Tag Archives: Football

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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Soccer or Cricket. What is the most representative team?

For most of the time of the A-League existence, Association Football and Cricket – two sports played in summer – have maintained a sort of distance.

However I do wonder whether cricket did look at the A-League and felt that it did suck some of the summer attention away from it. Apart from the Ashes the traditional test apparently wasn’t being as popular as previous years. The one day game also (from what I was reading at least) was losing some audience. That is why they created the Big Bash League. A form of the game that despite being despised by the traditionalists has proven to be very popular, especially amongst the young.

I am not sure whether the Big Bash League was partly created to counteract any potential inroad of the A League on its traditional summer patch. Maybe it was, if the tweets of Malcolm Conn, the communication manager of Cricket Australia, are anything to go by. Malcolm went on a campaign of highlighting how the BBL was thrashing association football in the ratings at every opportunity. This included comparing the Socceroo games, which I thought thoroughly reprehensible. Its understandable advocating the success of a domestic competition against another, but negatively comment on the national team, the national team that represent Australia is ..well… un-Australian.

On the other hand I think that Gallop was responsible for this sort of code war. I cringed right at the start of his mandate as CEO of the FFA when he mentioned the hoary chestnut of association football being ‘the sleeping giant’. Then at the start of this season saying that ‘“other competitions have gone to sleep.” could not fail to raise the hackles of cricket.

As I said before, this sort of stuff is unnecessary and it betrays a sense of inferiority.

However, the latest statement of Gallop is right on the money.

Cricket was outraged. Malcolm did not fail to disappoint.

 

Then Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland came out stating that the cricket national team was still the country’s most popular team — “followed by daylight”.

I think that both Mr. Conn and Mr. Sutherland didn’t undertand what Gallop said. As George Donikian so succincly put it.

The discussion also ensued on Offsiders yesterday, and again the essential question was not discussed. Chloe Saltau from The Age again cited how more popular the BBL was to the A-League missing the point completely, as I tweeted while the program was on.

 

Perhaps I was being less diplomatic than Mr. Donikian, but my observation of cricket over the years is that it is a bit like Ramsay St.

Let’s look at the team that is currently playing for the Cricket World Cup.

Michael Clarke
George Bailey
Pat Cummins
Xavier Doherty
James Faulkner
Aaron Finch
Brad Haddin
Josh Hazlewood
Mitchell Johnson
Mitchell Marsh
Glenn Maxwell
Steven Smith
Mitchell Starc
David Warner
Shane Watson

The only player I could find from ‘non English speaking background’ was Mitchell Starc whose father’s parents are from what is now the Czech Republic. But apart from that I see a solid anglo-celtic background team.

Compare this with the Socceroos. The site codehesive showed how many connections teams in the last world cup had with overseas heritage. Australia was second in all 32 teams

 

These were the players with an international connection:

Ivan Franjic Grandparent from Croatia
Jason Davidson Grandparent from Japan and grandparent from Greece
Tim Cahill Parent from Samoa and parent from England
Matthew Špiranovic Grandparent(s) from Croatia
Oliver Bozanic Parent from Croatia
James Troisi Parent from Italy and parent from Greece
Mile Jedinak (c) Grandparent(s) from Croatia
Eugene Galekovic Grandparent(s) from Croatia
Dario Vidošic Born in Croatia
Massimo Luongo Parent from Indonesia and parent from Italy
Mark Bresciano Parent from Croatia and parent from Italy

Then if we look at the players that were selected since then such as Tomi Juric, Robbie Kruse and Terry Antonis, and we can see how the Socceroos are much more representative of a real multicultural Australia.

Of course Sutherland is right when he states that the cricket team may include Pakistani-born Usman Khawaja and Fawad Ahmed, indigenous former Australia all-rounder Dan Christian, Portuguese-born Moises Henriques and Gurinder Sandhu, who is of Indian heritage. However it seems that cricket has discovered NESB Australians very recently. The Australian National Association team had them for yonks, and yes when many referred to the code as ‘wogball’.

We can say that the Australian cricket team is the most popular. But when it comes to be the most representative the Socceroos have – to use a cricketing analogy – runs on the board.

 

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Off-Side Set – An attempt at family friendly Ultras

One of the FFA’s mantra about the A-League is being ‘Family Friendly’. This is has been strenuously asserted to break away from the perception that Association Football is a dangerous game to go and watch. And it is waived about when the media goes in its regular outrage about ‘soccer hooligans’.

To be fair if you want to sell a product like the A-League, families are incredibly important. A product aimed at mums and dads is essential to attract sponsors, and give the image that Association Football is akin other codes in Australia.

This of course is a red rag to some active fans that find a ‘family friendly’ atmosphere bland and corporatised. Contro il calcio moderno.

