) one of the most influential activist for aboriginal rights, he’s quoted on why he was attracted to the game.

“soccer brought me into the migrant community where I found great satisfaction, no prejudice, no history of bad relations, no embarrassing comments or derogatory remarks, they welcomed me into the fold and I’ve been there ever since”.

It is not inconceivable that in the 1950’s attitudes towards Aborigines would not have been much different in Victoria.  What the statement above demonstrates is at that time, an Aboriginal Australian felt as an outsider, and as an outsider found a home in what was considered by most then as the ‘wog game’

But things have changed since then and the AFL is to be commended to celebrate its Aboriginal players and traditions.  However the reactions to Goodes dance do highlight how much of a real insider someone who does not fit the mould can be even now.

Is things like an indigenous round another exercise of absorbing a culture into the mainstream Anglo/Celtic one and it is ultimately a way to make non-Aboriginal Australians feel good about themselves, papering over the actions of the past.  The way some fans and commentators have reacted it seems that there is tension on this area.  In today’s Offsiders on the ABC Waleed Aly made a very pertinent point that  Australian is a tolerant society until minorities demonstrate that they don’t know their place.

This argument can be carried in the way many commentators (and I suspect some that applaud Goodes action) perceive Association Football.  As long as it behaves within the parameters accepted by Australian mainstream society it can be tolerated.  However if it expresses a way of supporting which is perceived to be foreign is condemned. Even worse if these minorities Aly mentions use soccer, which is a sport that is part of their culture, to express their traditions.

That is why when the Football Federation of Australia (FFA) was formed, it deliberately created an A League cleansed with any reference to the non-English speaking cultural influences that nurtured Association Football especially after the Second World War.  It felt necessary to rid itself of any perceptions of being ‘ethnic’ that of being an outsider.  Perhaps that was a price to pay for becoming mainstream.  But the fear of being a ‘foreign sport’ remains. A couple of years ago the FFA initiated the  FFA Cup a competition which included A-League teams as well as teams whose origins were from diverse cultural background. The FFA felt it necessary to enact a National Club Identity Policy to ensure clubs do not  “carry any ethnic, national, political, racial or religious connotations either in isolation or combination.’

Goodes action on Friday did carry an ethnic, racial and religious connotations.  It proves that when it comes to sport in Australia you have to act within a certain set of parameters.  Parameters that seems to be set by a ‘white picket fence’ set of values.
As this set of values may approve the unique atmosphere a soccer crowd can produce without taking into account its cultural connections, they also like the image of Australian Rules being ‘our Australian game’ with its perceived aboriginal origins and having indigenous players.  However, when these values are challenged the criticism comes thick and fast.
Because sport is such a central part of Australia’s culture and as a vehicle to define its identity, reactions to what happens in a stadium can be very revealing.  And unfortunately not all of what it is revealed is encouraging.


Filed under Football