Bigotry rears its ugly head again – and it’s us

27 January 2014

The day after Manchester City purchased an 80% controlling arm of Melbourne Heart, Melbourne’s Herald Sun ran this cartoon:

Melbourne Heart New Owners (c) Herald Sun

Melbourne Heart New Owners (c) Herald Sun

While the odd twits on twitter immediately ran with it accusing the HS used the cartoon to “welcome” the investment of money by the Arab-owned Manchester City, it wasn’t until SBS and their theworldgame website that a full exploitation of it came to fruition. Philip Micallef, who says he did not derive any pleasure from writing the piece, said this:

In a case of bad taste at best and blatant racism at worst, it published a cartoon depicting an Arab sheikh and a set of ‘cheer girls’ dressed in black burqas ushering the Heart team onto the field. A caption read “That should sheikh up the A-League”. What on earth was the Herald Sun thinking?

Did it think at all about the ramifications of publishing such a tasteless cartoon in the present political climate? Did it realise that as host country of the 2015 Asian Cup it is Australia’s obligation to welcome the participants not poke fun at their culture? Did it really believe that its hundreds of thousands of readers would approve of such ignorance and opportunism or, more seriously, find it funny? Did it honestly expect to get away with its flagrant disregard for basic human courtesy.

Australia arguably embraces multiculturalism like no other country and the Herald Sun’s cartoon went against everything that we stand for. I refuse to believe that there were more sinister motives at play here like purposely damaging the event’s credibility behind the publication of the controversial cartoon. However if the newspaper’s intention was merely to have some fun, surely it must have known that what is considered ‘just a bit of fun’ by us might not be seen as ‘fun’ by people from a different background, whether they live in Australia, Indonesia or Iran.

Ironically, Micallef’s description of the cartoon, “depicting an Arab sheikh and a set of ‘cheer girls’ dressed in black burqas ushering the Heart team onto the field”, is stunning for its accuracy and simplicity. Should the girls be dressed in bikinis? That would have stripped these women of their basic human courtesy. The intention of the newspaper was to satirise the news, as it does every single day about the biggest story. In a country that arguably embraces multiculturalism like no other, then no group should should be excluded, or we make a blanket law that protects all groups.

The real heart of the issue is not this cartoon by the HS, it’s again this vendetta by SBS and “us”, the football public, against a news operation because we are so insecure and precious about our flaws in the game. Craig Foster, in his Fairfax column about the purchase, also made a sleight at “half” of the media in Melbourne, only because that “half” doesn’t have him on their payroll. This grievance is built particularly that certain media outlets have the temerity to report crowd trouble and violence associated with our game, and therefore are anti-football. While I, the biggest proponent of free speech, especially when it comes to satire, did find this cartoon a little unsavoury, in no way would that suddenly propel me into a tirade of ridiculous claims of xenophobia and that a news operation is trying to destroy the game in this country and create racial hatred. At most, I’d suggest HS is better than this, that it doesn’t match their general reportage of the game, so is it worth the risk of upsetting their true enemies? No, not the risk of upsetting Muslims. They’ve actually fled to this country because basic freedoms are allowed. It’s the risk of upsetting the rapacious and hypocritical traditional football media. If a Catholic-run club bought MH and the cartoon had a group of priests cheering with “GO BOYS” across their tummies, would there be an issue? Not only would we all be laughing it up, the cartoon would be immediately inducted into the Hall Of Fame of Cartoon Satire.

If only such scene as depicted were even true. In these despotic nations, women aren’t even allowed to attend games. The only time I’ve seen such a breach of this ultra sexism and misogyny was after the Iran Game, where TV scenes in Tehran showed women “breaking free”, to fill the streets and the national stadium, unable to keep further suppressed their desire to grandly celebration their nation’s success. Yes, they were dressed like this, except for any lettering on their clothes, nor carrying pom-poms. Mark Knight, who is a superb satirist and indeed has mocked the Catholic religion in cartoons because NO one is immune to his wit, erred in that he should have used sheikhs, not women. Then again, what message is actually offensive? I see a despondent sheikh annoyed that women are out celebrating a football team, and this could shake up the A-League. Or maybe it will shake up the Islamic religion? Maybe it’s our own sensitivities that Arab Oil and Tourism, often built on slave labour, are funding this new club. Much like we’re aghast that Qatar “bought” the 2022 World Cup. Instead of confronting our insecurities, we attempt to brush it aside, and throw around labels like “racism” and “xenophobia” to distract from our own uneasiness by tarnishing someone else. The classic case of self-absolution by diminution of others.

