Tag Archives: Football

The Panahi/Elliott affair. Time to move on.

There only one word about it.  A tweeter shitstorm has been occurring amongst football fans and some members of the media.  About the the Etihad Chairs incident (surely to get a TV Underbelly treatment soon) and consequently comments made by some about the behaviour of soccer fans etc. etc.

I am fairly certain that most people reading this would know the whole sorry saga.  But for a nice summary you can read an article written by Michael DiFabrizio in ‘The Roar’.

That article also points out that The ‘us against them’ mentality no point to any of it.

Both sets of fans are right and both sets of fans are wrong. Some of what they say is bang on, some is well off target.

Ultimately, they can keep throwing grenades at each other until the cows come home, but unless everyone on each side takes the time and effort to become truly informed on what’s happening either side of the fence, there really is no point.

In fact, you don’t need to jump the fence to realise there isn’t a point.

Michael is absolutely right.  However it may be useful to perhaps think where all this outrage comes from.

When SOME commentators who are more fans of Australian Rules Football, rather than Association Football comment about Association Football they have the tendency to use a language of exclusivity. Overall, while I disagreed with most of it Ms. Panahi article, it wasn’t neither here or there (even though we heard the arguments before). But she started with the statement: “And let’s set the record straight: it is called soccer in this country. Football is played with an oval ball on an oval ground.” Some (and that includes me) may go ‘meh’, I don’t really mind.  But for some it reads like: “We – AFL supporters – will decide how your sport will be called. It’s called soccer. We don’t give a fig if it’s called football in other countries. Football is reserved for games of the mainstream (AFL + NRL) while your sport is something else. It doesn’t belong in here. It’s not in the same league”

Oversensitive? Perhaps. But I have noticed that many reasonable and thoughtful writers such as Michael that may (and I am ready to be corrected) not have followed Association Football for many years, either because they were following something else, or they are too young, tend to be surprised and question the reaction. But after decades of being told that the sport we love was basically a second class citizen this has developed a sensitivity amongst the supporters.

Think of the time when there were no defenders in the media for Association Football AT ALL.  When we missed out for qualification for World Cups for thirty years, and some of our fellow Australians instead of commiserating with us were scornful (It’s a shit sport anyway mate, who cares joining all those primadonnas at the world cup etc. etc. ).  All those jibes at work, and especially at school, where in many cases the Aussie Rules/Cricket boys were the exhaulted ones , while those playing soccer were ignored at best, or labelled wogs or sissies.

Then you can understand the irritation towards media outlets such as 3AW virtually ignoring Association Football, even when attendances match or even exceed cricket and Rugby League ones  but taking notice only when something negative happens – and when it does emphasising the ‘nor part of Australia culture’ argument.

Michael and other journalist take the example of what’s happening with the drug scandal at Essendon at the moment as proof that the AFL is not spared scrutiny.  Which is true.  Just read the scathing article today by Caroline Wilson: “Would you want your son playing AFL footy?”    But rarely I’ve seen Association Football journalists, hoeing into AFL and questioning it’s existence and value in Australian culture like SOME AFL journalists or at least AFL friendly media personalities such as Tom Elliot.

Perhaps this unawareness of the resentment some of us carry about how Association Football is treated  is why when some commentators such as Ms. Panahi criticise the sport she is startled by the backlash.  Many twitters have written that we (Association Football fans) have been taking shit for years but now we’re fighting back.

But perhaps we should try ‘fighting fair?’ Of course it takes two, and we know that some media outlets like to antagonise Association Football fans (they must get a shitload of hits).  If that is the case we perhaps just not engage. After all after these ‘Soccer Shame’ media hype have occurred regularly since the inception of the A-League and despite attendances going up and down we do get plenty of people watching, especially in Melbourne.  Both at Etihad and AAMI Park I am literally surrounded by families, so whatever they say doesn’t really affect things much.  When we get the comment ‘the sport will never grow because of the hooligans’ it is false.  The game has grown and it continues to do so.

