Football fans in Australia aren’t exactly a rare breed, but they’re certainly an oppressed minority. In 2013, football isn’t new to this country – but only recently, with the A-League’s increasing success has it come to the forefront as a real threat to the “traditional” Aussie sports such as AFL, Rugby and Cricket. Until recently, the other “footie” codes have kept the world-game suppressed, but now through great quality football and a growing excitement for the sport we are threatening to break out and they are not very happy about it.
Before I go on, I must clarify that as a sport in Australia, we’ve certainly not been blemish free. Recent controversy about flares has, perhaps, been warranted as this is an illegal and potentially dangerous activity. But the true meaning movements such as “passion is not a crime” and this article itself does not lie in defending these misdemeanours – it lies in the harsh, unfair and certainly biased way in which the sport is reported in media.
Most of us witnessed the social media uproar after the second Sydney Derby, where the Western Sydney Wanderers went to their rival’s home stadium and comfortably claimed their first derby victory. Brilliant football was played, the crowd was electric, both sets of active support groups (the Cove and the RBB) were incredible. It was an amazing sporting spectacle, heralded by journalists who went to the match as one of the best events in Sydney. But of course, none of this was reported; the sellout crowd wasn’t reported, the two goals weren’t mentioned… instead, began a witch-hunt. Channel 7, 9 and 10 journalists (the three major broadcasters) immediately scoured Youtube for footage of the flares let off in the crowd and plastered them across their headlines and news reports. False statements were made, such as: “flares were thrown into the crowd”.
I came home from that Sydney Derby (being a WSW fan) telling everyone that it was the best day of my life. The football was brilliant, the crowd was brilliant, the spectacle was brilliant. I had never felt more alive, more excited, more happy. But not long after I got home, I received a phone-call from my Grandma (I was only 16, bare with me) who sounded legitimately frightened. She wanted to know if I was safe; if I had survived the horrible events at the “soccer”. It was after this phone-call, after I reassured her that not at one moment was I or anyone in any sort of danger, that I realised: what I had convinced myself was beyond them, was certainly not beyond them.
In the preceding uproar from football fans, superbly valid points were made about facts such as how only three people were evicted from the Sydney Derby and it was labelled as “soccer hooliganism” where as in other events such as the MCG Cricket Test and the NRL Grand Final up to thirty times that many people have been kicked out, with the media labelling it “a well behaved crowd”. We are not defending the three people evicted from the football match, but criticising the unfair way in which it was reported – something we’ve endured for far too long and are well sick of.
Other events have sense sparked similar discontent. Articles such as the infamous, “Del Piero Calls it Soccer” by an author I won’t even credit – the point of the “report” being that Del Piero in an interview called football, “soccer”. How this passes as professional journalistic content is beyond me. Then, more recently, the Melbourne Derby – another impressive football spectacle – which received similar reporting to that of the aforementioned Sydney Derby.
Only the broken chairs and flares were at all highlighted by Melbourne media. Once again, I’m not going to defend these activities – but it seems to me that broken chairs and flares (which could probably be the name of my biography) are being reported as more horrendous and disgusting than the AFL doping scandal that has broken out into news today. Not only this, but the two following events directly inspired me to write this article.
Firstly, Tom Elliot, the drive-time presenter on 3AW (one of Melbourne’s biggest AM radio stations) has taken to Twitter to make such comments as: “I think the reason there is so much trouble at the soccer is because it is the most boring sport in Australia. What do you think?” and then, earlier today live on his radio station he announced to listeners that the Hillsborough Disaster which claimed so many lives was “caused by soccer fans being typically violent”. Of course, this was no-where near the case – the 96 casualties of the disaster were completely innocent victims to a human crush. This was the worst stadium-related disaster in British football history and is mourned yearly. To make such an ignorant and offensive comment about it is just completely unacceptable and a symptom of the theory I’m about to propose.
The second recent event was Perth’s NOVA FM radio station’s Facebook page, which posted a status asking the question, “Are there any fans worse than soccer fans?”. Earlier today they released an official apology labelling the post as “unfortunate” and asserting that they “do not agree with the proposition in the post”.
Ladies and gentlemen, what I am about to propose may certainly be controversial – but I now believe it to be sadly true. This sort of reaction we’re seeing in the media is a by-product of the typical Australian disaffection towards anything “foreign”. This defensive stance from NRL and AFL fans is an extension of the unfortunately prevalent, bogan Aussie racist urges.
Whilst officially most Australians are against racism and discrimination – and certainly the large majority of us truly are – there is still a large undercurrent of racism, particularly among people who would consider themselves “dink-di, true blue blokes from straya”. The sort of undercurrent that prompts still common phrases such as “We grew here, you flew here”. The sort of undercurrent that prompts the sniggers, disapproving looks or similarly disappointing gestures from people when my mum’s parents (who are from China) walk down the street. Or the reason why, even to this day, I (being half-Asian) still get the occasional racist comment thrown at me. Being racist is so ingrained into “true-blue” Australian culture that, despite recent movements against discrimination a large proportion of it still exists. Now I shouldn’t generalise, I’m absolutely not saying that all people of the demographic I’ve painted are like that; certainly not! Australia is this the best country in the world, and one of the most multi-cultural countries in the world. But the point remains, there has traditionally been an undertone of racism in the culture of people who grew here, who never flew here.
Of course, in this day and age – outright racism is not socially acceptable. You can’t get away with saying anything in public along the lines of, “bloody Chinese drivers” or “curry-munching Indians”. Most people understand why this is wrong, and the majority who think they should be entitled to have such opinions keep themselves quiet in the name of political correctness. However, in the case of anti-football media we are witnessing a movement that is truly founded on the same principles and urges that racism thrives off.
Rugby League (NRL) and Australian Rules Football (AFL) are what you would call “traditional Australian sports”. They’ve been the dominant sports in the country forever and still to this day remain the most popular. They are, to modern society, what Anglo-Saxons are to minority races. Football, or “soccer” as they call it, is a sport that, on a large scale, has been imported more recently – it “flew here”.
My father tells me stories of how in school they used to call football, “wog-ball”. “Wog” being a derogatory term for the migrant Europeans who were seen as the only people who enjoyed the sport. Since then, the word “wog” has become taboo and people have stopped calling it wogball and have started calling it soccer. But think about it, the apology posted by NOVA mentioned earlier in this article, labelling the post as “unfortunate” and asserting that they “do not agree with the proposition in the post”; does that not sound exactly like the sort of apology a company releases after they regrettably post something politically incorrect, something racist or discriminatory?
In a way that is reminiscent of racists afraid of “invading” immigrants from foreign countries, the anti-football media is trying to stop the growth of what they consider an un-Australian sport in defence of their traditional Australian values of Rugby and AFL. It’s this urge, whether they are aware of it or not, that is fuelling their aggressive, unfair and unacceptable comments about and reporting of the Beautiful Game.
I can find myself enjoying the NRL and even AFL; they’re good sports and can, at times, be entertaining. But my true passion is football, and it’s ingrained in my identity in a way which not many people understand and no matter what anybody tries to convince me. Why can’t we all just live in peace, in a world where none of our sports are discriminated against?
Follow Me on Twitter: @userlastnameGoogle+