It wouldn’t be so deceitful this crusade against HS if there was at least a minuscule attempt at balance by SBS. Fine to trash them for the cartoon; it’s disgraceful to use it to impugn the daily coverage as anything even remotely near similar. On the day of the announcement, the HS homepage had a massive headline reporting this great news. That led to at least four fully featured articles of news, opinion and video – all positive. In fact, you could visit HS every day and look under sport then football (note football, not soccer), and see an expansive and positive coverage of our game. When is that ever mentioned by SBS? Never. Of course, it doesn’t tickle the agenda of biased media against our poor, wretched souls struggling to survive. So it’s the cartoon, the once since probably never cartoon, that gets all the attention.

The absurdity of our crusade is even more ridiculous when our goal is to make football mainstream. There’s no bigger mainstream newspaper than the HS, serving the biggest A-League and sports market of Melbourne. Instead of recognising their otherwise superb coverage of the game, we continue to malign them, and push a lie. When SBS was an outcast from A-League coverage because they snubbed the inaugural rights and almost weekly either by Les Murray, Craig Foster or Jess Fink via their TV shows and website undertook hit-pieces against the A-League, who’s been responsible for the huge resurgence and growth and knowledge of the domestic game? News Ltd – via Fox Sports and their newspapers, with Fairfax also superb. They rescued the domestic game of which now SBS can capitalise upon. Without these mainstream organisations exposing the sport to the mainstream, the sport would barely register beyond that of the NSL days. A reader’s comment in Micallef’s article said he’s never read HS, yet here that person goes making judgements – judgements based on total ignorance and the football community’s agenda of bias and deceit alleging an anti-football media. While SBS is still doing hit pieces on News Ltd, isn’t it any wonder that people like Rebecca Wilson will still reciprocate against us?

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt as a reader of all media, and with subscriptions to News Ltd and Fairfax, is that those claiming bias are the most biased people themselves. Politicians and their sympathetic stooges are notorious for it. We, football, are even worst, being the most precious and insecure lot in history, and with still so much growing up to do. We’re the ones painting football in a bad light. We defend loutish behaviour at A-League games by condemning any media that dares report it. We now refuse to question our concerns raised by a satirical cartoon about Arab money flowing into the game. Of course, it’s Arab money that owns an English football club as well. Oops, that’s another concern. Anything British influencing the game in this country is supposed to be extirpated; what happened to that crusade? Yep, washed away once Arab mega dollars are thrown into our face.

The defintion of bigotry: “Intolerance towards those that hold different opinions from oneself.” Are we that? We’re even worse. We’re intolerant towards those that hold the same opinion as ourselves and when those very people are outsiders to us. Shame, shame, shame.

Source: http://theworldgame.sbs.com.au/philip-micallef/blog/1179682/Bigotry-rears-its-ugly-head-again

More: socceroorealm.com

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Top 5 Football Highlights… and some lows… of 2013

18 January 2014

A year of concern that, with some introspection, proved exciting and buoyed the nation for the challenges that will come further in Asia, and then in 2014, at the World Cup

1) Australia defeating Iraq 1-0 to qualify for the World Cup

While Australia would still have qualified had they lost that final game of World Cup qualifying, it just would not have been right. Jordan, at home, later that evening snuffed out Oman’s hopes to over-take Australia. The match against Iraq in Sydney, much like the campaign, proved a struggle. It wasn’t until an inspired substitution on 77 minutes by coach Holger Osieck to bring on Joshua Kennedy, who happened to be a striker, to replace Tim Cahill, who happened to be not a striker, that 6 minutes later Kennedy scored the solitary goal that won the game. The nation was in raptures, proving a great fillip for all those that had doubts, and vindication of Osieck’s return to using experienced players for the final 3 games. The move to replace Cahill might have been Osieck’s best move of his entire tenure. Withing weeks, he was sacked. That said as much for his general coaching style, and as much as the frustration of the nation expecting more from their national team.