We don’t have to be touchy.  Ms. Panahi has written uninformed articles, but offensive, misogynistic and racist comments directed at her are unacceptable and drags us all down.  Also I think we need to be more sophisticated in identifying commentators who are against our sport denying its value instead of being angry against anyone who makes a criticism (whether justified or not).  So for instance Rebecca Wilson is a confirmed soccerphobe that will take any opportunity to belittle Association Football in Australia and its place in the sporting culture.  But then you have writers such as Greg Baum and Richard Hinds that have written complementary and critical articles about Association Football.  But because they have been writing a lot about Australian Rules (after all whether we like it or not it is the most popular code in Melbourne) even critically they are suspect and ‘AFL stooges’ which it is not really the case.  All I can say is ‘Know thy enemy’

Perhaps it is also time to shrug off the feeling of inferiority.  We are not wogball anymore and now we are in a position that if someone demeans our sport we can laugh not get angry.  When we go to the finals and we are together with 40,000 of our brotherhood/sisterhood we’ll know that a silly article will be in next day’s recycling bin, and that one radio commentator is really there to re-enforce prejudices of people who will not come to a match anyway and is there to sell denture adhesives.  Nothing to get hot under the collar about.


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Misbehaviour at the football: The triumph of the immature egoist

(picture taken by @ludbeyheraldsun)

Two things seem to be happening regularly in the Australian media at the moment. One is ALP leadership speculation every time there is a bad Newspoll and soccer hooligans commentary by commercial media every time something bad happens.

A small mercy is that it is not as bad as it used to be. The fact that the A-League is much less of a marginalised sport has allowed mainstream sport journalists such as Francis Leach, or Gerard Wheatley to realise that going to a football match is an experience that is fun and safe.

But it can’t be denied that there is an element that likes to do some mischief let we say.

This leaves us football fans in a bit of a no win situation. On one hand we can’t really condone any wilful damage, nor any action that can be dangerous. But on the other we feel affronted by the usual commentary (all by followers of the other football codes) that paints the fans of our sport as a bunch of dangerous criminals. Adding to the injury is knowing that even worse incidents at AFL matches have hardly been mentioned.

I discussed the issue about why football crowds are perceived differently in another post that I wrote when again incidents got the conservative media out in force.

Fans know that like shonky builders and horror neighbours commercial media especially is at the ready to write ‘Soccer Shame’ headlines when any incident occur. So why these events still persist?

David Hards writes in his blog that sometimes us football fans can be our worst enemies. He writes:

We must be smarter A-League fans, stop the flares, save the chairs and pull your heads in.  Real football fans work tirelessly improving the image of our games, countless hours are spent by players and staff promoting the game through all facets on the community and our reputation is tarnished by those few who cannot move forward with the league itself.

Flares, crowd violence and a poor media reputation should have been left behind when the A-League established itself and relinquished the ethnicity ties of the various clubs the NSL represented.  On the most part this has worked with great success but we must remember we are only as strong as our weakest link.

A similar sentiment is expressed by Adrian Musolino :

Without the flares and bottle and chair throwing, there would be no story.

So sure, the media may overplay what’s going on in the stands. But deprive them of the excuse and the headlines would inevitably disappear or the media become more desperate to seek a negative A-League story……

So, to the active supporters out there, behave. Sing, dance, chant, cheer, make banners, boo the opposition and so forth. This sort of atmosphere is what differentiates football from other codes and will help attract new fans and keep them coming, therefore helping the A-League to grow in stature.

But don’t resort to the flares, violence, chair throwing, racist chants and so forth. They don’t add anything to the fan experience and only fuel the negative headlines.

Meanwhile a Victoria Police statement said that: “There are some issues with the soccer that in some ways we don’t totally understand. I’m not sure why it happens”

Perhaps I can venture an explanation. Before I continue I have to say that mine are opinions based on impressions that I have gathered by reading football forums, social media and by observing people at football matches. It is not based on a survey or formal research, but here is goes.

One comment about the chair incident from Facebook

Regardless of the chairs that were broken, we’ve already adopted to footballing culture from Europe decades ago…it is something that no one can prevent! If thick minded people think that soccer is just a sport to watch with no atmosphere (flares) then what’s the point of being a spectator?

Criticism of the type of support the FFA wanted back in 2004:

Yeh, overseas flares are a norm, they are not seen as violent, they add better atmosphere to games, you MVFC have listened to the Australian media too much.
No wonder you will be boring supporters, you will just sit there and occasionaly clap like its some game of golf.
Look at the other clubs like Perth & Adel Utd, never seen them wankers light one flare at a game, boring!

People may go to football matches for a variety of reasons. But perhaps there is a small minority that really doesn’t care about the A-League, doesn’t care about whether the sport of Association Football becomes a major one in Australia, and probably doesn’t care about their team either. They only care about themselves.

Maybe they are young and immature. Maybe they don’t care about football’s image because they are so self-absorbed that all they really care is big-noting themselves in front of their mates, showing how brave they are in ripping a flare or breaking a chair and throwing it without being caught. Maybe they are thrilled by the ‘danger’ of doing something ‘dangerous’.

