Beautiful game, ugly Australian
8:06 AM Sun 4th Dec, 2005 - Admin
One of the sources of fascination for an Australian football aficionado following that night on November 16 was to follow the press reaction, especially from those princes of the Fourth Estate who have not exactly been partial to football in this cricket country.
Most, I am delighted if a little bemused to say, opted to go along with the throng, the 4.3 million SBS viewers who were thrilled by the game, not to say its result. It was a case of, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
(Actually that figure should read 8.5 million. According to a Roy Morgan poll, which included all those who watched the game in clubs, pubs, squares and other public venues, that’s how many flocked to the historic spectacle.)
Peter Fitzsimons of the Sydney Morning Herald, by his own admission not exactly a football pilgrim, took the satirical line that he is now suddenly one of us. It’s mockery of course but it’s pretty harmless.
Mike Carleton, of the same paper and another dyed in the wool rugby man, disassociated himself from all disparaging remarks he may have ever made about football in the past, saying it had been the fault of the editor who meddled with his copy.
That was the general trend.
The odd desperate from the other side of the trench that divides football bent people from the game’s sworn enemies bunkered under the claim that this was a one off and the swallow of a once in 32-years triumph will not make it an eternal soccer summer in a country that will continue to pay homage to its cricket, rugby league and Aussie rules traditions.
Which is, who knows, probably true.
But that was about the size of it. Most of the redneck sports columnists either went with the flow or preferred to shut up and write about something else, like the need for Eddie Jones to be sacked.
But one banana chose to stand out from the crowd, say it like he felt it, and actually heap scorn on what the country’s biggest selling newspaper, the Sydney Daily Telegraph, ranked as the greatest sports moment in the nation’s history. It was their ranking, not mine.
It was one Kevin Naughton, writing in Adelaide’s Sunday Mail. Ever heard of him? No, neither have I.
Of course, he could be a very nice man and his mother probably loves him but I would need to get to know him better before I could form the same view.
In an article titled ‘World Game needs a little respect to win us over’ he actually began with the words: ‘What a pity the Socceroos won their way into the World Cup.’
A pity. That caught my eye. I had to ask, how many people were there in Australia on the night of November 16 who actually thought Bresciano’s goal, the converted penalties in the shootout and Schwarzer’s heroics were a pity?
Well this comedian did.
The thrust of his ‘argument’ was driven by a pathological sense of xenophobia. He called the victory a threat to a society that had been ‘delightfully free of the nationalistic and ugly fervour associated with the so-called world game’.
The so-called world game.
He called football a sport of hate, ‘the game of hooliganism, riots and murders’. In the week that he did there was a football match in Spain between CF Barcelona and a combined Israeli-Palestinian eleven, a ground-breaker in dismantling fences between tragic social and political foes, attended and applauded by peace process champion and Nobel peace laureate Shimon Peres.
The writer of this junk, whose credentials for becoming a columnist on a metropolitan newspaper are mystifying, went on to suggest that football had no place in this pure as the driven snow country and that it should be played ‘on the moon – on the dark side, where it belongs.’
He moaned, correctly, about the crass behaviour of the fans for booing the Uruguayan national anthem.
Yet it is here where he gave himself away.
He attempted to compare the crassness with the patriotic politeness of AFL fans who stand in ‘stunning silence for the Last Post on Anzac Day’.
He forgot to mention that the singing of Advance Australia Fair by the 83,000 on November 16 was so resounding, so loud, so unified that one couldn’t hear oneself think or breathe, that the pop singer engaged to sing it through the PA system was reduced to a mime.
Never ever before had such thumping pride in one’s country been exhibited at a sporting event in Australia’s history. Yet this fool thinks football is un-Australian.
The music and the rhythm of November 16 fell on deaf ears with Mr Naughton. The reason, clear to all who read his nonsense, was his own fear of what this might mean to his own definition of where Australian sporting norms have been and should stay.
Soccer has been foreign to Australia for a century and more and that is where it should remain, is his claim.
But he, and the few like him that still survive, have a major problem. And that is that this country is now part of the 21st Century and that it hungers to be part of the world. The evolution of the past 50 years, forward from the dreary isolationism of the 1950s, the white Australia policy and the country’s blond, blue-eyed image of itself, has propelled us a little bit into the future.
But that is all.
In all my years of observing and listening to the sheilas, wogs and poofters attitude to football, this was quite the most vicious and heartless piece I have read. That any scribe could be so scornful of a bunch of Australian sportsmen and their celebrated deeds and still get away with it is astonishing.
Of course this man, and other xenophobes like him, should take a pill and relax. The Aloisi penalty did not precipitate the destruction of AFL, rugby, cricket and Australian culture as we know it. They will all go on, their health unabated.
Australia will continue to be a rich and sweet place for all that happened on November 16, probably richer and sweeter.
If only the uglies, like Kevin Naughton, could let it be. God, how I wish they’d shut up.
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Spurs new stadium under construction in Oct 2017.
Spurs new stadium under construction in Oct 2017.