In the early days of the A-League with Melbourne Victory there was an attempt to combine the two. Could active fans stand and chant with their children? As anyone has been to a Melbourne Victory match would know, being in the active areas is not exactly child friendly. The energy the beer spills the language etc. is no place for children. Beside the fact that some active fans in those areas view the presence of children and families with hostility.

So in the early season of Melbourne Victory some of us with kids (and some who didn’t but liked the idea of a ‘different’ active group) created the “Off-Side Set’. The spiel to describe ourselves was thus:

We are a motley group. Our group includes men and women, girls and boys, young and old, We welcome parents with kids in tow. We’re about having fun on the terraces in support of Melbourne Victory, in an environment where anyone can come and join in.

Our small group remained…well small…but in its early days we had our moments. At the outset we decided on our brand of tifo. We decided that had to be fun. Streamers were used (until they were deemed as ‘projectiles’) we had Rocket Balloons, and kazoos (we would create a stirring rendition of Aida with them). I even bought an old fashioned rattle, fancying myself like a 1950’s English football fan. We also had a banner with our logo, designed by one of our group, which is now, alas, lost.

We tried to create a fun group where everyone felt welcome, and where we were not taking ourselves too seriously. Where we would be located was the difficulty. As a small group who wanted to buy general admission tickets it was hard to ‘own’ a space like the real larger groups. At Olympic Park we finally were successful to claim a bit of the Eastern Stand, only for lots of matches to go to the great spaces of Etihad. The difficulty of finding our own space, and the relatively small number of OSS took its toll.  Maybe was 20 odd people doing half-hearted chants with rocket balloons and kazoos amongst silent fans who looked us askance was too much awkwardness for us to take.

The OSS Christmas BBQ 2009.

Ultimately OSS members decided to go to the larger groups. Some liked the relaxed banter of the Southern End, while others like choreography of the Northern Terrace.

Then some of the children, who were at the edge of adolescence, left to go with their mates away from the parents and that was it. By the time the Bubbledome came into being the ‘OSS’ was no more. We are now scattered around the stadiums. I still meet some ex-members, one lives north of me and we regularly meet on the train on the way to games, others I meet when I go for a wonder at half time.

We still have a Facebook Page that I’m not sure whether I should delete. Maybe I’ll leave it there. A reminder of a small and forgotten bit of Melbourne Victory fandom.

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Cory Bernardi – the soccerphobe.

We have heard quite a lot about Cory Bernardi recently after his book railing against ‘non-traditional families’ surrogacy and euthanasia, abortion and workers’ rights.  Bernardi of course is also against multiculturalism, his anti-Muslim views are well known. He has advocated that migrants should ‘assimilate’ into what he sees is a 1950’s white Australia ideal.

So it is not surprising that he also perceives Association Football as a ‘foreign’ sport.  He published his views in his blog in 2011, which he has since deleted. Fortunately I cut and pasted his post in the Melbourne Victory forum and I was able to retrieve it.  So we can add soccerphobia to his homophobia, islamophobia ……..

15 February 2011

Segregating Soccer Supporters

Last week I joined more than 20,000 other spectators at Adelaide Oval watching Adelaide United play the Melbourne Victory in the A-League soccer. By all accounts it was an excellent game with the local team prevailing in a 2-1 victory. I say ‘by all accounts’ because I missed much of the on field action. Unfortunately, my attention was continually drawn to the action off the field.

My first sense that something wasn’t right was when I noticed that the visiting Victory supporters were isolated in a fenced off area with a narrow corridor and two chain wire fences between them and the locals. Within the corridor were a collection of a dozen police officers wearing florescent yellow jackets keenly observing the crowd.

Being a regular AFL supporter, I have never seen a physical barrier between rival backers at a regular football match before. In fact, I have sat supporting my team amongst a sea of opposing fans (in Melbourne and Adelaide) suffering nothing more than good natured jeers and some well timed humorous barbs – many of them from my oldest son who doesn’t share my enthusiasm for the Carlton Football Club.

Things were clearly different at the soccer. There were the obligatory chants that added a great deal of atmosphere to the stadium. Some of them were quite clever and many were hard to understand for the unfamiliar but they seemed to hit home with the regular crowd. They also seemed to get the desired response from the opposite numbers who retorted in kind.

What appeared to be good natured barracking descended into farce when flares were launched from one supporter group into the other. Though clearly dangerous, the exchange of these illuminating markers continued through much of the match.

Other, indeterminate objects were thrown as the police struggled to contain the more excitable elements within the crowd. Their response was to increase the ‘corridor’ between the rivals by moving the wire fences apart. This was done on multiple occasions until there was nearly 20 metres of ‘no man’s land’ separating the rival clans.