When I see active fans, especially those who do the choreo they seem to be male and young. While 99% of them are only interested in jumping, chanting and waving flags, I think is really just a few that are using it as a selfish way of big-noting themselves.

I am no skip – they do it over there but we don’t do it here.

While the ethnicity issue has been largely taken out with the advent of the A-League, there seems to be a persistent belief amongst some fans that if we don’t copy what they do overseas, then we are not ‘real’ football fans. A great example of sporting cringe. These individuals go to sites like these drool about the flares in Europe and think that something like that has to be reproduced in Australia. When you point that the Australian sporting culture is different they snide that it is an inferior one, and tell you to ‘piss off back to the AFL’ where it is bland and boring.

And here is the issue that perhaps those who take flares in the ground, those who use the idiotic initials of A.C.A.B (All Cops Are Bastards) those who do damage, are wannabe Ultras and use football as a vehicle first for self-aggrandisement as explained before, but second also as a rebellion against the ‘Australian’ culture, that include the AFL and the NRL. Criticisms by soccerphobes in the media can actually enhance this feeling of isolation and perhaps even motivate them to misbehave even more (You can criticise me all you like you skip bastards, get fucked the lot of youse, here’s another flare!). I think many couldn’t care less if there were only 500 people at a match, as long they were ‘true fans’ like them (unlike wishy washy AFL types). Couldn’t care less if football became a marginalised, ignored, irrelevant sport again as long as they can get their jollies at the weekend (in fact it could be argued that the NSL almost reached that point).

The Solution?

So can this behaviour be changed? I think it can but it would require a shift in the belief of not dobbing. In Australian culture dobbing is already a crime. This is enhanced by the fact that it seems that even if active supporters don’t like flares, or misbehaviour (I’ve read one being really pissed off that hours spent in creating a banner was ruined when someone ripped a flare when the banner went up) seems reticent to report them to security. With the chair issues at the Melbourne Heart section how long this went on? I don’t think 100+ chairs could have been broken in seconds. If someone alerted security the responsible people would have been ejected and only a few chairs would have been broken. The fact seems to be that even those who disapprove won’t ‘dob’ someone else to the police or security. There still may be the feeling that dobbing is always a low act.

So like other youth behaviour (albeit a minority) such as binge drinking, taking risks with driving etc. which is resistant to change, I think that unfortunately it will be very hard to eliminate flares or other immature acts by some individuals. You can lecture all your like about ‘pulling their head in’ but I think this won’t change many unwanted behaviours.

It has been proven by psychological studies that some young people who misbehave tend not change their behaviour with punishment (in fact may make thing worse) but will from peer pressure. So perhaps instead of evicting offenders and charging them, they will be identified and later other active fans will meet with them and tell them that they are dickheads and their actions are not wanted in their group, and next time they will be on their own, maybe things may change.

May not work. But maybe worth a try. Otherwise we will be caught in this merry-go-round of: ‘incident – anti football media hysterics – football fans being pissed off’ forever.


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Western Sydney and Adelaide fans, I think I’ve seen this before

Anyone who has read this blog would know that whilst I know very little about the tactics and strategies of Association Football, one of the main areas of interest has been the way football in many ways reflects the inner feelings of Australian society.

I’ve written about how the way the mainstream media, as far as it reflects the fears and prejudices of the ‘average battler’ is concerned, views the game of Association Football, and its crowds, and it is interesting how there seems to have been some changes in some quarters.

The advent to the Western Sydney Wanderers is, I think, one of the most interesting things to have happened to the A-League on many levels. When the A-League started, the Western Suburbs of Sydney were some sort of Holy Grail (a bit like the ALP sees it) where ‘you had to do it right’ because if a team failed in what was supposedly the ‘heartland of Australian soccer’ then in may jeopardise the whole competition. In the usual catastrophic thinking that us football supporters tend to do some thought that it was too rushed and we were doomed. The AFL with the Giants would establish a foothold and we were too late etc. etc. I also hoped that the team would work, and to the credit of the FFA, where this time they took the trouble to ask the fans about location, colours etc. it seems that so far everything is exceeding expectations.

I am happy that the Wanderers have been successful so early. I did believe that they were essential for the A-League and Association Football as a whole. So much so that I only did my second ever away trip when Melbourne Victory met them for the first time at Parramatta Stadium. I thought that their support was great but nothing better that I have seen at Melbourne Victory.

