My visit to the heart mechanic this morning didn’t exactly go to plan….
I (unusually) arrived early so I decided to kill the time reading the headlines in one of our leading newspapers…..Whilst the 1.25 litre bottle of water I was drinking may have disguised my morning custard tart and flat white from the impending blood pressure reading, the headline on the front page certainly didn’t.
“Soccer fans the Worst”.
So a top cop says.
I’m not a police officer, but a fan of the A-League and moreover, the world game, and not here to dispute what the chief says. I repeat however, I am a football fan….something I’m unsure Victoria Police and large sections of our media fail to understand. But more on that later…
I am baffled though, why this newspaper felt so compelled to report this story on its front page….
This, on the same day the A-League finals commence. Coincidence or conspiracy?Where was the report previewing the A-League finals campaign? Half way through the sports section…..Or the report reviewing the football purists’ wet dream (that is, Arsenal vs Barcelona in the Champions’ League round of 16) and the former’s stirring comeback? It was a mere footnote…..
Or the right of reply to the refreshing and challenging remarks made by former Socceroo, Llubo Milicevic earlier this week in which he stated, amongst other things, many AFL and NRL players allegedly take drugs, yet get away with it because those codes’ stance on drugs being built on thin “ice”. No pun intended. I’m still looking for it…..
I did however, read an article the other day in the same newspaper about a self confessed drug and alcohol user and former AFL star whose former partner would rather spend a night with the lions (no, not the AFL club) on their African holiday than him, being offered a lucrative contract to try and do his best Fred Astaire impersonation on Dancing with the Stars It’s ironic how sections of our media continually throw lifelines to AFL footballers who can’t, nor know, how to control their emotions, yet throws the boot in on passionate and emotional fans at football games!
This is not the first time my temples have been pounding at the sight of such news…..
The night after the first A-League and Melbourne football derby was played, sections of our media, rather than embrace the significance of the game, ran beat up stories about alleged violence between sections of supporters of both clubs and how those supporters allegedly vandalised our public transport system. Yet how many people did Victoria Police arrest that night? One. It must have been a slow news day….Oh, but the Caulfield Guineas was on that same weekend and 57 people were allegedly arrested for underage drinking. Well so I heard on the grapevine…..
With A-League crowd numbers already way down on those of the opening season, sections of our media seem intent on chasing more fans away from the world game. Even lower crowd numbers are surely to be the consequence of such stories and the heavy handed manner in which the more enthusiastic, active fans are being treated by security staff and police around the country.
And so to the point I alluded to earlier…..
Football fans are a rare and unique breed. Our authorities, media and the administrators of the game cannot expect a passive and sanitised form of support witnessed in other football codes. Football supporters are, above all, fans. They have too much pent-up passion to be able to sit there quietly and cheer when the odd goal goes in. Of course they will get passionate if and when the winning and only goal is scored in the 94th minute of a pulsating context or the referee makes a bad decision which affects the outcome of the game!
Football fans see themselves as members of the team and will do whatever they can to contribute to the defeat of the opposing team. Hence the songs they sing, the giant banners supporting a team or player, the horns, the drums and the hardcore fan groups. The passion extends beyond the field and into the stands and a connection is built that makes every fan more than a mere spectator.
It is why at many football clubs around the world, like Boca Juniors for example, there is no number 12 squad shirt – the number being reserved for the fans who are collectively seen as the 12th man. This is non existent in other football codes.
This does not of course mean that passion which is channelled into violence should be accepted or go uncontrolled. There is no doubt certain fans are tarnishing the A-League brand. I’m not that ignorant and/or one eyed. But as a regular attendant at many A-League games since its inception, I cannot help but observe and note a consistent misunderstanding between our authorities and the games’ fans. Passionate, positive support should not be confused with football hooliganism, an extremely different and ugly beast. It is this difference that I feel our authorities and media do not fully understand and moreover, embrace.
Further, I see no justification for an unnecessarily high police presence at A-League games such as the one witnessed at the Melbourne Victory vs Newcastle Jets game last month. As a friend later remarked, “There was not one hint of violence….That sort of police presence will only fire up fans even more!”
And let’s not let the flare throwing individual take the headlines away from a game which has given the world mouth watering local derbies steeped in history and many nations joy in times of despair.