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Australian football is eating itself from within

When a discussion forum like The Roar goes into meltdown over an issue such as the disgusting banner displayed at the Sydney derby, only one thing is certain.

 

Everybody gets hurt.

 

First and foremost, Graham Arnold who deserves more respect when he is at work and despite his sometimes gruff exterior, has done or said nothing to have brought on the kind of ridicule that was directed at him on Saturday.

 

The fans on the night are also harmed. Whether it be an embarrassed mother or father having to feebly come up with some awkward and illogical explanation of the sign or kids who are seated far too close to violent behaviour, they all lose.

 

Both clubs are damaged, hopefully not irreparably. There will be an undoubted number of people there for their first derby, dipping their feet into the beautiful waters of football, who will feel scared and intimidated by the stupidity displayed.

 

A potential club membership looks further away to those people and as the A-League clubs continue to seek the most enviable of all commodities; the paying member, the effect on our local product shouldn’t be underestimated.

 

Relationships are also damaged, whether it be the FFA and the clubs involved, the FFA and media outlets, disappointed that the product has once again shown its ugly side or merely a continuation of the ridiculous cross town rivalry that some fans take on board as a blood sport.

 

There is no one with greater appreciation and love and passion for the games we play than yours truly, yet the disgrace that rears its ugly head every now and again on our local pitches is so far removed from passion it is absurd.

 

I sat with a Wanderers fan and we got on OK. I cracked a few gags about scoring goals, he took a shot at me suggesting my gluten intolerance is a lifestyle choice that only an Eastern suburbs tosser could make – and we watched the game.

 

Nearby, around five rows in front, there was a complete tool exhibiting what he thought was passion, yet in reality his actions were nothing more than antagonistic demonstrations of aggression.

 

I will not label him with his colours, that is not the point of the article. What is pertinent is the fact that he spent more time standing and turning around to face opposition supporters behind him with middle fingers raised and foul obscenities spewing from his mouth.

 

This, mind you, is in the ANZ members area, where standards of behaviour far higher than the ones he was exhibiting are expected, and the fundamental reason I pay for my membership.

 

What possible satisfaction is gained from this sort of nonsense? The outcome is division and animosity built between people. A Trump like wall. Call me an old hippie, but the spirit of sport is something of the utmost beauty. Not vitriol and hatred.

 

Human beings created contests to feed their innate desire to improve themselves. The modern trend to destroy others rather than win with grace and humility is something pervading all corners of life.

 

So-called reality TV feeds off this viciousness and while there might be some who felt that the events of Saturday night provided some sort of positive outcome, they are fools.

 

Fools blinded by an absurd hollowness in their own lives, that they attempt to fill through the violence they partake in, while watching some wonderful young men who just enjoy playing football.

 

Football has never had more curious people tuning in to the occasional broadcast on Foxtel. Figures clearly show that the number of more casual watchers has increased. Saturday sets these figures back, it makes the game less desirable for future free-to-air carriers.

 

If you have any doubt about this, try and source a copy of the Nine Network’s reporting of the derby on Sunday night. The first few words of the throw to the ad escape me, but it ended with ‘in a night of soccer violence.’

 

Peter Overton said the words as though he had won a small fortune in a lottery. Whether we like it or not, when the game hums along in Australia and all is hunky dory, everyone jumps on board.

 

Unfortunately as soon as something happens akin to Saturday just passed, the mainstream will leap like vultures and devour the A-League without a second thought.

 

The old saying of any news being good news does not apply in the case of Australian football. In fact, no news at all might just be better, especially on derby weekends in Sydney.

 

The even larger issue here is that ingrained stereotypes that stem from ancient times of ethnic allegiances to clubs, flares and violence and a general perception of football as a dirty and ‘wog’ game are so easily rehashed by the narrow minded and those seeking to hurt the game.

 

Let’s not kid ourselves and think that those stereotypes and attitudes don’t spread far deeper into our culture that just our pitches, clubs and supporter bases.

 

The hearts and minds of the wider population are susceptible to broad sweeping news reports that label and marginalise the game. In a way, you can’t blame the somewhat casual observer for forming some rather ill-informed ideas around football.

 

It is football’s job to cease providing the ammunition. Therein lies the ultimate tragedy of the situation. It is the game itself, one that has strived for decades, fought racism, stereotypes and bigotry, a game given a kick start by the A-League, that is eating itself from within.

 

The irony of this situation should not be lost on anyone. On one hand, I purchase my two beautiful little girls a Sydney FC t-shirt and they want to go to a game.

 

We go to a game and they both want to play. I am lucky enough to coach the eldest and see her first foray into the world of football be a successful one.

 

They run around the house through the week talking about both Milos’, Ninkovic and Dimitrijevic, but also some other great A-League names like Besart Berisha and they still remember Aaron Mooy.

 

They collect A-League football cards and attend an away match up at Central Coast Stadium. Then, through not fault of my own, I have to explain why a picture of Graham Arnold appears at the ground with an enormous penis emanating from his mouth.

 

The sadness of A-League members and supporters being responsible for it is beyond belief. The notion of actually defending the behaviour is quite possibly one of the most curious observations I have ever made in terms of human behaviour.

 

The almost certain result ensues, everybody gets criticised. The FFA gets whacked. The Wanderers fans all get tarnished. Sydney FC become embroiled and are also to blame.

 

Everyone is a target. Even us. Just the everyday football fan who goes to work on the Monday and cops a ribbing or hears a comment as someone says, ‘bloody soccer fans at it again.’

 

Robbin Slater also copped it this time round. Yes, I’m sure Robbie has a lot to do with what went on at ANZ on Saturday.

 

Sadly, another Monday rolls around with the same old headlines and the same old fools responsible and the game eats itself from within.

 

Maybe I am an old hippie and the sight of the RBB and the Cove sitting together, cheering, celebrating and shaking hands at game’s end is all a bit Woodstock for some.

 

Yet as things stand, football appears to be at the mercy of a group of people who don’t care one iota about the game. If they did, they might be able to admit to the stupidity of their actions and stop tearing my game apart.

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