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Why they fear us…

Football. Being born a Football fan. A Football convert. When football flows in your veins it is not just a sport you watch with detached interest over a BBQ, and have a laugh when your team loses. You live and breath it. Its like a drug, the extreme elation and pain. You are not just a spectator but a fan. Following football is more then a following a sport, it is been part of a revolution, a mission, and often means carrying the burdens that comes with it in Oz.

As children, many of us experienced what Johnny Warren called “the boofhead”mentality. Football, although part of the Australian fabric for over 100 years was not a mans game, borne out of our tough frontier history. It was not “Australian”. Many of us could not understand this mentality.

This attitude was/is pushed by agenda driven media, and powerful sporting officials. Then you get to a certain age and ask yourself “why so much hate from these influential people, and many people out there in the public?”

Then you realise, that much of it is due to fear. But why fear a game that, for a better part of half a century, was confined to the ethnic fringes of Australia. Even now, why such animosity, which leads to educated sporting commentators having nothing more to say then “its soccer not football” and “its a sheilas game” about our game, rather then analysing it. Why does such a (comparatively) underesourced game continue to strike fear into them. And why does the game already, punch above its weight division.

We often hear reasons for the fear as “because it is the sleeping giant”, or “because it has unlimited potential”.

But I want to take it a step further, to understand what is is about football that gives it such massive potential. As the AFL said a few years back, that “if soccer is allowed to flourish, it will swamp every other code”.

Football by its very nature, offers so many things the other codes cannot. Conversely, the other codes know they are offering a “limited package” so to speak, with limited potential. Is it too arrogant to describe football as a superior package? If so, then how else do you describe it.

So what are these things that football offers, that no other sport does. Below are the reasons they fear us:

1. A strong domestic and international competition

Football is now the ONLY code in Australia that boasts both a strong domestic and international competition. No other code can boast this. Our internationals have meaning. The A-league has grown in leaps and bounds, our average crowd now only 1,000 less then the NRL (and with only a fraction of the money and media promotion, and lets not forget some NRL tams often inflated crowd figures). Our national team is now the highest rating and attended national team in the country.

2. Juniors

Despite AFL’s claims that over 2 billion Australian kids play AFL (a figure only backed by the AFL mind you), football is Number 1 for juniors. The very nature of the game means that it is a sport that parents want their kids to play. Even Rugby League clubs offering free memberships cannot entice enough kids to play, nor can AFL’s cheap memberships (comparatively) dethrone football as Australia’s number 1 junior sport. Such is the popularity of football, that under resourced clubs have to turn juniors away. Unlike other sports, the demand in football far exceeds the resources. Juniors are a great path to recruit life long fans. Juniors are the traditional strength of football in Oz, and is one of the solid foundations on which the sleeping giant can awaken.

3. Women

“Massive Potential” does not do justice to describing women’s football. The game has exploded and continues to grow. Football is the only sport of the major codes that has a strong representation in female participants. Again, football has naturally inbuilt, those characteristics that attract women to the game. Again, a great way to attract female supporters to the game. A televised female football comp would do wonders for football in Australia.

Thus Football has the highest numbers of juniors, women and adult males, thereby making it the only sport that truly represents the entire cross section of the community, more so, then any other code.

4. Competition

Football offers truly meaningful competition at all levels. Domestic, International, Champions League, Premier League, UEFA Cup, Asian Cup, Asian Champions League, European Cup, African Cup, South American, European, African, Asian, American Leagues, FA Cup, an Australian FA Cup (?), and ANZAC Cup (?). Football is a monster, their are competition galore for fans to follow. It is 12 months a year, a giant. No other sport offers such variety. It is interesting to see the debate on how an extended A-league may interfere with other codes. In isolationist Australia, sport only goes for 6 – 8 months. In globalised Australia, football has no seasons, it flourishes year all year round. There are competitions at all times of the year.

5. Economics/Financial Rewards

Anyone notice Kevin Rudd at the A-league Grand Final. The Rudd Government throwing unprecedented amounts of money at football. Even the Howard Government began to see the benefits of having healthy Australian domestic and international competitions. What have they realised? That football open up massive economic doors in Asia and around the world. No other sport can do this. Rugby Union an international sport? In most countries that it is played it is a small amateur sport with no more then a few hundred (if your lucky a few thousand) people playing it. In those countries, most people don’t know the first thing about the game. What markets will Union open up for you? The 3-4 million NZ economy, or perhaps South Africa, where Union is the sport of of only the 10% minority white population? Even the European Cup rates higher then the Union World Cup (easily).

Football is a golden ticket. Millions of dollars worth of business around the world are done on the back of football. And our Governments have begun to realise this. (lets not beat China by too much lads Smile

6. Exposure

The financial rewards are one of the benefits of exposure. Football put Australia on the map. The Football World Cup gave Australia more coverage then anything else we have ever done in our History (including the Olympic Games). The Football World Cup is over 2 times the size of the Olympic Games. Yet many of us in Australia, influenced by our isolationist past still naively ask “does Harry Kewell get paid as much as Andrew Jones?”. When I went to Europe, to stay with my cousins, the first thing they said to me in relation to Australia was “Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka”. Australia is a great sporting nation, but the reality is, until it achieves something in football, it will never (in the eyes of most the world) be recognised as such.

