Why soccer fans jumped on #BallTampering #BallGate #SandpaperGate scandal

If you lived in Australia yesterday and read some of the reactions to the ball tampering scandal by the Australian cricket team it might have thought it was something like the bombing of Pearl Harbour, “A date which will live in infamy”.

For people like me that didn’t grew up with cricket some reactions felt a bit hyperbolic

Soccer fans on twitter were having a field day.  Especially after years of people like Malcolm Conn, the communication manager for Cricket NSW and Cricket Australia taking to twitter to slag soccer at the first opportunity.

Cricket as an expression of ‘Australianess’

The origin of this schadenfreude arises from being told that sports like AFL football and cricket are the ‘true blue’ Australian sports, and that sports like soccer are ‘foreign’ and ‘not Australian’.

When the World Cup comes around and the sport of soccer becomes too prominent to ignore the commentary of ‘we are different’ comes to the fore.  This is an example from Neil Mitchell in 2010.

That awful habit many soccer players have of falling down as though shot when an opponent brushes past. As Jason Akermanis wrote in this newspaper yesterday, it’s a blight on the code.

It’s embarrassing, frustrating, and humiliating. It leads to horrible mistakes that can cost a game when a player is sent off. It’s bad pantomime. It’s cheating. It is unfair and un-Australian.

I bolded the last word because this is the crux of the matter.  Australians see themselves as fair dinkum, a bit rough but fair.  And sport has been probably one area where they see this trait the most.  We might not be able to match the world in many things, but in sport we hold our own.  So sport is a really strong vehicle for identity to ourselves and to the world.  Even a former Socceroo has gone the full Monty in describing cricket as the ‘true national game’.

If you want an example of how cricket has been part of the hagiography of Australia you just have to listen to Paul Kelly’s obsequious song about Bradman.

There is also plenty of superiority imbued in Australian sport commentary, that somehow we are a superior breed of sportspeople because we don’t give up, we take on the odds, but most of all we don’t cheat.  This is what ‘lesser breeds’ of sport people do.  So when we have a blatant cheating action by the team that should by its heritage and traditions represent the highest values of Australian sport the dismay and gnashing of teeth is inevitable.  Cricket, has ‘fallen’ in the category that many place soccer….it’s ‘un-Australian’.

Perhaps this will be a good reality check.  That Australians are sport people like everyone else.  Prone to temptations and that all sport, whether it has been exalted to be the purest form of Australian sporting culture, or one that has been cultivated in migrants’ suburbs near factories in the post war period are all susceptible to human frailties.


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