So it is with some bemusement (which is outright irritation amongst the Melbourne Victory active supporters) when I read Sydney journalists that Western Sydney fans are ‘the best ever’ in the A-League. Although admittedly some have probably been to a match which had any atmosphere as they come from another code, and if they have seen SydneyFC they probably never experienced any real Association Football support at all.

But it is interesting that with all this there is also a discussion about the type of support that the Western Wanderers active fans bring. Western Sydney fans have complained about some media trying to find the negative story. Why does this sounds familiar to Melbourne Victory fans? As reported in Crikey, back in December 2006 Sean Sowerby, a sports producer at 3AW who was interviewed on Channel Nine News about the purported crowd violence at the Melbourne-Sydney game, but without identifying himself as a 3AW producer. He offered “proof” of the violence with footage on his mobile phone, a move that angered Melbourne Victory fans who, with a bit of creative googling, uncovered his identity.

The reaction was this call-to-arms on the Melbourne Victory forums:

Fellow supporter,

Over the course of the past week, our club, our supporters, and our game, have been under attack from sections of the mainstream media.

The Herald Sun, Channel Nine and 3AW have all embarked on a campaign of slander against us, following a minor incident at last week’s monumental match against Sydney FC. Reportage of this incident has been grossly exaggerated (much of it entirely based on lies, bias and ignorance) but has still been damaging to the Melbourne Victory Football Club and its supporters. The club itself has spoken out several times in ridicule of this reportage, yet it still continues.

Unfortunately, our game’s very own governing body, the FFA, has also been affected by this falsified paranoia about football violence, and are likely to act on it in ways that may affect our freedoms and identity as active supporters.

We, supporters, cannot and should not tolerate this any longer. Sunday is our opportunity to hit back! …

This resulted in banners that have now entrenched in Melbourne Victory fans’ history.

Same seems to have happened with the problems that Adelaide FC fans are experiencing with their security, and the club hierarchy not backing them up.

Again I’ve never been part of the active supporter groups, but I’ve read the forum and for quite some time there were issues with security similar to what’s happening in Adelaide.

Heavy handed security guards, not being able to bring big banners or a megaphone, and general harassment for little reason. This statement by AdelaideFC to the fans brought some bad memories to many Melbourne Victory fans:

Adelaide United FC applauds passionate support of the team, however passion should never be confused with anti social behaviour at Hindmarsh.

The Club will support stadium management and security in ensuring all patrons enjoy the spectacle of the game. So the message is clear to all – cheer, sing and wave your banners, the players love to hear you. But any form of offensive behaviour will lead to the removal of offending patrons (eg. swearing/abusive language, destruction of chairs, throwing missiles etc).

The club, stadium management or security is not out to end Active Support, nor is it targeting individuals or individual groups, but trouble makers are being targeted and will continue to be targeted. Whether you support the team in the Northern, Southern, Eastern or Western grandstands, the club asks you to respect other patrons and adhere to the FFA spectator code of behaviour. The game will continue to grow and without bad behaviour it will flourish.

Tickets for Friday night’s home game against Perth Glory are available through Ticketek.

To which an active fan stated on the Melbourne Victory forum:

Everything is wrong with that statement. Not only the way it treats the most loyal supporters but also how many people that haven’t gone to the football often will read that statement and buy tickets? They should never admit to problems that do not really exist, there is less anti-social behaviour at the football than at the cricket and cricket Australia never ever admits anything. As for the club against the supporters, we had that here in S2 and onwards, at the end of the day the club and the FFA were wrong about everything (they effectively ended up admitting that all the things active supporters were demanding are part of football except from flares). So now we can stand have flags, banners, instruments, pull overs, streamers etc. but how much damage did the club caused by siding with FFA and security? Lots, the North Terrace only started to recover, its growing now and it will once again be a point of difference and something that attracts people to matches but it took years.

It did take years, as now Melbourne Victory active fans, the Club, Security and Police have been able to talk to each other and reach an agreement. I believe that the way policing is being done at Melbourne Victory matches is less intrusive and dictatorial which has meant less trouble and evictions.

Maybe there is something that Western Sydney and Adelaide should think about.

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Welcome Mr. Gallop, but please leave the sleeping giant alone.

I was quite pleased when David Gallop was appointed as the new Football Federation Australia (FFA) CEO.  Unlike Buckley, Gallop had already been on the top of a major football code in Australia.  Therefore he knows the score, he knows about how to deal with the media and how to administer sport in Australia.

