I started doing one of these when I first moved over, however living life in Australia became more time consuming I didn't have so much time to write about it. However I want to start doing it on a regular basis. SO if anyone's interested in reading it then please feel free to offer any constructive criticism.
Diddlywinks is coming home
A recent blog on the Courier Mail (a Brisbane based newspaper) website by one of their columnists summed up for me the difference between being a football fan in Australia compared to England.
In it the columnist, Barry Dick, wrote about looking forward to the Footy season (by which he means Rugby League & Union as well as Aussie Rules) as he was getting bored of the summer sports. Bored of tennis, bored of cricket and bored - thanks to the summer season in the A-League - of football. Except he didn't call it Football, he didn't even call it Soccer...he called it Diddlywinks. He did this, apparently, because he was bored of the debate that was stirred up everytime he used the word Soccer instead of Football.
Now of course, every blogger wants hits and comments so he knew full well what reaction he'd get and it soon followed. It was the reaction which summed up the difference with our game over here.
I should first state that personally the word Soccer doesn't offend or annoy me at all. I'm well aware that my sport is well down the pecking order here in Australia and depending who you talk to and where you are Football means different things to different people. So when I'm talking to people outside of my Football social circle I use Soccer when talking about the game, it's just easier. Lot's of Football people here though really get highly strung over the S Word, I've found that generally they are the native Australians and they really don't like it....especially when it's used in what they perceive to be the Rugby or Aussie Rules biased press.
It sets keyboards alight with message board posts and emails which will usually involve the phrase "The World Game". The insinuation usually being that's it's called Football all over the world, that the other 'codes' in Australia don't have the global support of Football and it's going to take over Australia too. The reaction to Barry Dick's blog was no exception - it ran to pages and pages. Now, they are of course right about one thing...Football is the one truly global game (as Barry was quick to acknowledge in one of his replies). As to whether it's on it's way to dominate the sporting landscape here in Australia, well that's more open to debate.
Sure the game is growing over here. When I first came to Australia on holiday in 2001 there was little or no mention of the sport in the press. I tried to buy a shirt of the then local Brisbane team, the Strikers, in a major sports shop in the city and was literally laughed at. Now the racks are full of kits, from the A-League, Premiership and other major teams from around the world. The papers all carry at least a page every day and the results from home and abroad are given in the sports bulletins. If you have satellite TV you can watch more live games here than you can in the UK. However League and AFL in particular are so ingrained in the sporting culture that I just can't see Football overtaking that. Rugby Union is potentially there to be overtaken, but not the other 'codes'.
It's that which is what makes Football so different over here. On the whole kids don't grow up with a round ball at their feet but with an oval one in their hands. Being a League fan if you live in New South Wales or Queensland or an AFL fan in Victoria or South Australia is like being a Football fan in most of the rest of the world...most people just ARE. They are kitted out in the colours of their father's team at birth, giving their first ball before they can walk and are immersed in the culture.
So to be a Football fan here is in most cases a conscious decision, a choice to be different from the masses for whatever reason that may be. Like most groups of people who dare to be different- be that in lifestyle choices, dress style, music taste or anything the Football fans defend their choice vigorously. To be fair in the past they've had to, Football was so far out of the mainstream that it was almost considered un-Australian to be a fan. That seems a strange thing to say in a World Cup year when most of the country will be up in the early hours to watch the Socceroos play in South Africa but it's true. The remnants of that still remain, and the fact that the major media group in Australia basically owns Rugby League the accusations of vested interest are often made against the papers.
The funny thing is that same media group, the Murdoch owned News International, are also the biggest funders of the Premier League in England through Sky Sports and it's flagship newspaper The Sun prints almost exclusively Football stories most of the time in it's sports pages. Perhaps the fans of Rugby League in the UK feel the same way as Football fans in Australia....that would certainly have more than a slight trace of irony.