2) The World Cup draw

Spain, Netherlands and Chile – WOW! They are Australia’s group opponents. While the usual moans and groans about the “group of death” abounded, reality soon set that this is a time for great challenge and excitement. It beats the hell out of something like Switzerland, Croatia and Algeria.

3) Ange Postecoglou new Socceroos coach

After 6-0 losses to Brazil and then France, Holger Osieck was out and the precocious Ange Postecoglou in. This is exciting not just for the return to an Australian coach, especially one that reeks of the good side of the Australian sporting psyche of a respectful “have a go” attitude, it’s also a reward for the rate of development of the domestic coaches in general. Postecoglou has earned the credibility to coach a national team full of prima-donnas earning millions more than him. While the low ebb of talent at present does not quite present the problem that it might have previously, without clout, a coach can easily loose respect from the players. Postecoglou already showed a no-nonsense style, sweeping out the “boys club” of players like Craig Moore at Brisbane Roar upon his start there, and won’t have the same problem at national level. More importantly, he’s shown as an innovator and tactically astute – something that will benefit both the team and him. His develop will only be aided by taking on the likes of our World Cup opponents. Surmount those and he’ll be regarded as a genius. If he doesn’t, it’s a great learning experience for the Asian Cup in 2015 and then the World Cup 2018.

4) A-League Grand Final and season in general

This was not just a success for Central Coast finally being deserved champions after three previous grand final losses, it also showed the potential of the sport with the raging success of Western Sydney Wanderers. Even I had doubts whether western Sydney really such a hot-bed for the sport that was being touted to the public. They showed it is with vibrant crowds and slick administration, not to forget the premiership in their inaugural season. Credit to the FFA for acting swiftly here after booting out the insipid and ill-conceived Gold Coast. Credit for the huge rise in crowds and TV ratings for the A-League season. Credit also for streamlining the finals system. Cut from 4 weeks to 3 weeks to remove repeat match-ups and streamline the process, it probably still should be over 4 weeks, except the semi finals be over two legs to give the top two a type of second chance. At present they get the first week off and then face the one-off semi-final at home. It seems wrong for a whole season to unravel after one game.

5) Australia 2 – Oman 2

While it caused great mirth among fans, this match proved the catalyst for the exciting finale to the campaign, the exciting finale to the match, and an exciting switch in the coaching regime. It was at this point that the FFA started to question the value of Osieck. In fairness, Australia were hit by injury and suspension for this game, and recovered from a 2-0 deficit. These things happen in the sport. As a nation, we should be more humble, lest we become obnoxious, arrogrant brats, like our cricketers.

The lows…

Easily the media, and we’re talking the football media, their denialism and lack of responsibility for crowd troubles at A-League games. Us as a sport are responsible to stop these unsavoury problems continually damaging the image of our sport. While the FFA and most commentators have now swung about, especially after the appalling MV-WSW debacle late in the year, there’s still some stubborn resistance, notably from the likes of Les Murray and some of the core fans themselves that feel victimised and that it’s all sensationalised by the mainstream media. Interesting that our sport wants to become mainstream itself. How about acting it?

Elsewhere, Australia made a Turkey of themselves at the World Youth Cup while Mark Schwarzer sensationally retired from the national team upon Postecoglou naming his first squad complete with Schwarzer in it. It’s very strange to just bail on the eve of the World Cup and before even waiting or knowing of Postecoglou’s plans for Schwarzer. There was not a hint of any such action or desire to retire. Now at Chelsea as a reserve, Schwarzer probably saw his first team national selection as not guaranteed, and rather than fight for the spot, just quit altogether. A shame, because even as a third-choice for the national team – of which no doubt he’d gain such a selection – his experience would have been invaluable in Brazil for the two youngsters fighting to assume his role.

