How did I feel when I saw this in the front of the Herald Sun? A sense of anger, frustration and ultimately despondency. Of course we can see the Herald Sun as a bogan paper. But I think it goes much deeper than that. I have said for quite some time that I don’t want football to be treated as something ‘special’, I would like it to be treated as any other sport, but inevitably football is portrayed by the sections of the populist media as an intruder when it is perceived to threaten the dominant culture.
The debate about football vs soccer is an example of this. I think that it doesn’t matter how the game is called. Soccer is fine by me. However I do object when it is used to differentiate the code from other ‘footballs’. The insistence of calling the game ‘soccer’ instead of football which seems to be reserved for Australian Rules in Melbourne and Rugby League in Sydney demonstrate the desire of separating the round ball code as something different. The separateness of the game is also shown when the World Cup comes around when parts of the mainstream media treat football like a ‘new thing’ that Australians have just discovered, ignoring the fact that Australians, albeit not necessarily from the dominant anglo-celtic ancestries, have been playing the game for more than a century.
I have already discussed in other posts the way that football is seen as an influence changing the ‘Australian way of life’ by the right and a globalised ‘Mc Donald’ juggernaut on the left. While football remains a marginalised sport followed by a relatively small population then it is safe and tolerated, but once it gets some power then the knives are out.
The position is clear. Football is ‘soccer’ and has to stay in its place as the third code. A foreign import mainly followed by migrants. The AFL and the NRL have nothing to fear from the A-League that while it will grow (and it will encounter some setbacks, as it is normal) it will not threaten their dominance. The fear is from the huge international dimension of the game and its associated power in economic terms.
It is bad enough to have the Word Cup attracting some attention, the possibility of having the most watched event in the world in Australia, and worse the dominant codes playing the unaccustomed role of accommodating football and playing second fiddle is imaginable. We have already had articles bemoaning the government ‘wasting’ money on a code ‘Australians do not follow’ by funding the bid. It is important to stress that the AFL is perfectly entitled to protect its patch. And it also important to recognise that people who are AFL fans have the right to enjoy their sport with the minimum disruption and the possibility that the sport they enjoy may not be able to play for a period of time has to be taken into account.
But the fact that this debate has turned into ‘Aussie Rules fair dinkum ‘our game’ versus ‘Soccer foreign intruder, foreign game’ is very disappointing. I thought we progressed from this.