RACISM IN THE AIR?
The latest in the so-called ethnic riots allegedly shaking
soccer in Australia
Last week I had this to say
was at the Melbourne Knights v Perth Glory game on Sunday night
as a guest of the president and saw just about every blow. It
was a disgraceful performance by a handful of cowardly supporters
and it will again hurt the game's image. However the facts are
that of about 7,000 people at the game it took only some 10 to
20 to destroy the night.
instructive that on a day when a dozen cowards created a confrontation
in Sunshine, Collingwood president Eddie McGuire was urging Magpie
supporters to 'stick it up Carlton supporters'. Comments such
as these enhance the tribalism of football. But what would mainstream
commentators say if this came from the president of the Knights
or Perth Glory?
The spot from where the two flares were thrown.
Otherwise, there was no trouble at all until after
It's now accepted that it was a security mistake to lead the
Perth players into the Knights supporters and thus into a situation
where some idiot could cause trouble. Furthermore it's wrong to
say a mob descended on the Perth players. In fact there were about
two would-be-toughs who confronted the Perth players. This led
to an exchange and a mob of about ten arriving before the police
could take control.
Knights supporter I saw in the vicinity was outraged by what had
happened. So too were several Knights officials who decided to
take justice into their own hands and chase the offending Knights
supporters thus creating a second confrontation.
was here that the bloke who appeared to have started the trouble
(or an offsider) was seen bleeding and being carted away.
Was it racial?
Although Bobby Despotovski has admitted making a 'political or
religious' gesture it doesn't follow ipso facto that the confrontation
was a result of the political nature of that gesture. As I suggested
to Jon Faine (ABC Radio) the two blokes who attacked the Perth
players didn't need a so-called Serbian salute to cause trouble.
I'd suggest that Despotosvki only needed to rebuke their abuse
for them to want to even the score. It might serve the Knights
to say that the gesture was the reason for the confrontation but
that only protects the mob and confuses the issue and the nature
of tribalism in football, Aussie Rules and Soccer.
the origins it wouldn't have happened if there had been a more
stringent approach to security. Nor did this gesture result in
a racially motivated riot. Once the players had been led back
into the room the offending mob of ten headed for the gates. Here
they were confronted by officials from their own club thus ensuring
the intervention of the police.
I suggested on the Jon Faine program, comments about a 'racial
dispute' need to be considered carefully. For former NSL chairman
David Hill to weigh in without any understanding of what actually
happened is pathetic. At a time when the likes of Pauline Hanson
love to fan the flames of ethnic conflict it's unfortunate that
some commentators aren't more circumspect.
Part of the crowd of 7,000 looks on. The lights of the
West Gate bridge can be seen in the background.
It was in the foreground where the players were confronted
30 minutes after the the ref blew full time (that's Soccer
for final siren).
Remember Nicky Winmar?
When confronted with racial abuse back in 1994 St Kilda's Nicky
Winmar pointed to his skin and said 'black and proud of it'. In
a sense this is what Despotovski did to his taunters. If the white
fella who were giving Winmar hell had found him in their company
and had been poorly disposed to him what might have happened?
worth remembering also what the Collingwood president of the day
had to say about blacks only needing to 'behave like white fella
to be respected'.
confronted with political abuse Despotovski gave the equivalent
of an 'up yours salute'. That was all it took for a couple of
thugs to assault the Perth players.
So what's this business about me being partisan?
I'll admit to being annoyed that ABC commentator Dwayne Russell
(Jon Faine - Monday morning) should have suggested my views were
compromised because I was 'working in soccer'.
interesting how Aussie Rules people want to raise the question
of 'conflict of interest' for others yet not for themselves. Is
Dwayne, who works on football for the ABC and Channel 9, objective
when he discusses a so called rival game?
worst thing is I don't earn a cent out of Soccer Australia or
any other club. If I do I'll let you know! At Carlton I was only
a consultant and am today a creditor of the club.
was invited to the Knights game by the president, Harry Mrksa,
with whom I've had a number of discussions concerning soccer.
If someone asks me to act as a consultant, whether it's for soccer,
football, cricket or Lawn Bowls I'll consider it.
Does this kind of violence happen in other codes?
Unless I've gone completely mad and lost touch with reality Soccer
is not the only sport that experiences violence in Australia.
Hardly an Aussie Rules game goes by without a confrontation of
some kind between supporters afterwards.
the much documented Hepburn Springs brawl to the sporadic blues
that occur after AFL games, to David Parkin taking a swipe at
a supporter screaming at the race, there are many incidents capable
of escalating into what happened at the Knights ground.
what of the exhibition by our own Anglophiles at the MCG during
One last word from Peter Kell author of Good Sports-Pluto
'The media focus on soccer has tended to highlight the occasional
on-field incidents, creating the impression that these are the
outcome of ethnic tension. Groups such as the anti-immigration
lobby have used such incidents to demonstrate that multi-culturalism
has not worked.....Crowd violence has more to do with poor facilities
.....than any deep hatred ....on the basis of ethnicity.
In many ways soccer is a victim of some of the anxieties
about immigration and multiculturalism, anxieties which have
triggered the moral panic that has unjustifiably identified
soccer as the 'folk devil' of Australian sport'..........
Soccer highlights the question of how sport can act as a
platform for reforming and changing the legacy of intolerance
and racism, by repositioning itself as a vehicle for tolerance,
acceptance, ......and how sport can celebrate diversity.
