There only one word about it. A tweeter shitstorm has been occurring amongst football fans and some members of the media. About the the Etihad Chairs incident (surely to get a TV Underbelly treatment soon) and consequently comments made by some about the behaviour of soccer fans etc. etc.
I am fairly certain that most people reading this would know the whole sorry saga. But for a nice summary you can read an article written by Michael DiFabrizio in ‘The Roar’.
That article also points out that The ‘us against them’ mentality no point to any of it.
Both sets of fans are right and both sets of fans are wrong. Some of what they say is bang on, some is well off target.
Ultimately, they can keep throwing grenades at each other until the cows come home, but unless everyone on each side takes the time and effort to become truly informed on what’s happening either side of the fence, there really is no point.
In fact, you don’t need to jump the fence to realise there isn’t a point.
Michael is absolutely right. However it may be useful to perhaps think where all this outrage comes from.
When SOME commentators who are more fans of Australian Rules Football, rather than Association Football comment about Association Football they have the tendency to use a language of exclusivity. Overall, while I disagreed with most of it Ms. Panahi article, it wasn’t neither here or there (even though we heard the arguments before). But she started with the statement: “And let’s set the record straight: it is called soccer in this country. Football is played with an oval ball on an oval ground.” Some (and that includes me) may go ‘meh’, I don’t really mind. But for some it reads like: “We – AFL supporters – will decide how your sport will be called. It’s called soccer. We don’t give a fig if it’s called football in other countries. Football is reserved for games of the mainstream (AFL + NRL) while your sport is something else. It doesn’t belong in here. It’s not in the same league”
Oversensitive? Perhaps. But I have noticed that many reasonable and thoughtful writers such as Michael that may (and I am ready to be corrected) not have followed Association Football for many years, either because they were following something else, or they are too young, tend to be surprised and question the reaction. But after decades of being told that the sport we love was basically a second class citizen this has developed a sensitivity amongst the supporters.
Think of the time when there were no defenders in the media for Association Football AT ALL. When we missed out for qualification for World Cups for thirty years, and some of our fellow Australians instead of commiserating with us were scornful (It’s a shit sport anyway mate, who cares joining all those primadonnas at the world cup etc. etc. ). All those jibes at work, and especially at school, where in many cases the Aussie Rules/Cricket boys were the exhaulted ones , while those playing soccer were ignored at best, or labelled wogs or sissies.
Then you can understand the irritation towards media outlets such as 3AW virtually ignoring Association Football, even when attendances match or even exceed cricket and Rugby League ones but taking notice only when something negative happens – and when it does emphasising the ‘nor part of Australia culture’ argument.
Michael and other journalist take the example of what’s happening with the drug scandal at Essendon at the moment as proof that the AFL is not spared scrutiny. Which is true. Just read the scathing article today by Caroline Wilson: “Would you want your son playing AFL footy?” But rarely I’ve seen Association Football journalists, hoeing into AFL and questioning it’s existence and value in Australian culture like SOME AFL journalists or at least AFL friendly media personalities such as Tom Elliot.
Perhaps this unawareness of the resentment some of us carry about how Association Football is treated is why when some commentators such as Ms. Panahi criticise the sport she is startled by the backlash. Many twitters have written that we (Association Football fans) have been taking shit for years but now we’re fighting back.
But perhaps we should try ‘fighting fair?’ Of course it takes two, and we know that some media outlets like to antagonise Association Football fans (they must get a shitload of hits). If that is the case we perhaps just not engage. After all after these ‘Soccer Shame’ media hype have occurred regularly since the inception of the A-League and despite attendances going up and down we do get plenty of people watching, especially in Melbourne. Both at Etihad and AAMI Park I am literally surrounded by families, so whatever they say doesn’t really affect things much. When we get the comment ‘the sport will never grow because of the hooligans’ it is false. The game has grown and it continues to do so.
We don’t have to be touchy. Ms. Panahi has written uninformed articles, but offensive, misogynistic and racist comments directed at her are unacceptable and drags us all down. Also I think we need to be more sophisticated in identifying commentators who are against our sport denying its value instead of being angry against anyone who makes a criticism (whether justified or not). So for instance Rebecca Wilson is a confirmed soccerphobe that will take any opportunity to belittle Association Football in Australia and its place in the sporting culture. But then you have writers such as Greg Baum and Richard Hinds that have written complementary and critical articles about Association Football. But because they have been writing a lot about Australian Rules (after all whether we like it or not it is the most popular code in Melbourne) even critically they are suspect and ‘AFL stooges’ which it is not really the case. All I can say is ‘Know thy enemy’
Perhaps it is also time to shrug off the feeling of inferiority. We are not wogball anymore and now we are in a position that if someone demeans our sport we can laugh not get angry. When we go to the finals and we are together with 40,000 of our brotherhood/sisterhood we’ll know that a silly article will be in next day’s recycling bin, and that one radio commentator is really there to re-enforce prejudices of people who will not come to a match anyway and is there to sell denture adhesives. Nothing to get hot under the collar about.