I witnessed a number of people forcibly removed by officers for undetermined offences, which unfortunately seemed to agitate the warring parties even more.

The difficult job of our boys (and girls) in blue was compounded when the Victory levelled the score. Their supporter group rushed toward the containment line in a surge of bodies that flattened some officers and threatened to bring down the security barrier.

This prompted a similar response from United fans and I was spellbound by the potentially violent confrontation that looked likely to occur.

Fortunately it didn’t. The police contained the situation and the match continued without any significant incidents. 

While this unruly behavior was confined to a tiny section of the enthusiastic crowd, my sense of disappointment that we have such problems at Australian sporting events was palpable.

In attending hundreds of similar events over the years, I have suffered the good-natured slings and arrows of rival teams without ever feeling uncomfortable or threatened. Having stood shoulder to shoulder with the Barmy Army when Australia have won and lost the Ashes and cheered for the Blues in a sea of Pies, sport in Australia has always been a way of bringing people together – regardless of our individual teams.

If soccer aspires to grow its support amongst the broader community it needs to put a stop to the anti-social behavior that requires isolation and segregation of some supporters from others.

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Kevin Sheedy and Western Sydney: Not racist. Not xenophobic. Just ignorant.

 

 

 

Jock: You did some nice things last week. Not one of your best games but you did some nice things. Glorious mark you took in the second quarter. You just seemed to go up and up.

Geoff: I felt like Achilles.

Jock: Who’s he?

Geoff: A Greek guy who could really jump.

Jock: [nods] Some of our new Australians could be champions if they’d stop playing soccer and assimilate.

The Club, Act 1. David Williamson – 1977

 

I’ve used this quote before, it is one of my favourites because it encapsulate very well a lot of the attitudes towards migrants, who the 1960’s were termed ‘New Australians’.  A term that was implicitly  assimilationist.  You come to Australia, leave your culture behind and become assimilated in our culture.  And of course Australian Rules Football was part of that.  Especially in Australia Rules Football states, where the game was an expression of ‘Australianness’.

If you haven’t seen the play this scene is between Jock, the vice-president of the football club, who I would guess is in his 60’s representing the ‘Old Australia’ of post war picket fences and white bread, and Geoff a young star recruit who goes to University and is questioning the ‘old traditional’ values of the Club and football in general.

The play uses the football club to expose the changes occurring in Australia at the time.  The late 60’s early 70’s were a great moment of change in Australia.  The Vietnam war radicalised many young people. The Whitlam government reflected the change after years of conservative government with progressive policies.

The exchange between Jock and Geoff has a comical dimension when Jock doesn’t know who Achilles really was, but I thought of the last sentence in this passage when I heard Kevin Sheedy’s comments linking the immigration department to the success of the Western Sydney Wanderers.

I suspect that Sheedy is more read and knowledgeable than poor old Jock, and would know who Achilles was, but ultimately share the same opinion about football and the place of migration in Australia.

Sheedy was born in 1947, and would have experienced in his childhood the first wave of post-war migration.  He went to de La Salle College in Malvern, Melbourne which I don’t know would have had many students of Non English Speaking Background (NESB) in those days.   I think he has a strong sense of fairness from his Catholic background, and this has influenced his efforts in being inclusive with Aborigines and also NESB players.

Therefore, unlike some twitters, I don’t believe that Kevin Sheedy’s statement is in any way racist or even xenophobic.  What it does show however, is that his world view hasn’t kept up with the developments in Australia over the past 20 years.

I think the main source of anger is that Sheedy again has slotted football in the ‘foreign game for migrants’ category.  I can understand why football fans in general, but Western Sydney Wanders ones in particular object to this view.  Sheedy explained his comment with this tweet.

KevinTweet

What he has shown is that he fundamentally completely unaware of the person who supports the Wanderers and the links towards the team.  He is ignorant of the social make up of the area that his team is representing in the AFL.  I haven’t done a survey, but I would venture that most fans did not go anywhere near any  ‘Immigration Department’ having been born and bred in the Western Suburbs of Sydney.  They may not have an Anglo or Celtic background, but does that makes them less of an Australian?

Sheedy seems to have this idea that Western Sydney is full of fresh arrived migrants that are unaware of the game of Australian Rules Football.  He should have been informed that that Western Sydney has a large proportion of Australian born, who are probably very aware of the AFL, but it is not part of their tradition which is football and rugby league.  As a Victorian I know that there seems to be this messianic urge about Australian Rules football, that it is such a good game so why anyone wouldn’t want to play it or watch it?  I love footy, but you can’t ignore the culture of the area which was founded on generations playing other codes.

