Australian soccer fandom in need of psychotherapy.

In the new movie ‘A dangerous method‘ the first scene sees a hysterical Sabina Spielrein (played by Keira Knightley) in a coach being taken to a psychiatric hospital.  We later finds out that the reasons for her mental state is because of being punished severely from her father.

Lest me making comparison between serious mental states and football, but I couldn’t help reflect on yet another example of how some of us, as football fans, tend to react to what is happening to the sport.  Like a patient prone to melancholia and anxiety  it seems to me that perhaps negativity and dread is imprinted in Australian football psyche.  Maybe after decades  of being belittled being followers of a sport that was for (as Johnny Warren said)  ‘wogs, poofs and shelias’ may have created a situation where many of us fall into feeling low and despondent when something negative happens in football.  Also some go into some sort of perverted Stockholm Syndrome where some fans tend to join the chorus of those who denigrate Association Football in Australia .

The air of negativity is ever present.  Things that may happen are not seen as opportunities but as a sign that we are stuffed, that football in Australia is doomed and it is hopeless.  The latest example has been the announcement that the FFA will announce a new Western Sydney team today. I also believe that it is too early.  That the FFA should take more times to establish links with the local communities.  And that Western Sydney is traditionally a football area and the team should be given all the chances of success by proper planning.  However from the comments I heard it seems that this will be a total disaster. It will end in tears. It will doom the sport forever etc. etc.  This comes mainly from some Gold Coast fans pissed off that their team has been shunted for this Western Sydney team, and say they will never follow the A-League again and hope it fails. Those from places such as Canberra and Tasmania who believe they had already clubs well planned and ready to go, and will never follow the A-League again and hope it fails.  And the inevitable ‘traditional’ fans from ex NSL teams that are still outraged that their Greek/Italian/ etc. inspired team wasn’t included and wishes a total failure on the new team and continue never to follow the A-League and hope it fails.

While the disappointment and the anger from these sets of fans is understandable I am still struck by the red mist  behind those comments where it looks to me that they would rather have the A-League (and consequently the whole sport) fail in Australia because they didn’t get their own way.  I am also struck that this negativity is reflected in many comments from fans in cyberspace.

Now, before I go any further I have to agree with many that many aspects of the FFA’s management of the sport leaves something to be desired.  From the start the arrogant way traditional football teams and their fans were treated was a disgrace.  The fact that many at the helm were not football people, and consequently weren’t aware of the history of Association Football in Australia  didn’t help.  The perception that they went for the glittering price of the World Cup at the expense of local grassroots was a major blow.  An this with the belief that North Queensland Fury was created for the bid and then cut asunder when it failed.  The bid also raised questions about the all FFA accountability with that bid.  Also the whole Gold Coast United – Clive Palmer disaster has confirmed views that the FFA is not competent and worse not listening.  However the FFA hasn’t been a total disaster.  Whatever are its problems the A-League is still up and running.  Also let us not forget that we are in Asia which is extremely beneficial for football in Australia and also we qualified for two World Cups in succession, something that we could dream of only 15 years ago or so. (For a great run-down of negatives and positives of the FFA Michael Lynch did an article on it)

So I read comments in forums, or tweets where football fans after a loss in the youth team say that we will not qualify for another World Cup for another generation at least.  Or that no one cares about the A-League and the competition is doomed when one match draws a small crowd (when perhaps another match draws a healthy one).  What strikes me about these comments is that they echo many of those done by the soccerphobes.  Why we want to join them?

Many would say that we should not have rose coloured glasses.  That there are problems and should not be ignores.  And they are right.  But as any pop psychology book you pick up from the local book store will tell you, often the feelings of anxiety and negativity are caused by how we react to events, rather than the event itself.

A stark difference is how AFL fans and commentators react to negativity in their sport comparing to football ones.  Imagine if something like the Mifsud controversy happened at the FFA.  There would be a torrent of doom and gloom comments form football supporters on how the FFA lost the plot, how they could not find their way out of a paper bag etc. etc.  and that soccer is doomed in this country.  Sure.  The ‘non-football media’ would have had a field day with their ‘soccer own goal’ un-imaginative headlines (as we have seen with the Clive Palmer saga, does anyone now bothers about him?) but do we have to join them?

It seems to me that when something negative happens in the ‘other codes’ it is perceived and commented as something to be looked at and overcome, while with Association Football is further proof that it is a ‘fatal blow’ and basically we should all pack up and go home.

We all know that in many ways the cards are stacked against Association Football in our country.  We have Australian Football and Rugby League which over the history of Australia have become the most popular codes.  Let’s not dispute that.  There will be many difficulties in the future and many mistakes done.  Let’s comment and criticise. We should not be un-critical cheer leaders.  But let’s be constructive and think about the progress of the sport.  Not using carping useless negativity that ultimately sides with the anti-soccer brigade that would like nothing better than  Association Football to be totally irrelevant in this country.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Australian soccer fandom in need of psychotherapy.

  1. The notion of soccer ‘dying’ in this country is a bit of a furphy for mine, whoever happens to utter the phrase. The national league was in trouble as was the national federation, but the game itself will always kick on. Why? Because people love to play the game, regardless of gender, age, or ability, even if the participant don’t particularly like soccer as a spectator sport.

    As for the negativity of Australian soccer fans, I’d prefer that to the conga line of suckholes that inhabit the AFL supporter ranks, who accept anything and everything foisted on them by headquarters.

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