Category Archives: Football

Posts about football. The round ball variety.

Rebecca Wilson. Football, Leyonhjelm and respecting a human being.

I really didn’t want to write this post very much, but as I got involved in twitter debates after the untimely death of Rebecca Wilson I decided I needed to explain my views on this matter.

Should we stop criticising someone just because they died?

I share somewhat the opinion that when someone dies he or she is shielded from criticism.  I think of this when the lives of those who died in terrorism attacks is reported in the media, they are always wonderful human beings. After a few year I remember someone questioning the account of the 3000 people who died in the 9/11 attacks that it was impossible that everyone would have been an absolute angel.

However we must also remember that everyone has a human dimension.  Rebecca Wilson was a soccerphobe, but that does not mean that her death at a relatively young age should be celebrated because ‘it is one less voice against football’ as some have tweeted.

She was a daughter, a sister, a mother and a wife of someone.  Her passing will give grief and pain to other human beings no matter what she wrote in a newspaper, and this will always have to be remembered.

Perhaps I feel strongly because Wilson was one year younger than myself, and I could think of the desperation I would feel facing a diagnosis like that when I have so much life to live, wanting to see my son grow perhaps having children of his own, and having that taken away.

Perhaps because this evokes memories on my brother in law, a healthy man who would ride his bicycle every weekend for hours, struck down by esophageal cancer at 56.  His daughter just had a baby three weeks ago, and he was not to share this event with her.

Perhaps people that tweet somewhat pleased that Wilson is no longer around to write against football are young and have been fortunate enough to experience the feelings that a cancer diagnosis of a loved one can have.

Why I criticise David Leyonhjelm’s tweet

This tweet by Senator David Leyonhjelm has created a huge backlash.  And I have criticised it myself.  Senator Leyonhjelm defends this tweet by bringing to attention her reporting of a leaked document about people banned by FFA (often for minor misdemeanours or even for wrong people) has seriously affected some people’s lives (being sacked from their jobs etc.) He put out this statement:

“Rebecca Wilson wrote a story in the Sunday Telegraph in 2015 in which she purported to name and shame fans of the Western Sydney Wanderers who she claimed had been banned by the Football Federation for loutish behaviour.  This was accompanied by photographs of the individuals.

“In fact, some of the people named had never been banned, some had been banned on spurious grounds, and some were under 18 and should never have been named even if they had legitimately banned”

“The response by fans was to boycott games, eventually forcing the FFA to modify its approach to banning fans and to treat them with decency and natural justice.”

“However, Western Sydney Wanderers fans never forgot Wilson’s failure to check facts or shabby treatment.  As I said in my tweet, I do not expect them to attend her funeral.”

“If you think that’s offensive, you need to get out more.  I stand by my tweet.  Furthermore, death does not suddenly absolve us of what we did when we were alive”

 

I have criticised Wilson in the past. And I stand by that now.

 

 

 

 

However, I believe there is a time and place. Wilson was wrong when she wrote that article, and it was shameful she ‘exposed’ minors, innocent people or made out that those who made minor infringements were ‘hooligans’. She didn’t like Association Football and she wrote negative things about it. That is not disputed. I also don’t dispute that when we will remember Rebecca Wilson this should be also be part of her legacy. But to make what could be construed as a lighthearted remark that Western Sydney fans would not attend her funeral just a few hours after her death I think is really insensitive.

The other issue is that what Leyonhjelm is counter-productive. I can see that for some fans, the positive eulogies in the media would have been perceived as unbalanced because her actions against A-League fans were not mentioned.

If the intention was to highlight the injustice meted out to the banned fans then the Senator did an ‘own goal’ by his timing and tone of the tweet, as all the attention and anger was towards him rather than on the issue he wanted to highlight.  Too ‘smart’ for his own good.

I can’t speak for Rebecca Wilson as I didn’t know her.  But from I can gather she was a strong woman and stood by her stories, even if most football fans felt they were biased and wrong.  I think that her actions and writing should not be whitewashed and same as maintaining a critical of them.

There will be plenty of times to talk about Rebecca Wilson the writer.  At this time we should let Rebecca Wilson, the daughter, the sister, the mother, the wife take precedence.

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When I have to fight my #codewar instinct.

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.

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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

 

AFL Rd 16 - GWS v Collingwood
Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

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

 

FOOTBALL-AFL-AUS-WOMEN
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:

And another sport writer, Richard Hinds, responded jokingly

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.

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

 AFL overseas competitions

 

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.