More, including links to all these stories: socceroorealm.com

Some atonement against Canada as Lowy backs a local coach and Neill backs himself

Craven Cottage, Fulham, 15/10/2013: Australia 3 – Canada 0

17 October 2013

A 3-0 win over lowly Canada at least brought smiles to the face. The serious “in-arms” attention to the national anthem proved portentous as the first goal came on 26 seconds when Mark Bresciano pounced on a loose ball to lob it to Joshua Kennedy for a trademark header. Two goals came in the second half. The first by Dario Vidosic nodding in a lame shot on goal, while Matthew Leckie headed nicely from a David Carney cross to score his first goal for Australia. While Vidosic was slightly offside, it was close enough that the referee should allow it given the “favour the attackers when in doubt” FIFA edict. It’s a pity more referees don’t follow it. Despite the dominance of the scoreline, if was often scrappy game, with Australia still needlessly losing possession at times and Canada having two great chances to equalise in the first half. Australia looked more tidy in the second half, applying more consistent pressure, including the third goal that was preceded by a chain of 14 passes.

Aurelio Vidmar was interim coach and made some pleasing decisions, notably playing a striker as a striker and a defender at right-back. He might have done similar at left-back if not for a depleted squad, so he “had to” pick Carney there. Vidmar also gave more time to younger players like Leckie and, in goal, Matt Ryan, while giving debuts to Jackson Irvine and Oliver Bozanic. They handled themselves well.

In the lead-up to the match, Lucas Neill was hammered by many sections of the media for questioning the hunger and passion of younger players while defending his own. He also resisted calls, from friend Mark Bosnich, to quit.

“In the three qualifiers in June, which were the most important we have played in the last four years, I think my form was very good and led to us reaching the World Cup. Mark Bosnich is entitled to his opinion but I would expect better from people who have played the game and certainly from those who call themselves my friend People who know football know games are won and lost by a team and it’s not about one person. I am committed to remaining captain for as long as the people in charge give me that status. I add value to the team and I bring a lot of good attributes but I am the victim, the same as everybody in this team, of a side which has lost two games in a row 6-0.

“When I was young I had to fight like cat and dog to even get a chance of being selected. Nobody gives you that for free – you have to earn it. For me, the biggest problem in Australia right now is not the older guys who have been doing it for a long time. I still have as much passion now as I had when I was 17. But my question to the younger guys who dream of playing for Australia is: ‘do you really dream of playing for Australia?’ If you do, then show me the hunger and desire. That’s where we are lacking. It’s all in our attitude towards the national team.”

The media response has portrayed him as selfish and disrespectful – understandable if you want Neill gone. Hearing Neill’s comments at the time, they seemed quite harmless. The hunger he mentioned was more about the younger players stepping up and claiming a spot in the team rather than it gifted to them. Other than Kruse and Oar, and potentially Rogic and Duke, none have. If the new coach does keep Neill, the coach needs to spell out clearly the qualities Neill has that keeps him in the team. Fans should accept this in move on, allowing the coach and team to prepare for the World Cup without all the whiny criticism. The real issue about dumping Neill is finding a replacement. Thwaite, North, Kisnorbo, Spiranovic? They don’t bring a compelling case for selection. If you’re dumping Ognenovski as well, that’s two spots to fill.

The appointment of a new coach has taken a turn with FFA chairman Frank Lowy stating he wants a local. The “review” that was mentioned upon Osieck’s sacking has obviously been in the process for months, given the fact FFA were so swift to act on Holger. Those decisions are not made so abruptly. The action might be, the decision not. The timing is also right for a local coach. While Australia has been more in mercenary mode with their past few coaches, if there’s to be a move towards giving younger players experience, it makes just as much sense as doing similar with a local coach. While Ange Postecoglou is the glamour choice, Graham Arnold could be more likely given his international experience as both interim and assistant coach, his proven ability of integrating new players and melding a team, and seems itching to jump from his A-League role if a better offer came elsewhere. Brazil 2014 could be the making of both the new coach and the newer players. Despite all the recent turmoil and melodrama, it’s actually an exciting time.