Sheedy should also be aware that as a Victorian, he’s also an outsider in Western Sydney.  In the parlance of headline sub-editors everywhere when they deal with football, Sheedy did a spectacular own goal.  Mis-representing the potential fans for your team is not a good strategy.

 

 

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How the west was won..and almost won everything else

Wanderers fans do The Poznan  - from W. Major (http://www.flickr.com/photos/91701029@N02/)

Wanderers fans do The Poznan – from W. Major (http://www.flickr.com/photos/91701029@N02/)

So another season has finished, and boy I’m going to miss my weekly dose of the A-League.  There will be football before the next ball will be kicked for the 2013/14 season but it won’t be as enjoyable.  I find the World Cup qualifiers very stressful and not enjoyable at all. The fact is that we are perilously close in not qualifying at will make them even more anxiety-producing.

As a non believer of the exhibition game, I won’t go to the Liverpool one.  I know these sort of games create revenue for Club but I find them as exciting as a limp forgotten leaf of iceberg lettuce at the bottom of the fridge vegi crisper.  Give me a meaningful match with Bangkok Glass in the Asian Champions League any time.

Anyway, the whole talk this year seems to have been around Alessandro del Piero (very cunningly dubbed the The Del Piero Effect™ by Ancelottery  ) and of course the Western Sydney Wanderers.

Before the season started I was very interested about the creation of this club.  Ever since the start of the A-League this was dubbed a mystical land, the cradle of football in Australia etc. etc.  It became some sort of Garden of the Hesperides of football, a magical place where any team had to ‘get it right’ lest the unforgiving Gods of Australian sport would be angry and destroy the A-League and football in Australia as we know it.  (Interesting though is how ‘Western Sydney’ has also become a place of importance for politics and the AFL).

Of course, as we know, there were the naysayers saying that it was rushed and it was going to be a failure etc. etc. Being negative and predicting doom and gloom which is part and parcel of being a fan of Association Football in Australia. But as I followed the process I could see that unlike previous teams’ creation, the FFA was going about it the right way.  It set up forums across the region, asking about everything, including the colours, where to play etc.  This meant that it created a strong sense of ownership amongst at least a core of the supporters.  Unlike other A-league teams where it was basically a ‘Build it and they will come’ model, the Wanderers immediately were ‘owned’ by the fans.

This was also aided by the fact that the ‘West’ has a definite sense of identity, so the team had already an opportunity to express a sense of representation, something that it took much more time for other teams which were presented to us to support in the first season of the A-League.  This sense of identity and community is gold for any team, and to their credit this time the FFA was able to capture it, and the results are there to be seen.

The other masterstroke was to engage Popovic as coach. Not only he was well credentialed as the assistant coach at Crystal Palace, but most important of all he was from Western Sydney, and fans immediately saw him as one of their own.

There is no doubt that for other supporters (especially Victory ones, who up to now were seen as being the benchmark of support in the A-league) all the gushing commentary by the Sydney media about the Wanderers and their supporters is somewhat irksome.  Partly I think that part of this enthusing commentary comes from a sense of relief that such an important team, for such an important area for football in Australia didn’t look like going the same way as the Gold Coast United or the North Queensland Fury.

Another thing though that the Wanderers seem to have succeeded is that even the non-active sections get involved.  The Northern Terrace is probably still the most organised, (I would venture the Southern end couldn’t care less, as they are there for the beer and to have a good time) but from what I can gather the whole Parramatta Stadium gets involved one way or the other, something that doesn’t happen at Victory matches.

However I think that there still something Victory supporters have over the Wanderers.  Unlike the success of the Wanderers, Melbourne Victory had a dismal first season, finishing second last and being only saved by the ignominy of last place by the New Zealand Knights.  The fact that fans still kept going after that, and that apparently crowds never fell below 10K is a source of pride for Victory supporters.  The proof of the pudding for the Wanderers will be when, as inevitably all teams do, they will not perform as brilliantly. Will the some supporters fall away?  There is a type of ‘supporter’ that instead of going to the match to encourage the players no matter what, go to the match to do the opposite.  That is to derive satisfaction from winning, to identify with the winners and fell good.  When the team loses these ‘supporters’ tend to stay away.

As a supporter of football in Australia first and foremost, and therefore of the A-league as a whole (in fact I made a point to travel to Parramatta in November to watch the first Wanderers-Victory encounter, as a way to support the competition) I have been very happy for the Wanderers success and the way the support has grown.  And hope this continues.  I’d rather have perhaps over the top commentary from a Sydney journo about the Wanderers’ fans than a depressing one about a dismal turnout.  It also raises the bar for other fans, which is great.

Imagine if non-active Victory fans could get a bit more involved….a Victory – Wanderers Grand Final.  What a moment that would be.

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