This is much more important than being a ‘football person’. I know that some fans feel that not having ‘one of us’ is a bit of an insult, that basically being from another code the CEO will never understand ‘the culture’. But unlike Buckley, who never experienced being at the top of leading a football code, Gallop is the best candidate that the FFA could ever had.

And I thought that his first media conference was fine.  He projected the image of someone from outside, but with some knowledge of the game (Socceroos and West Bromwich Albion references) and willing to learn more.  Raised grassroots issues and possible expansion. Except for one thing. :

“I can absolutely see a period of great growth and in that regard the other codes should be concerned about where football is placed at the moment,”

“They would be looking at the results of the last six weeks (of the A-League) and seeing that the Socceroos are now well on the road to qualification for the World Cup finals in Brazil and they would be concerned.”

“If football gets its act together, which we’re seeing right now, then the other codes need to be really worried about it”

“The giant continues to be not only awake, but on the move”

Ughh.  The reference to football in Australia as the ‘Sleeping Giant’ is one of my most disliked terms, together with ‘Own Goal’ when something negative has happened in the code.

As Warwick Hadfield righly said this morning:

“While we accept that the creative bits have been somewhat numbed by decades of being forced to read rugby league scribblers, he could have come out with something better that ‘soccer is the sleeping giant in this country, and you all have to watch out when it gets its act together’.  Blue Hills was still around episode two when that was first said”

Do football people talk about the Sleeping Giant anymore?  Did it exist in the first place?  I doubt it.  If a very successful 2006 World Cup campaign and a less successful one in 2010 (which we did make nevertheless) plus a reasonably run national league hasn’t woken up this Giant, then nothing will.

Also the fact that Gallop says ‘when football gets it act together’.  Hasn’t it done it already?  Of course there are huge problems confronting the code, especially in the A-League and the sustainability of teams etc.  But really with the Crawford report, the A-League, the admission into the Asian Confederation and being able to have a good chance to qualify for a world cup I think that is the best we can hope in the sense of ‘getting our act together’.  Of course there are issues, but that is part and parcel of running a business in a very competitive environment in a relatively small market.

Football is not going to overtake the AFL and probably the NRL anytime soon.  And that’s fine.  There is no need to feel like we need to become the main game unless we have to compensate for some form of inferiority complex.  Saying ‘other codes watch out’ is setting us up for failure.

Instead to go after the other codes what the FFA should do is to create and develop our niche and play to our strengths.  We saw a great example with Western Sydney, where the FFA listened to the fans and created a team that I think will do well in an area which was always football literate.  This is an example where football can be and is more successful than other codes. If we want to talk about ‘Giants’ we can look at the Western Sydney ones that unlike the Wanderers aren’t exactly setting the place on fire.

So all the best Mr. Gallop.  Don’t worry about other codes.  Let’s ensure we are doing alright.


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The World Game….really?

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

It is not everyday that I get an unsolicited tweet response from a newspaper editor (as I am sure they have more pressing things than reading and responding to my tweets) but I am always chuffed when it happens. I got one yesterday from Andrew Tate, editor of the Sport section of the Sunday Age in response of my questioning of two articles in the paper.

One was titled ‘The World Game‘ and was about introducing Australian Rules overseas.   The other was about exporting the game to China.

Other tweeters like Athas Zafiris picked up on the story.

Then Ezequiel Trumper continued:

Even Michael Lynch, who writes for the Sunday Age got into the fray.

The fact that the article was titled ‘The World Game’ was a probably a bit of a light hearted reference that that term is used when we talk about Association Football.  Interesting considering that some Aussie Football fans get a bit agitated when we use ‘football’ instead of ‘soccer’. But this is a minor point really.

The article in question then quotes the AFL’s international development manager Tony Woods:

There is almost a paradox that we all share in the belief that it is the best game in the world and most spectacular, yet sometimes we are a little bit slow in opening our arms to letting other people play it.