Osieck slams ever increasingly irrational critics

10 October 2013

Holger hits back

At the press conference to announce the squad to play France and Canada over the upcoming days, Australia’s coach rebuts innuendo that he’s failing as national coach because the Socceroos don’t play nice enough, that it was too much of a grind to qualify for the World Cup, and they couldn’t compete with Brazil the “friendly” international match last month.

With France to be played Saturday morning AET, comes more innuendo that if there’s no “result” in that game, then Osieck could be heading for the door. He took the moment to slam his critics with a reality check about his appointment and mandate, answer the issue of his choice of player personnel, examine the result in Brazil, and explain the seemingly strange decision of not using Tom Rogic from the start of the game…

”It is impossible for me to respond to that question (if he’ll be sacked after the French game). I have a contract and I have fulfilled my mandate so far and now we are in the process of preparing for the finals, but if you want to put this to me I am the wrong person to talk to. I am not informed of what has been said or written about me. So far there has been no need to talk (with Football Federation Australia) about my situation. What’s the rationale behind it? We are in the early stages of preparation for Brazil. We are there while other major football nations are still struggling to qualify and some won’t even get there. To question me then is a little bit out of order. As an organisation, and the technical department is part of the organisation, we are all in the same boat and we should row in the same direction. It would be very unwise not to do so and I do not have a feeling of anything different. I know what I am doing.

”If you look at recent history when younger players were given the opportunity they found it hard to adapt to higher standards. In June during our qualifying campaign our more experienced players did well and got us through to the World Cup. I am still looking to give opportunities to other players to step up and get into the team.

“One thing we have to consider is our status when we went to Brazil. I would like to emphasise that this is an explanation not an excuse. The players from the A-League and Middle East I called in were still in pre-season and Tim Cahill and Luke Wilkshire had to pull out due to injury. When you cannot compete physically with your opponent then your whole game falls apart. I am confident that when we are at full strength and our boys are in full playing rhythm then the team’s overall performance will definitely improve. It was a bad defeat, the worst in my career, but we will not break down and will carry on and follow our plan and direction. I expect a strong reaction from the boys in Paris.

”Tom Rogic is almost an eternal topic. I know how good he is but he is not playing. He is not in Celtic’s first team and he occasionally gets on. I had him in Brazil and he came with a groin injury so he was not fit. He spent more time on the medical bench than on the training pitch. In order to give him some psychological boost I gave him a few minutes to make him feel that he is part of the group. But right now he is not fully fit so I don’t think he will start in Paris. We have to acknowledge that and it is a matter of making some diligent research and look into the position of a player. I mean, what is he doing in his home environment? Why is he not playing? Is he not as good as we expect him to be? That is the problem but I can assure you that I am on top of it because I have all he necessary information. I wish he was fit and he could play as a starter but at the moment circumstances do not permit this.”

Holger’s comments say it all. This jihad we’re on to get him sacked makes no sense.

The mandate was to qualify for the World Cup; it wasn’t to excel away to Brazil in an inconvenient and dopey farclie. Brazil recently beat Spain and France 3-0 so we really have a bloated regard for ourselves that should do better than.

He has tried many young players. Other than Robbie Kruse and Tom Oar, they haven’t stepped up. The key example is that game against Oman, escaping with a 2-2 draw after key experienced players missing. After that, they’re back, and we raved about the “performance” against Japan and ecstatic that we won last two must-win games to qualify. The recent EAFF Finals was a massive experiment, and only Mitch Duke elevated himself.

For the key personnel issue vs Brazil, Rogic, we learn he had a groin strain and he’s not even playing for his club much. It would have been derelict of Holger’s duty to start him. Then we’d be complaining about giving the kid a suicide mission.

We’re also obsessed with “performance”. This isn’t figure skating. You don’t get judged on technical merit and artistic style. The definition of “result” is results. Facts are Socceroos are at an ebb and there’s little much on the immediate horizon. We’re not a club team that can go buy and recruit players. It’s a representative team. The reservoir exists only as the rain falls. We’re also not a world power despite some of our overblown egos wanting to believe. If we want results, then expect to see it ugly. I’d rather be Greece Euro 2004 than playing cute football losing 2-0 all the time just to appease a few smug purists watching too much Barcelona.