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.

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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.

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My favourite A-League Podcasts

iPhone with headphones

Picture by Casey Fiesler used under attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) licence

 

 

For someone following football in Australia podcasts are a godsend.

Of course you got SBS and if you have pay TV Fox Football.  But nothing beats the accessibility of loading a poddy on my old 512 MB iPod shuffle on my commute to and from work.

I also like the fact that the technology allows the average punter to be on the same platform with the professionals. So here’s what I listen…or try to during my A-League week.

Fox Football Podcast

FoxFootball

This podcast has all the commentators from the Fox Football stable, and it’s the only chance to listen to them for a Foxtel -less person like me.

They are professionals and it shows.  The way they interact with each other and talk to the microphone, and the quality overall shows that these people main job is to present on electronic media of some kind.  As I don’t watch Foxtel football shows I can’t say whether it may be more ‘informal’ than what they present on the telly, but certainly it feels that way, especially when Simon Hill exhibits his different impressions of a variety of English and Dutch accents.

The 442 Podcast

442FM-2015

Again here we have professionals, but in this case most from the print media.  This means that the discussion and information is great, and the sound quality also is not as good as (I suspect) unlike the Fox podcast they don’t have a studio to record it.  but I feel as print journos a bit more less constrained than the Fox Football people and they are not afraid to be quite critical of protagonists and issues in Australian football.

 

Ultimate A-League Podcast

Ultimate

I am not sure if  Justin Tickner and Kristian Dwyer who create this podcast (and the associated excellent A-League website) are in the ‘fully professional media people involved in football’  or not. Justin is the editor of the site and a developer at Interact Sport  and Kristian is a freelance sports journalist, a two-time WA media guild award winner, so they may be.  Nevertheless I place this as the best weekly podcast of people that we may not associate directly with being involved in the media aspect of football as their main pursuit.  As Justin and Kristian live in two different places Justin talks to a microphone while Kristian’s voice seems to come from a skype-type arrangement.  But this is ably dealt with and this podcast very ably delves into analysis and tactics, without digressing into side issues than often other podcast can do.

 

Daily Football Show

DFS

Starting in October last year, this new kid on the block originating from the people who run Outside90.com has become a favourite of mine.  As a daily show it is great to hook up the iPad and listen while I cook dinner. Mark van Aken has that easy aussie-type demeanor (despite his Dutch background) that is reminiscent of the AFL type banter you hear on MMM or SEN (and that’s a good thing).  Benny Jones and Adrian Houghton complement the show really well.  One of the main attractions for me is that it can go from being quite serious to being a free flowing free flowing thought stream.  It has had often interesting guests in players, coaches and team’s CEO.  Also it has journalists like Sebastian Hassett from the Sydney Morning Herald or Matt Windley from the Herald Sun talk about football.  One thing is also it shows quite a bit of passion especially form van Aken as it was shown when some section of the media show a bit of ‘soccerphobia’.

 

For Vuck’s Sake

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As a podcast for all Melbourne Victory fans presented by the unofficial fan forum at MelbourneVictory.net  this may not have a wide appeal.  However as a Melbourne Victory fan I think is great and certainly one of my favourite.

As Melbourne Victory’s season is unraveling badly, I rather like to hear fellow supporters reflecting my angst.  ‘Lord Maco’ and ‘Dante Hicks’ do a great job every podcast and being done as an amateur enterprise (and by amateur here I mean the original, positive meaning of the word, look it up) it feels like the podcasters have been trained in radio by the fact that they don’t talk over each other, you can hear them clearly and the show has a clear structure.

The added bonus of this show is that the presenters are music buffs and every podcast is interspersed with a musical theme.

Behind the game

BTG

We come now to a couple of podcasts where the culture and the history of football in Australia is what is discussed, rather than results, or the weekly analysis of competitions.

Brogan Renshaw focuses on sharing in-depth stories that may not have been explored by the mainstream media.  Such as the Assyrian refugee that now follows the Western Sydney Wanderers or how Lawrie McKinna went from Rangers in Scotland to becoming the Mayor of Gosford City Council.

 

By Association

association

By Association is a fairly new monthly podcast hosted by James Parkinson which also deals with storytelling  and the connections which exists in the football community world wide.
These are short and to the point podcasts, so I know I don’t have to set aside more than an hour to listen. It has just started but so far it has shown how wide ranging this podcast can be, from hearing of an Australian fan traveling to the UK just for a match to the story behind the composition of the European Champion’s League anthem.