I would not berate Mr. Woods stating that Aussie Rules is ‘the best game in the world and most spectacular’, but I don’t know if everyone in the world would share his belief.  In my opinion there is no ‘best game in the world’.  I say that to Association Football fans as well if they say soccer is the best game.
I remember when I went to Italy and as a Blues fans I asked a friend to send me a tape of one of the finals that I missed.  It was a great game as those Carlton-Essendon finals in the 90’s were. Close contests, athletic and skillful.  However when I showed the tape to my Italian friends, who were into soccer and basketball, they were unimpressed. All they could see were bodies clashing with each other and they laughed when players were scrambling for the ball on the ground, they found it messy and chaotic.
Maybe the AFL realises that it missed the boat with the more recent Asian immigration and it is now trying to make connections, which is good strategy – for Australia – but I fail to understand why we see in the media pieces about the AFL ‘going overseas’ what’s the point?
Despite Australian Rules being by far the most popular code in Australia it seems to be irked by the fact that they don’t have international status.  The comments of Mr. Woods seems to betray this fact. And the regular ‘Soccer is not really an Australian game’ that tend to appear before the World Cup tend to confirm this, Examples here and here ) which really I can’t understand.
And the mindset of the ever conquering AFL is shown in this statement:

“At junior and grassroots level kids are really looking for an alternative to rugby. That has basically allowed soccer in New Zealand to get a foothold.”

Apart from the fact that soccer was ‘allowed’ a foothold (heavens forbid) what escaped may have Mr. Woods, but more importantly the journalist Jared Lynch,  is that  in New Zealand soccer was there yonks before any kiwis even knew the existence of the Aussie game.  As Ian Syson states in a tweet:

Maybe the fact that a New Zealand team was able to represent (very honourably) their nation in the most popular sport event in the world (something that Aussie Rules can’t do) in South Africa may also have something to do with it.

Anyway, this banter must have attracted the attention of the Sunday Age Sports editor who tweeted:

I didn’t respond to this, because discussing issues on tweeter with a 140 character limit is very difficult. The article Andrew refers is about Lucas Neil and his perfect footballer. Which was interesting enough, but I think he missed the point.   One is a ‘AFL is the best thing ever’ story, while the other is about Neil idea of the perfect footballer.  They are not the same.  And again I have no problem with the article in itself.  The issue I have is that we hardly have any pieces which place soccer/football in the same cultural level.  Have we read about soccer/football importance in Australia’s history?  or that soccer/football has been part and parcel of Australia’s sport landscape long before post war migration?  And it doesn’t stop there.  On Saturday we learned that apparently AFL is going to solve the Israel  – Palestinian conflict. The power of the AFL knows no bounds.

What these articles show is not only the fact that the AFL, despite its hegemony in the mainstream media is strangely feeling anxious of not been international, but also ignores the fact that soccer/football is the international sport par excellence and the fact that the media, in general, doesn’t give it much credit.  Football doesn’t need to push to become international. It’s already there.  The worldwide audience for the recent Australia – Japan match dwarfed anything that the AFL or NRL could achieve, and Adelaide United is in the quarter finals of the Asian Champions League.  We don’t read much about that, and how that promotes the image of Australia overseas. And sorry, but playing in one of the major FIFA tournaments is a bit  more significant than a few kids playing footy in a paddock somewhere in China or India, in a sport that despite being a great game – will be probably as popular as lacrosse is here in Australia.  As an example we only have to read the FFA ‘s  submission to the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper. That is the reality of the game.

And by the way.  It may have escaped the editors of the Sunday Age, but in the picture of the article the kids are playing with the footy are wearing  AC Milan, Tibet National Football Team and Chelsea shirts.  World Game indeed.


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A place of our own

Not getting Foxtel was a family decision.  Well, if it was me I would have got it in a flash.  I would be able to see Italian TV from Italy and of course the A-League.  However considering that I am the only Italian speaker in my household and the only one interested in watching sport on TV, I knew that it was not going to be worth it.

But I can’t complain.  I live in the inner suburbs of Melbourne, and a pub only  ten minutes walk away from me has Foxtel, and it usually shows Melbourne Victory games.  I am happy to pay the ‘admission price’ of a lemon lime and bitters to watch the game.  Sometimes if the game is shown on a Saturday night there is no chance of listening to the commentary as the place tends to be a meeting point for young 20 somethings (with no interest in the game) who then proceed to other places of entertainment such as nightclubs or such. So it gets pretty noisy, and somewhat detracts from the experience, but better than nothing.  A few of us gather around and show the flag for the A-League.

However, once the AFL starts, we are immediately shown how the codes pecking order works in this town.  All three TVs (one is a big projection one) show the AFL, and perhaps we football fans are lucky to be relegated to the small telly outside where they store the kegs.

I could ask if one telly, even the one where the kegs are could be switched, but that’s not the point.  What I want is a convenient venue  where football is king.  Where there is no AFL when a football match is on (I am an AFL fan too, but there are heaps of pubs who show it).  There are gay pubs where gay people are not hassled by straights, why not the same for football fans? A place where we can feel comfortable and not feeling like we have to ask for a small TV in the corner to be switched on but  football but it is given pride of place?  A place where we don’t feel like a minority? A place where we don’t have to sometime endure snide comments from non-football fans as they go from the bar to their seats?