Critics become more irrational

The squad for France and Canada does not include incumbent goal keeper Mark Schwarzer. Mitch Langerak is expected to make his debut. So here is another example of Osieck trying a new player. As he should, since Schwarzer moved to Chelsea and is spending much of the time on the bench. Osieck wants players playing regularly. He showed that with Rogic and now with Schwarzer. It doesn’t matter the level of your potential talent or your experience. You must be playing regularly with your club and in form.

In the face of this, Philip Micallef, the normally more pragmatic side of theworldgame website team, stepped up from the likes of Les Murray and the ever whiny Craig Foster with an article “D-Day in Paris will force FFA’s hand”. It’s quite amazing that earlier in the week that SBS “soc jocks”, via twitter, slammed Melbourne’s Herald Sun for “dampening” the A-League season merely by reporting an increase presence by police and clubs to stamp out troublemakers at Saturday’s Melbourne Derby. Here SBA are, on their flagship website, dampening the Socceroos World Cup preparations. Can’t we just watch the match in Paris without the ogre of the coach sacked?

At heart, Micallef called for Osieck to be sacked if it all goes wrong against France, using the precedence of Guus Hiddink suddenly replacing Frank Farina as coach just prior to the Uruguay game of 2005. Of course, situation is much difference as Farina had already failed in one qualifying campaign so Hiddinck was recruited to complete the job (as Osieck already has done). Second, the key criticism of a team too old would not be addressed by Hiddinck anyway. He would persist with the tried and true experienced players, not throw around youth. No serious international coach would consider such a proposal.

The real doozy from Micallef’s article was the call that, “What FFA could have done is look for a coach who was prepared to forgo qualification and personal ambition and concentrate on building a team for the future”.  Are we serious? So three years ago, FFA says forget the next World Cup, play younger players so we’re better for 2018? No serious coach would accept this. Holger already admitted that he wouldn’t in the press conference above. The FFA would be laughed into the loony bin at such a proposal. Fans would not accept it either if they applied one second of rational thought.

The sheer arrogance of the proposal defies belief. If we can’t perform well at the World Cup we don’t even want to attend? What sort of message is this. We’ll just forsake playing on the grandest stage in sport because we fear losing a few games? How weak, pathetic and insecure are we. This arrogance is something I never thought we’d see in our sport. It’s been the domain of yobbo cricketers and conceited swimmers. Now we’re even worse. We’re not the humble, proud sport anymore. We’re the arrogant, spoiled brats. If ever the day comes FFA does act so disgracefully and shunts World Cup qualifying for youth experimentation in the guise of speculative long-term, non-guaranteed and mystical success, well may we say God Save Australia, because nothing will save our reputation.

Sources:
http://theworldgame.sbs.com.au/socceroos/news/1168293/Socceroos-boss-Osieck-hits-back-at-his-critics

http://theworldgame.sbs.com.au/philip-micallef/blog/1169435/D-day-in-Paris-will-force-FFA’s-hand

Qatar not the “mistake”, negligence of other bidders the mistake

18  September 2013

FIFA president Sepp Blatter stunned the world last week by declaring Qatar as host for the 2022 World Cup that “we made a mistake at the time”. This adds to his comment in May that a summer World Cup is “not rational and reasonable”, and Executive Committee member Theo Zwanziger in July calling it a “blatant mistake”. The mistake being that the weather in Qatar’s fierce summer is just too hot and for some reason FIFA didn’t realise this at the time. Forget that the Qataris believe the can cool the stadiums; you can’t cool an entire country. The real mistake is, especially knowing the corrupt nature of FIFA, is why the other bidders didn’t twig to this reality of an impossible World Cup in Qatar’s summer and the future shenanigans that FIFA would play. Qatar was always certain to win the bid for the simple reason that if weather was the issue, FIFA would have told them much earlier not to bother bidding at all.