What's the state of play a week later?
As Soccer Australia moves towards a resolution of the matter
there are many issues to discuss.
To date we haven't had a decision on whether Despotovski's salute
was meant as 'a symbol used by Serb forces during the the Balkan
War' or an 'ancient Orthodox Christian' symbol. Whether
Despotovski's grasp of history should be the judge is a matter
of opinion. If it was equivalent to a Christian crossing
him or herself Soccer Australia would be in deep trouble if it
acted against the player. Although we don't have Bill
of Rights there are anti discrimination laws in Australia.
claims this salute was Serbian Orthodox in nature whereas some
Muslims, whilst acknowledging its origins in religion, argue that
it's inextricably linked to Serbian supremacy over Muslims, and
therefore to mass slaughter and rape in the Balkans. This a serious
accusation against Despotovski and one it's in his interest to
answer. Just as Carlton president John Elliott's description of
Blacks as forgotten people on Channel Nine's the Footy Show
in 1996 should have earned him a 'please explain' from the AFL
so too should Despotovski be reprimanded if he can't convince
the NSL that his gesture was not a symbol of the triumphalism
found offensive to people associated with the Balkan wars.
In a sense Gael Jennings' interview with Soccer Australia chairman
Tony Labbozzetta on SBS television unwittingly uncovered some
of the issues involved in the dispute. The gist of one Jennings
question was that the ethnic underpinning of soccer clubs should
be eradicated. It's fascinating how middle class society,
having proclaimed the beauty of multi-culturalism and sneered
at the politics of One Nation, can so easily slide into this line
Immigrant people built soccer in Australia. If the game
hasn't infiltrated white-Anglo Australia it's because vested interests
have demonised it. Furthermore if ethnicity was taken from
the game there'd be no soccer.
All the same conservative assumptions about politics and life
have emerged in the discussion over the incident at Somers Street.
Michael Lynch in the Age newspaper has at least been circumspect
enough to describe what happened as a 'rampage by a minority
of shaven-headed hooligans'. Some other journalists need
to cast off the assumptions and deep seated aversions to the game
and the people who've made it.
The last thing soccer needs is for the NSL to cower in the face
of the prejudice and jump from the shadows waving the pitch fork.
Careful and considered action rather than a pitch fork or a hillbilly
Hansonite posse should be the order of the day.
Soccer on Seven? I'd like to see that!
It's almost old news that Channel 7 has lost the AFL television
rights to the Murdoch, Packer, Ten consortium. But will
this mean a harvest for soccer. Let's face it 7 would be
mad not to embrace soccer once it loses football. And with
a stake in Colonial and growing interest in that ground as a soccer
venue 7 could yet have the last laugh.
With soccer growing in popularity in Australia, overseas clubs
looking to take shares in Australia clubs all the game needs is
a serious media partner.
EASTERN PRIDE! The latest edition.
Hello Mr Schwab
On a previous occasion I
'although discussions with Brendan Schwab, CEO of the Player
Association, were amicable (at the time of Carlton's demise)
Peter Jess is entitled to believe there should have been a more
creative proposal from the Association.
It would be instructive to see just what level of expenditure
cut former Carlton players have endured. It is highly
likely that had a 'collective agreement' based on an equivalent
pay cut would have enabled Carlton to fight on. It's no
secret that Carlton players at the Knights and elsewhere have
accepted significant cuts and that some players have no employment'.
A Melbourne Consortium?
coincidence would have it, prior to talking on Radio 774 Melbourne
ABC on Monday morning I received a phone call regarding the possibility
of a Melbourne consortium creating a team from the remnants of
Colonial and Soccer, you ask?
Not yet but maybe in the
Epping as a central venue?
Although I spoke to Ian Collins and
officials at Colonial on behalf of the Melbourne Knights (free
of charge) to play its game against South Melbourne at Colonial
it was simply too expensive. I remain convinced that Epping Stadium
should be used at NSL level to build support in the northern suburbs.
Colonial is perfect for promotional purposes but building a base
is just as critical.
With a concerted promotional campaign
a well cashed up and managed club could attract crowds in excess
of 6,000 to games at Epping then draw these and many more people
to major venues such as Colonial.
Cast off the small mindedness
Soccer Australia must develop a strategy
rather than smugly letting clubs appear then fold a few years
later. The good will being eroded by the loss of Carlton
and other clubs seriously hurts the game. Equally, many
people currently involved in soccer need to cast off the paranoia
and the small mindedness.
Rather than panicking at Sunday night's
events the NSL should be taking on the lynch mobs, Neil Mitchell
(3AW) and David Hill included.
It's no wonder Peter Jess was frustrated
at what happened to Carlton.
Among Peter Jess' critics are a host
of people who've been unable to take soccer one step beyond where
it was twenty years ago. Several of them like to puff out
the chest and prattle on about what they've done but the truth
is their contribution is a joke.
It's time they had a good hard look
One bloke in particular comes to mind.
More about him soon.
An ideal venue for some games.
It still might be.
Soccer's current approach to developing soccer is manna from
heaven for many mainstream anti-soccer journalists. It's time
There's no doubt Melbourne needs a broad based club:
supported by the corporate sector
connected to an overseas club
capable of enhancing commercial links to Asia and
embraced as Melbourne's own
Beyond that it needs to have the game on free to air television
and a promotional strategy in Melbourne where prejudice against
soccer is as great and irrational as it has ever been.