Yes in Melbourne there is such a venue, the Dickens Tavern  but while I commend its dedication to the World Game being in a basement I find it quite claustrophobic.  Also considering the A-League it is predominantly  played in summer, it would be nice to have somewhere with a garden, that would also make it easier for fans with children. Of course an honourable mention should also be given to the appropriately named ‘The Keepers’ Arms’ in North Melbourne near the Victoria Market, now defunct, that did cater specifically to the Association Football market.

But we need more pubs such as the  Rose Hotel in Fitzroy which has been saved from the developers, and apparently it is a favourite with the AFL fans as being a great place to  watch a game.  We need more pubs that primarily cater for Association Football fans, and during times of AFL/A-League clashes we can be sure we don’t have to go there and wonder whether they may be ‘kind enough’ to switch a TV to the round ball. To know that at whatever times you are amongst kindred spirits.

Inspired by many blogs that comment and review the best places to watch AFL in Melbourne, I stared one of my own for Association Football four years ago.  However, as I don’t really have all that much time to go around pubs in Melbourne and find out how whether they were showing football,  it is a project that didn’t get off the ground.  Perhaps it may be time to resurrect it, especially if I can get reviews from fellow supporters.


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How the West was won (or not) an anthology of ‘The Football Tragic’ posts

There is a lot of talk around the blogosphere/twittersphere etc. about the new A League West Sydney team.  The fact is that this has been happening for some time.  Mike Salter  had a great blog called ‘The Football Tragic‘ which alas is now not going anymore.  Although the link is still there and provides a fascinating record of events which have happened in Association Football, mainly in Australia, from 2006 to 2010, and part of this are posts about the ‘Western Sydney’ issue.  And considering that Mike was also a local, it provides a very interesting insight and context of what is happening at the moment.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

How the West Won’t Be Won

Five years ago, you’d never have believed it.

The AFL attempting to expand its market in Sydney, not so much to wrest the market from rugby league (which is well-established anyway), but to forestall the continuing growth of football. When even hardened egg-ball columnists such as Roy Masters and Greg Baum can frankly admit that football is now a serious player in the scramble for market share, and was a serious factor in the mooted AFL expansion, you know the sporting landscape has changed.

And this only three years into the A-League. The architects of the post-Crawford domestic competition can afford a little chortle of satisfaction.

Of course, plans to expand the A-League in Queensland next year will have made the AFL sit up and take notice, given that, with the Titans now established and the new “Gold Coast Galaxy” looking promising, the lucrative Gold Coast market might just become a virtually closed shop.

So, the counterattack: staking out the ground in Western Sydney before the A-League has a chance to. And in my opinion, it’s a blunder.

Driving through Western Sydney, one is always struck by the vast areas of parkland set aside for competitive sport. But they tend to be arranged into rectangles, not ovals.

Western Sydney simply isn’t AFL country. As far as I can see, the Swans (like Sydney FC to a much lesser extent) have relied on the more affluent areas of Sydney and the desire for novelty and separate identity that often goes along with affluence; it’s difficult to see the same attitudes prevailing west of Parramatta.

A Western Sydney A-League team is also a little more problematic than some have made out, given the club allegiances (Marconi, Sydney United etc.) that already exist in that part of the world. Having said that, the crowds that Penrith-Nepean United attracted in the NSW Premier League last season, not to mention the excellent turnout at CUA Stadium for the final, would suggest that Penrith – with its proximity to the football-friendly Blue Mountains – would be a worthwhile candidate for A-League expansion. CUA Stadium is not too far away from being an adequate A-League venue.

As for the likelihood of the AFL move working, I’ll leave the last word to a former AFL great:

Skilton said he didn’t believe the competition needed more than 16 sides and said the game’s development in NSW had not progressed far enough to split the supporter base.

“They want to expand the game so they can get more publicity. But I don’t think we have the depth.

“How many NSW kids are in our side, let alone how many Sydney kids

Thursday, September 03, 2009

So the favoured Western Sydney bid has collapsed.

In all probability, this is good news for the A-League. It’s surely inconceivable that the FFA will consider the nebulous bid fronted by a Socceroo captain who can’t even find a club of his own at the moment; Canberra is the only realistic option if they are going to expand to twelve teams in 2010/11.