This podcast shows that James put a lot of work behind it.  It is not just a microphone and an interview.  It is interspersed with music and additional audio information than makes it feel like what the ABC Radio National would have done if they did a program about football.

Other honourable mentions

There are so many podcasts out there that if I had to listen to all of them they would fill all my free time.  But there are three more that I’d like to mention.  Out of our aleague is the epitome of what you’d get if you combined anarchy with a fooball podcast.  I sounds like an iphone is placed on a table where a bunch of guys sit around on couches drinking beer (sometimes beer tops hitting a hard surface can be heard). It borders on the self-indulgent but out of this apparent chaos there are some genuinely hilarious moments.

The A-League Snobcast by Stama & Rob Toddler is again a funny take on the A-League.  The description on iTunes says it best: “Monthly look at the A-League from a football journalist and a complete idiot. An “anti-Euro-Snob” football show for A-League purists. Crazy musical interludes included.

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Flares and behaviour at the soccer. The elephant in the stands

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There has been so much stuff written and said about flares in the A-league that really I thought the last thing the issue needed was a blog post/

Besides I’ve written about this many time before:

https://accidentalaussie.wordpress.com/2015/05/20/supporting-football-in-australia-the-challenge-to-the-mainstream-culture/

https://accidentalaussie.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/behaviour-at-the-football-if-we-have-a-problem-what-are-the-solutions/

https://accidentalaussie.wordpress.com/2013/12/31/misbehaviour-at-the-football-the-triumph-of-the-immature-egoist-pt-2-or-groundhog-day/

https://accidentalaussie.wordpress.com/2013/02/05/misbehaviour-at-the-football-the-triumph-of-the-immature-egoist/

So I didn’t want to repeat myself.  But one thing that I think most commentators missed was the issue of identity.

Maybe because tying the this issue to soccer has become taboo.  This is what those dinosaur AFL/NRL troglodytes do, don’t they? We don’t want to be accused to use the ‘wogball’ card.

However that would be a really shallow way to look into it.  The reason why flares are used and persist to be used by a minority is, I think, partly bound in a mix of rebellion, assertive masculinity and asserting an identity which is outside what it is perceived to be the mainstream.

Sometimes when I have raised this issues before I have been accused of being an apologist for the flare rippers.  Nothing is further from the truth.  Just read the previous posts, and ask some original members of the Melbourne Victory fan forum where I have argued against flares even before the start of the A-League.  However I think that just saying flares are illegal and should not be brought to the stadium really does not help the debate or even perhaps how to address the problem.  Lots of things are illegal. Driving way out the speed limit or the legal alcohol limit, taking recreational drugs etc. an people still do it.  Finding reasons why this behaviour occur ans why it persists despite threats of sanctions against their teams is essential if we want to address the problem.

What I think it is very important to note is that while active fans are there to support the team, for many the more emotional investment is in the support group itself, than the team.  This does not mean the whole of the active group, just the one who identifies with the type of rebellious behaviour which involves things like flares.  Psychologists have studied different forms of social identification since the 1960’s where the perception of oneness is to belong to some human aggregate.  So in the case the fans who rebel, they may define themselves in terms of the groups they belong to.  They perceive themselves as an actual member of the group and as a consequence perceive the fate of the group as their own.

This is football support mate, Australia can like it or dump it

There’s a brand new tifo
but I don’t know its name
That people from bad homes
do again and again
It’s big and it’s grand
full of tension and fear
They do it over there but we don’t do it here

Flares! Turn to the left
Flares! Turn to the right
Oooh, flares!
We are the goon squad
and we’re coming to town
Beep-beep
Beep-beep

(with apologies to the great late David Bowie)

Go around social media associated with football and eventually the idea of the ultra comes up.

 

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These are distributed around and seen as an exciting way to support football and a demonstration about how football is supported in what it is considered overseas.

The fact that flares are considered ‘not things that are accepted in Australia’ and are illegal bounds together two things that are attractive to the supporter who takes flares in the ground.  The excitement of transgression, and the fact that it is a practical demonstration of rebellion against what is perceived as a mainstream Australian way to behave within a sport.

And here is where the tension occurs.  Comments of non football supporters against flares is that that sort of behaviour is unknown at the AFL or NRL is partly an attraction to those who rip flares.  The flare is a symbol that they don’t want to be white picket mainstream Australia, that they don’t want to support the game as the AFL or NRL is supported and that (as those tweets above demonstrate) that is the way football is supported around the world and if white picket mainstream Australia doesn’t like it they can shove it.  Families won’t come to the game? They don’t care.   They could be quite happy to have 2000 people instead on 30,000 if all can rip flares and being ultras.

