Twitter is a great place for code wars spot fires. Football fans know that #Sokkahtwitter can be unforgiving.
This week’s blue started with an article by Simon Hill.
— FOX SPORTS Football (@FOXFOOTBALL) November 9, 2017
The article was prompted by a joking remark by comedian Peter Helliar (and aided by Waleed Aly who should have known better) about Honduras crime reputation.
Helliar’s throwaway line (which I’m not going to repeat here), was intended to be a light-hearted dig, but it’s easy to see why the Hondurans – who have been warm and generous hosts – failed to see the funny side. It’s a timely reminder that humour doesn’t always travel well.
In this context, Hill makes some good points.
There is still a cultural misunderstanding among certain elements in Australia, as to just how important these big qualifiers really are. Particularly for countries who showcase themselves through football – a sport which, in this part of the world, comes second only to Catholicism as the national religion.
There remains too, a wilful, almost belligerent ignorance to the opportunities that games such as these present for the promotion of positive Australian values abroad, and how unique football is in providing the extraordinary type of atmosphere you’ll witness through your TV screens on Saturday morning.
Sadly, that’s because the national narrative remains stuck in a parochial loop when it comes to the conversation around sport in general. Into the vacuum comes prejudice, intentional or not, dressed up as humour.
So far so good. I do agree with Simon that the mainstream media, with notable exceptions, may lack that awareness which sees sport in an international setting. This may be partly because the most popular sports may have no real international dimension (such as aussie rules) or a relatively more limited one (Rugby Union and Cricket).
But then Simon goes on to diss other sports.
If you’re looking for serious analysis, then the mainstream media finds it far easier to talk about the Ashes, discuss the latest AFL scandal, or examine (with faux earnestness), the made up entities that masquerade as nations at the Rugby League World Cup………
After her exploits at the Tournament of Nations, Kerr (and her Matilda’s teammates) became the hot ticket item for a period of time – yet the conversation soon reverted to type. She was continuously referenced as the “sister of Daniel Kerr”, and more than one reporter suggested her next logical move was into the AFLW.
Er, no. It isn’t actually. Why on earth would Kerr give up shots at the Asian Cup, the Women’s World Cup, and the Olympics (all in the space of the next three years), to take part in a six-week hit and giggle-fest on the suburban fields of Melbourne? Or the international acclaim and money she earns playing professionally in the USA?
To criticise the stereotyping of Honduras as a dangerous place is one thing. But why Hill needs to then take aim at other codes? I am not a Rugby fan but Rugby League fans I am sure are enjoying it, and describing the AFLW as a ‘six-week hit and giggle-fest on the suburban fields of Melbourne” is wrong and bordering offensive.
True that when the AFLW came on the scene it seemed like women’s sport did not exist beforehand. And this was amplified here in Melbourne by the strong AFL media, but the dismissing the significance of a Woman’s AFL competition, it as Hill has done, shows a lack of understanding on the personal importance of the AFL to many women. The daughter of one of my best friends has written a great article about this which very clearly demonstrate that the meaningfulness of the AFLW is much more than a “hit and giggle-fest”. By doing this Hill is doing the same as soccerphobes. Imagine if an AFL writer described the W League in this way. #Sokkahtwitter would be rightly in uproar.
Now let’s talk about Wil Anderson. This is how he reacted to Simon Hill’s article
How strong is your sport when it can’t survive a comedian making a joke? https://t.co/PryWE0SWTL
— Wil Anderson (@Wil_Anderson) November 10, 2017
I quite like Wil Anderson as a comedian. But I suspect he’s no friend of football. Apart from portraying football as ‘your sport’, he podcasts about AFL. In October he joined Triple M’s breakfast show which hosted by that well known soccerphobe Eddie McGuire. And if we have any doubts about his position we can see this follow up tweet.
Maybe next time a joke doesn’t work I’ll fall down and fake an injury, that should make him feel at home https://t.co/gNagqAGztQ
— Wil Anderson (@Wil_Anderson) November 10, 2017
The interesting thing here is that Anderson is showing exactly what Simon Hill was writing about. The criticism of Hilliar joke wasn’t about ‘the sport’ but the fact that it portrayed Honduras as a dangerous place, even more dangerous than ISIS. The assumption that football, the global sport by excellence, could not ‘survive’ is plainly ridicolous. Honduras is not the same like joking about South Australia and bodies in a barrel (whether that is tasteless or not). Taking the piss may be fine in Australia but not in other parts of the world and doing does show up the parochialism of some Australians. Anderson’s position tends to reinforce what Hill was saying that the world offered by a local sport such as AFL is a world “we” can process and understand. The world on our terms.
Ultimately I think it is important criticise the attitude towards football. It is important to highlight what Hill describes as ‘introspective thinking’ among some in the mainstream media. But focus on the commentators not on the sports themselves, otherwise it is repeating what we football supporters experience from soccerphobes but in reverse.
Finally I leave the last word to Richard Hinds who summarises the whole thing beautifully.
Simon is a brilliant commentator and makes a good point about respecting other countries. But his belligerence towards other sports is self-defeating.
— Richard Hinds (@rdhinds) November 10, 2017