The further expansion has undoubtedly been precipitate. The market manoeuvres of the AFL on the one hand, and the blackmail of the Asian confederation on the other, have scared the national body into two jumps in two seasons, which would never have been considered in more “peaceful” times. The relief is that the high-risk insertion of two same-city franchises will not happen now, barring a bizarre turnaround.

And if they are still not prepared to accept Canberra, what’s it to be for next season? 11 teams would be extremely awkward; there are very few national leagues with an odd number of sides.

The other, dreadful, possibility is the removal of Wellington as a sop to the Asian confederation, thereby keeping it at ten teams. The Kiwis would have a right to be mightily annoyed should this come to pass: the Phoenix have been competitive for the last two years, they have established a decent fanbase, and the continuing presence of a New Zealand side in the A-League has been an important gesture towards our near neighbours, who probably still feel a little aggrieved about Australia jumping ship for Asia in 2006.

Instead, the FFA should take the plunge and allow the Canberra bid its chance.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Delayed Dozen – yet another update

It seems things are finally clear.

Although the whole process has made the FFA look both clumsy and devious, the ultimate decision to delay entry for a Western Sydney team is undoubtedly the correct one. 2010/11 will give the national body a chance to see how the two-teams-per-city dynamic will work in Melbourne, where the market is similar, though not exactly identical, to Sydney’s.

11 teams next season, then, with the awkward bye. It remains to be seen whether this will have a further adverse effect on crowds (given that there will be greater gaps between home games at times); given the alarming drop-off already in 2009/10, the league could barely afford this.

Re the Western Sydney franchise, the key question of location remains. With a more gentle lead-in period, hopefully Ian Rowden and his crew will be made properly aware of the problems ANZ Stadium would entail.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

How the West Won’t Be Won – another update

The acquisition of Kevin Sheedy as coach of the AFL’s new western Sydney franchise has set plenty of tongues wagging, and keyboards clicking. The presence of one of the sport’s most charismatic figures in enemy territory is good copy…especially for rugby league scribes defending the bastions.

Greg Prichard has given Penrith’s Mark Geyer a free kick (or should that be a scrum feed?) in this morning’s SMH, while another Fairfax stayer in Roy Masters had his say a couple of days ago. There was also a rambling segment on the ABC’s 7:30 Report on Tuesday, which managed to subtly portray Sheedy as something of a performing seal.

Anyway, to the point. All three of the above pieces had one thing in common: football was not mentioned at all. Not once.

Rather worrying when you consider a couple of things: firstly, that the round-ball game was considered an important future player in the western Sydney market only a couple of years ago, and secondly that the new “Sydney Rovers” franchise will not have much of a headstart on a Sheedy-led AFL venture.

I still feel that a western Sydney AFL team is doomed to failure, but football is another matter. A little while back, another piece from Masters grudgingly acknowledged that football was likely to have its say in the war for the entertainment dollar in Sydney’s overpopulated west.

Things appear to have changed. And it’s not just the A-League’s falling attendances; the whole bidding process for the twelfth A-League licence, steered towards western Sydney from the outset, turned into an embarrassing pig’s breakfast. And all the initial statements from Ian Rowden et al. re the new franchise suggest that no-one really has a clue about how to proceed as yet.

A good thing they have another year and a half to get things together…by which time, one hopes, the A-League will be on a better footing than it is now.

Monday, October 25, 2010

How the West Won’t Be Won – yet another update

And so it looks as if the final chapter is about to be written in the farcical Sydney Rovers saga.

The very first thing that the FFA should do is go hat in hand to the representatives of the Canberra bid, with a genuine assurance that future expansion bids will be assessed on their merits. This old article, from Half-Time Hero-in-chief Con Stamocostas, shows just how much was already in place in the nation’s capital over two years ago; that all this groundwork was ignored in favour of a bid based on nothing more than blind faith is symptomatic of the FFA’s style of management in the last few years.

Where to, then, for the expansion plans? The likelihood is probably that 2011/12 A-League will feature eleven teams once again, and one hopes that this time the FFA will give the competition the publicity that it deserves. Some of the football has been excellent this term, especially in Adelaide and Brisbane; the attendances have not.

In a way, given the dismal attendances at Sydney FC matches, things may have turned out for the best in more than one way. Considering that the NSW Premier League (with its western Sydney centre of gravity) will now clash with the A-League in any event, the Rovers crowds would probably have been pitiful. And had the matches been held at the cavernous ANZ Stadium, as was mooted at one point, the match atmosphere would have made Skilled Park look like a throbbing hive of excitement.


Filed under Football