Listening to Johnny Warren and Les Murray always intimidated me. What they knew about the game collectively was impressive.
Warren offered the player, managerial and strategical perspective and Murray provided an encyclopaedic knowledge of the world game, all done with appropriate enunciation and emphasis.
What they couldn’t paint in the picture of the game, could have been written on the proverbial postage stamp. Conversely, I felt my knowledge of the game could have been written on that same stamp.
While probably being a little too hard on myself here, as I do manage and administrate the game, I still find little nuggets of information on a daily basis that make me feel like a footballing midget.
My excuse is that I came to the game a little later than some. I played as a kid and enjoyed following West Ham United, albeit very distantly, and never really embraced the game with the same passion that I do today.
The local league was inaccessible for much of my youth, my father claimed to have seen some wild and ethnicity fuelled explosions and felt it wasn’t the safest place to take me.
My peers now tell me that the NSL days were safe, enjoyable and any fear was misplaced. I believe them. Perhaps my Anglo-Saxon heritage created a distance that forged a barrier between the game and I, that ultimately took years to bring down.
I will regret that forever, as I would love to have been more involved in the earlier days.
Sadly, my support of Sydney Croatia, Sydney United and the Northern Spirit would remain quite removed from the stands.
Becoming a self-funded and more confident man allowed me to discover my true passion for the game. The NRL will still get my juices following as the Bulldogs strive for premiership number nine, I’ll still support the Essendon Football Club passionately and spent countless hours cheering on cyclists, tennis players and golfers, but football brings me to tears.
As a result, I have extensive gaps in my football knowledge. Despite presently surrounding myself with all things football, the foundations are laid in youth.
While some of the following questions might seem obvious to you, they are ones to which I need answers. Please don’t judge me too harshly. Football is a mystery to me in so many ways.
#1 Why do goalkeepers look like mummies?
As I sit watching the Wanderers versus Phoenix clash, I note that both ‘keepers are covered up so that barely an inch of flesh is exposed. Is it religious? Are they particularly sun conscious?
Tough to argue this one at 7.45 pm New Zealand time.
It fascinates me. If I was to parade around wearing hi-vis gear covering every inch of my body beside my head the local school kids would bash the snot out of me.
It’s become such an issue that if I catch a glimpse of a goalkeepers knees I actually get a little excited.
I’m sure it’s quite logical but I just can’t see it.
#2 From where exactly do you take a throw-in?
When I started coaching I encouraged the kids to take a throw in from the spot where the ball had crossed the line. How stupid of me!
I obviously failed to read the sub-clause to the throw-in rule which clearly states that players can impersonate cat-walk models and walk up and down the sideline at their leisure until they feel they have successfully created a secure path to a teammate.
Alternatively, players can crab forward with ball held behind head, a couple of steps at a time, in order to achieve the same outcome.
I coached my under 12 girls to do the same and at the first throw of the game, the ref held up the throw to move young Grace back to the appropriate spot. Subsequently, I was banished to the stands.
#3 What are players discussing over the ball at free kicks?
We’ve seen it hundreds of times already this season. Player brought down just outside the box and a real scoring opportunity presents itself.
The referee pulls out his graffiti can and marks spots for both ball and wall and then proceeds to engage in various arguments and discussions with an array of players prior to the taking of the kick.
All the while, two or three attackers approach the ball and plan their strike. I would’ve thought it was quite simple.
Player A: Mine.
Player B: Ok.
Whether it’s based on rotation, position on the field or seniority in the team doesn’t matter. They are all valid reasons. Yet as you watch them, they seem to have a much more detailed discussion.
Player A: Should I take it or do you wanna kick it?
Player B: I wanna, but what if I miss? Do you wanna?
Player A: The ‘keeper’s very tall.
Player B: Does my hair look alright?
Player A: Look at the manager man, he’s going to blow. You take it.
Player B: No, you take it!
What are they talking about?
#4 Are you only permitted to manage an A-League team if you’re certifiably insane?
Turn the sound down and watch these men. It’s brilliant.
Does anyone else get the feeling that Graham Arnold and Kevin Muscat run orientation days for new coaches to teach them to spit, swear, speak smugly to the press and tug at sections of their apparel that don’t need tugging in a family timeslot?
I’ve taken their style on board recently and have been appointed to numerous positions, far beyond my skills mind you, based purely on a perceived insanity I have been able to create.
#5 What is the historical football significance of the middle finger salute?
I plead complete ignorance here. Obviously the middle finger has some sort of deep and emotional meaning to fans all over the world. Australia should be proud that one of our own clubs fans, the Wanderers, have embraced it like no other.
I feel like a fool when my team scores; I stand, hands aloft, cheering and smiling and feel quite left out that I don’t comprehend the deeper meaning and symbolism of the middle finger salute.
The source of my confusion stems from my youth, when that finger meant something so different. If only those boys at school understood its deeper meaning, they wouldn’t have used it so casually. I just wish someone would explain it to me.
#6 Why do the referees turn up to the game?
If I gave you the chance to turn up to an open air venue, run around and use the time to keep trim and be paid for the privilege, you might say yes.
If I added that you could be abused and heckled by around ten to fifteen thousand people as you do it, your answer might change.
If I threw in the added bonus of intense media scrutiny and a level of unpopularity shared only by John Merrick, your decision would be made.
There is no other explanation for the punctual and continual attendance of referees other than the closure of the Hellfire Club in Sydney. The referees are clearly ‘sickos’ who enjoy pain and humiliation.
Being tied and strapped to a rack and beaten around the buttocks with whips and weapons of all description is not an easily replaceable fetish, yet thankfully, for them, refereeing has filled that void.
This is just really the tip of the iceberg in terms of some things I need to understand about the game and to some of you these might be very basic and simplistic questions. For that I am sorry.
However, any assistance and details you could provide might just help me to understand the game just that little bit better.