Soccer is as Australian as it gets

Soccer is as Australian as it gets

by Carlos Alberto Diego

Four Diegos 'Soccer Hater of the Month' Award goes to those in the media who the Diegos like to expose as being unashamed, overt haters of the world game.

Winners of this award tend to hold privileged positions in that they have the opportunity to shape the opinion of a radio, TV or print audience of many millions daily. Usually they get paid to fuel biases, be provocative and tap into deep prejudices all in the name of freedom of speech and the right to express an opinion.

Commercial realities dictate that these people need ratings and to peak public debate to stay relevant. Their performance and ability to keep their highly paid jobs are measured by AC Neilson media rating figures, talkback calls, emails and sms.

A favourite topic rehashed over and over by Soccer Haters in the media is that the game of soccer is 'unAustralian', 'wogball' if you like, and that it will never gain a foothold in the Australian market.  

The fact that according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Sweeny surveys and AC Neilson ratings for over a decade, soccer/football has already secured a deep and permanent foothold in the Australian market seems to have been missed or ignored by their teams of producers and researchers.

Soccer Haters in the media love the topic because it’s guaranteed to get a massive response without much work or real understanding. Big responses to this topic translate to ratings and yes more money through advertising and maybe a contract upgrade when negotiations with their employers come around.

They have no care that this debate perpetuates cultural stereotypes, feeds xenophobic attitudes and divides the public. In fact they love that it does ....very clever especially when the listener, viewer or reader numbers are down.

Our winner this month is 3AW Melbourne radio show host Neil Mitchell, author of the article JUST A SOCCER RUSE in the Herald Sun in Melbourne on Thursday July 1 2010.

In his article he argues that soccer will never become a premier sport in Australia because it does not reflect the nation's values and the unique Australian culture.

Now I as a Diego don't have Mr. Mitchell's money. I don't have Mr. Mitchell's high rating radio show or social, public or political connections. I don't have his weekly column in Australia's highest selling newspaper and I probably don't have his intelligence.

I have no right to position myself as the man of the people as Mr. Mitchell does....hell I don't even have his hair! But one thing I can match him on is that I am just as much an Australian as what he is and guess what ....I love soccer.

Strange thought that - an Australian loving soccer.

That is an Australian from Italian descent who has been a Western Bulldogs member all his life. An Australian who has worked with Indigenous Australians and culturally marginalised, new arrival and refugee groups teaching about Australian values across all sports including AFL, Cricket, Rugby, Basketball and Soccer.

An Australian who was shaped forever as a kid watching the brave 1974 Socceroos play in their first World Cup and bursting with pride at the inspirational performances of the current generation of Socceroos in both the 2006 and 2010 World Cups.

An Australian who is proud in the knowledge that hundreds of thousands of Australian families from diverse backgrounds, including an enormous number of those from anglo backgrounds, come together and unite weekly throughout the country to support the game of soccer at all levels from grassroots to the A-League.

An Australian who has witnessed the presence of great Australian values of respect, teamwork, loyalty, fair play and leadership displayed through the game of soccer daily in our schools and weekly in the many hundreds of soccer clubs throughout our nation.

Soccer ‘unAustralian’ Mr. Mitchell? There’s plenty of evidence that it isn’t. The opposite is true - its as Australian as it gets.

Hey Neil before you go with this as your next talkback topic why not venture out of your studio, the leafy suburb where you live and go and watch some soccer games. You'll find that you will encounter a cross section of the real Australia and you’ll see Australian values are thriving my friend.  

Copyright Four Diegos Media 1993