From the Socceroo Realm prior to the World Cup announcement:

The only real conspicuous negative for Qatar is the weather. Qatar speak of air-conditioning all venues. That’s pointless for most of the other time when fans are not at games. The heat is debilitating, and would virtually kill any outdoor activity. It’s a wonder that FIFA just didn’t tell Qatar straight out to not bother. That’s unless the World Cup will be played in January. Nowhere have FIFA ruled out a proposition of a January World Cup, only citing that it is hot in June. That doesn’t mean that there hasn’t already been some backroom deal that January is OK. It almost defies logic that Qatar would attempt a bid knowing that a June World Cup is impossible with the heat. Remember, a January World Cup is not at all impractical. Many leagues are closed for winter. Other leagues can easily adjust by suspending their league for 4 weeks and extending it into early June. It actually makes so much sense. With FIFA, nothing would surprise if they announce Qatar as a winner and the idea is to play it in January.”

The only error in that pre-announcement analysis was FIFA not immediately announcing a winter World Cup. Obviously the furore would be huge, so FIFA allowed the idea to cultivate on its own through various consorts and media to the point it became so compelling that FIFA would be seen as derelict in duty if it not propose a switch. While it was expected FIFA may wait a few more years for a regenerated Executive Committee to really propel the idea under the guise of fixing the past mistake of others, the mood is so strong and media rights both domestic and internationally need to be sorted that the time is now. Blatter will propose the move to the Executive Committee, which effectively guarantees the switch. Not so much because of Blatter’s input; the ExCo will make the change as it was always the plan and now is the perfect time to take advantage and lock it in.

Qatar is remaining silent in this controversy, as it should, as the move is always a FIFA initiative. It’s also perfectly allowable in FIFA’s agreement with the bidder to change many aspects as it wishes, including the schedule. The real issue is that such an idea was not readily known, or that bidders believed they could realistically plan their bid at a period any other than June and July and be successful. Bizarrely, only now, and on behalf of Qatar and other nations, Blatter raised the idea of discrimination if the World Cup can’t be moved…

“If we maintain, rigidly, the status quo, then a FIFA World Cup can never be played in countries that are south of the equator or indeed near the equator. We automatically discriminate against countries that have different seasons than we do in Europe and we make it impossible for all those who would love to host the world’s biggest game in a global tournament to ever get the chance to do so. I think it is high time that Europe starts to understand that we do not rule the world anymore and that some former European imperial powers can no longer impress their will on to others in far away places and we must accept that football has moved away from being a European and South American sport. It has become the world sport that billions of fans are excitedly following every week, everywhere in the world.”

Ironically, if Qatar had used this themselves as an argument they would have gained broader sympathy. More relevant would have been the consequences for Australia’s bid. Stymied by a crowded calendar of domestic football codes and a recalcitrant AFL, Australia had no hope. If it wasn’t enough the lack of unity for the bid with the AFL, much of the resources into new stadia would leave the greatest legacy for Australian Rules football, not the round ball code. Perth’s Subiaco, Adelaide Oval, Gold Coat’s Carrara and Geelong’s Kardinia Park all get upgrades, when it should have been a new stadium in Perth, with Hindmarsh, Robina and Bubble stadiums upgraded in the other cities. If renovating AFL grounds was to appease the AFL, it clearly didn’t work, and would have sent strange signals to FIFA about the organisation truly running the sport in this country. Is it the FFA or the AFL? Add to that the appalling presentation video of cartoon kangaroo and tacky and irrelevant icons of Hoges, Freeman and Thorpe, it was a disaster. Getting one vote was simply a message of thanks for participating, not an endorsement of any facet of the bid.

Consider had their been an open schedule then Australia would have suggested March, as the Socceroo Realm always proposed. Nicer weather, cricket over and domestic football yet to start. No need to appease the AFL or anyone. In hindsight, its critical benefit would have been to hold FIFA accountable to their traditional June schedule. No doubt Australia would have been knocked back on interrupting the club season. If so, then absolutely no avenue to consider Qatar then or now for a January tournament. The big problem was that Australia, as the immature amateurs stepping brazonly into the world of FIFA slime and sleaze, chose to play that game, and lost. Had it marched with integrity and a March schedule and boasted of a brilliant World Cup wrecked by a discriminatory scheduling tradition, then already FIFA could have opened the schedule or slammed it shut.