7. Atmosphere/fans

Simply put, the atmosphere is second to none. The passion, elation, despair. Football fans are not merely spectators (as many are in other sports). We have a mission, we are the extra person on that field, there to get our team over the line. It is not a sport you go to pass the time, have a beer, go for a wonder. You are focused on the game. When there are no goals, the atmosphere builds like a pressure cooker, and when that goal finally comes, the release valve is switched on and euphoria follows.You sing your love for the team (and disdain for the opposition). In Australia football was always a target for the agenda driven media. But they could never destroy us. This has equipped the Australian football fan with a toughness and resiliance and a spirit that can never be broken. This only adds to our passion.

8. Skill

In terms of skill, no other sport can match football. We could talk forever about this, but lets just look at the basic skill of football compared to Rugby League. In Rugby League, the basic skill is running with the ball. All you need to do here is pick up a ball and run with it. It is not a skill that has to be learned. What is the basic skill in football? Dribbling. This is a skill that needs to be learned in order to play the game. It involves controlling a free moving ball. (something you dont have to do when carrying a ball in League). In football, you need to control a free moving ball with your feet, thigh, chest, head. Techniques that can take years to master.

9. Tactics/Formation

4-4-3, 5-3-2, 4-2-4, 4-3-2-1, the list is endless. Footballs very nature means that it has a wide variety of tactics. In games like Union and League, you attack in a straight line. Therefore the number of formations are limited. Football offers more freedom and complexity – something the other codes cannot offer.

10. Philosophies/style

English, Dutch, Australian, Italian, Spanish, Egyptian, Brazilian, Nigerian, Japanese…we could go on for ever. Styles within these national styles. Mixtures of styles. Being the world game means the number styles and philosophies are almost endless. In Union, AFL and League, you have a limited number of people playing these games or involved in them. Therefore the number of ideas coming into the game are limited, and the game is slow to evolve technically and tactically. Infact, the very nature of these games means that different styles and formations are limited. Football, by its very nature offers what these sports cannot. You may notice some sports like Cricket, change the very structure and laws to which they adhere to, just to keep it relevant in today’s world (One dayers, 20/20 anyone?).

11. Youth

Generation X and Generation Y in Australia are a media savvy generation part of the globalised world. This generation, is increasingly following football. If youth is the future, then it doesn’t take a genius to work out where football is going.

12. No Geographical Boundaries.

AFL is largely confined to the Southern States. NSW and QLD are not a stronghold. League is not played with any great popularity outside NSW and QLD and if it collapses in NSW, it effectively collapses as a sport. Union is restricted to the managerial class (or has this stigma attached to it which limits its appeal). Football has now broken out of its “ethnic” stigma, and now its possibilities are endless. It does not have the possess the restrictions/limitations of these other sports.

13. Accessibility :

No other codes have the “accessibility” that football does. This is an extremely important element in the expansion of the game. Anyone can play football, it is not restricted to size, weight sex etc. One player can play football – he/she can juggle a ball or kick it against a wall. One player cant really play Rugby League. Two, three, four players can play. All you need is a couple of sticks for a goal and a ball. You can play football on concrete, dirt etc (you cannot play Rugby League or Union on these surfaces). You can play football in small confined spaces, infact, this develops you skills. You cannot play AFL in small areas. No other codes can offer the “accessibility” that football does.

14. Player Opportunities

It is the global game, you can play domestically all around the world, in literally thousands of competitions, and play meaningful internationals. No other sport comes close to offering this.

15. An increasingly Globalised Society

Football is just as much a part of the Australian fabric as AFL, Union and League, with a long history in Australia. Yet is was viewed as foreign and confined to the ethnic fringes. Australia was by and large an isolated country (compared to the rest of the world). And it was this isolationism that allowed AFL, Union and League to flourish. Now the isolationist (and therefore protectionist) walls are coming down, and Australia is opening up to the globalised world. These codes no longer have Australians isolation to protect them. Football is as much a part of the Globalised world as it is Australia. It will only get stronger.

If AFL, Union and League only recognise one of these points, it is enough for them to be fearful. What would happen if they realised all of them? Make no mistake, the “Anti-Soccer Brigade” does not go to bed thinking about their sport. They go to bed worrying about football. They will struggle more to keep the giant that is football down. This is why you have educated sportsman, dumbing down discussions on football to it been “soccer” or “foreign” or “a girls game”. What is amusing is that they are now forced to discuss football, because a revolution is taking place and they cannot ignore the demand out there.

Ghandi once said “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they attack you, then you win.” Football is winning. Carried on the back of passionate football fans like ourselves, it possesses those qualities that no other codes can match or offer. It is a complete package. In an increasingly globalised world, football by its very nature, will become Australians Number 1 sport.

Written by

Published on March 18, 2008

See What Others Say
  1. Rob on March 20th, 2008 3:20 PM

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. Now hopefully the administrators will now or soon play the A-League in the winter (too hot to play in summer) and tackle the other codes head on. Cheers

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