This viewpoint was actually very articulately explained by someone in the Melbourne Victory’s fan forum

My real concerns over the flare issue is not so much as the ripping of flares itself, but rather the way in which the Australian establishment is using it to whip the active support of our football teams into being good little boys and girls, to sit quietly and perhaps, but not too loudly, cheer on our team. If you doubt this, the support, of the supporters whom in many ways make the atmosphere at matches, by our club owners is not to be found anywhere within the media. Look at the nonsense of senior police stating they will stop games if flares are ripped, what a load of stupid rhetoric from the establishment. A pre-game news item on one of Melbourne’s major channels yesterday showed Victory supporters being harassed by TV cameras, with people stating don’t film me and pushing cameras away. Cut to lovely little thing commenting, and she says that the police took a statement from her and charges may be laid, not against the intrusion of civil liberties, but against the supporters for standing up for their rights.

I am totally sick of this put down of legitimate ways of supporting my team by the establishment. It must stop now. We mustn’t let those in power take our game away from us and make it little more than a mini Australian Rules type sport, where at least the ticket holding members do have a say on how the club is run. If me turning a blind eye to flares helps in keeping our football what it should be, so be it, I will.  And finally, I will not stop asking the black clothed, gun toting, police at our games why they are not out catching real criminals.

You can see here how difficult it is to modify the behaviour.  Punishment will only increase their sense of being ‘persecuted’ by the mainstream Australia that ‘fear football’ and the way that it is supported.  Collective punishment has the risk of increasing the sympathy towards the flare rippers as the number of those feeling the persecution will increase.  The negative commentary of journalists that are aligned with other codes such as Rebecca Wilson, Tom Elliot or Rita Panahi increase the perception that the other codes want to destroy football and the way it is supported and should not be listened to.  Unlike the FFA that betrays real football and  is servile to these anti-football sentiments,  wanting to turn support as a wishy-washy AFL/NRL type by trying to eliminate them.

Some have commented that these are not fans of the team but are there for themselves.  This could be true.  If that sense of belonging to a group (even as a sub-group within the total active support cohort as a whole) the personal desire to rebel is stronger than the loyalty to the team it is possible that the urge to act in a certain way may override any concern their action may have on the team.

That is why this is such as difficult issue to address and to resolve.  Two years ago I offered some suggestions. Basically one way would be for the support to still be outside the ‘mainstream Australian’ to satisfy the desire to differentiate but by using safer options using streamers, drums, balloons etc.  This could be combined with some approved safe pyrotechnic display.

For the game to progress this is certainly an issue that we need to resolve.  as I said two years ago, the best thing is that one day we will develop our own way to support football which is not only safe and edgy at the same time, but it is uniquely Australian and recognised around the world as such.  But we have to work at it. In good faith.

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What Gallop should have said.

Embed from Getty Images When The Sunday Telegraph contacted me about a leaked list of 198 people banned from attending matches in the Hyundai A-League, my reaction was to say “Where and how that newspaper got hold of that list?”

Since the publication of the story about the banned list, many in the game have pointed fingers about the list and how it came to be published.

Let me assure all fans that the list wasn’t leaked by the FFA.  The list is sent to clubs, venues and police to give them the tools to enforce the bans, but those on the list still have the right to confidentiality.  The FFA will pursue any possible avenues to identify the source and assess whether any criminal procedure needs to be undertaken.

Let’s be clear about this.  The publishing of that list was clearly done to damage football and portray the sport in the worst possible light.

If you come to our attention because of serious anti-social behaviour, you are liable to be banned. Every A-League club has a home ground and if you enter someone’s home you need to respect the host.

That being said I understand that in some cases, some believe they were banned unjustly.  That is why the FFA will now put an appeal system in place where fans will be able to challenge their bans if they feel this was done unfairly.

 The article in the The Sunday Telegraph and later repeated on Sydney radio have tried to portray football as a sport which is alien to Australian sporting culture.

Nothing could be further from the truth. An example is a recent survey has shown that football is now more popular among both 6-13 year-old girls and boys than basketball, athletics, bicycling and cricket.

We must all continue to work together on our mission to continue in making football a viable and sustainable sport in Australia and the 1.8 million fans who attend A-League games are a huge part of that.

We are Football.

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