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.
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
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
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:
Terrific, and all that. But you’d swear women never played until the AFL came along. And that there were no other successful womens sports.
— Greg Baum (@GregBaum) June 15, 2016
And another sport writer, Richard Hinds, responded jokingly
@GregBaum The AFL’s Messiah Complex now a Ms-siah
— Richard Hinds (@rdhinds) June 15, 2016
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.
I already have a world class, kick arse women’s football team to support.
— Francis Leach (@SaintFrankly) June 15, 2016
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
@GregBaum The point is women are getting their own elite competition – you know that thing men have had for ages.
— Angela Pippos (@angelapippos) June 15, 2016
AFL overseas competitions
— AFL InternationalCup (@AFLIntCup) May 25, 2016
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.
— Indian Link (@indian_link) August 26, 2014
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.
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.