Right now FFA CEO Frank Lowy is demanding compensation for the $43 million spent on the bid. Australia’s definitely owed something in that it was forced to make a compromised bid. That won’t be money as FIFA has already snubbed the idea, reaffirming that “as part of the bidding documents all bidders accepted that the format and dates, though initially expected to be in June/July, remain subject to the final decision of FIFA”. While not compromised on a technical matter, as there’s nothing stating a World Cup must be June (it’s there as tradition), the compromise was ethically, as the scheduling flexibility was not transparent. Had it been, even Qatar would bid on a winter Cup, along with its summer Cup proposal, leaving FIFA to decide its preference.

Australia’s best case now for compensation could only be to argue for the bidding to be re-opened. Remember, this was an unusual process with two World Cups decided at once. Normally 2022 would be decided late 2014. Of course, if FIFA decided to re-open the bidding and for an openly flexible schedule, they’d probably still choose Qatar, using discrimination as Blatter just described as an advocacy tool, and also discrimination of fairness in that it’s not Qatar denying it can’t host a summer Cup or even demanding a change of schedule for the World Cup, it’s FIFA driving the change. With the 2018 (Russia) and 2022 World Cups proudly boasted as spreading the game to new territories, FIFA will just be more resilient to hold it in Qatar, especially now without high temperatures – the key flaw of Qatar’s initial bid – a problem no longer existing.

The best thing for Australia is actually Qatar does have its World Cup, and hosts it successfully. That means Australia can target a friendlier schedule itself for a future bid. Despite much criticism from clubs and commentators that domestic leagues will be ruined by two months of a shut-down and players will be burnt-out, that’s nonsense, and a World Cup easily slotted into January. First of all, it’s not much more than two weeks between the end of the domestic leagues and the World Cup starting in its traditional June slot right now, so the preparation period needs only be two weeks, and when you consider that it would start on a Monday after a weekend’s round, only one actual round is skipped pre-tournament. During the Cup itself, only four teams make the final week, so it’s no problem for the world’s leagues to resume after 3 weeks. Of course, the A-League could resume after two weeks, or not close at all if the Socceroos is primarily overseas based. The maximum season break is four weeks, and easily accomodated by extending the season by two or three weeks and adding a midweek round or two. Note, this break mid-season only applies to leagues that do play through the winter. Most have a winter break through January so a winter World Cup is zero effect.

All FIFA need to do is set the dates and let the individual leagues and competitions decide how to manage their scheduling. For only a few clubs in a few leagues to be affected, and for such a rare occasion, it really is snobbery to the highest degree that they can’t make one small sacrifice in the interests of the broader world of football. So many of these elite clubs talk about a fair go for minorities, and even FIFA has their “fair play” edict. How about acting it?

For a full chronicle of events surrounding Australia’s World Cup bid:
socceroorealm.com

Media bias against football? Gee we’re a precious bunch

Australia produces a rubbish World Cup bid, Melbourne Heart fans destroy 170 seats at Docklands Stadium, flares are constantly lit at A-League grounds: guess the problem? The media! Time and time again when reading football blogs and feedback, this constant theme arises. There’s even calls for the media to “educate” talkback radio callers. It’s nonsense. The big problem with media bias is that those claiming media bias are actually the most biased people themselves. Politics is the worst example. Football is not far behind. Those events described at the top, they all happened. The reporting is not a fabrication. They happened. Yet, suddenly that’s media bias.

Looking at those events, the World Cup bid failed because there were too many oval stadiums and it left no legacy left for the sport. Geelong, Adelaide, Perth and Gold Coast would all get new or improved stadiums and it was all for AFL to benefit. Then there was the final presentation that proved a total farce. FFA played the game of sleaze to win the bid and when that failed, they blamed the game of sleaze. Fans in return blamed the AFL, then the media. The media did nothing other than report the facts. The AFL made it difficult, reported. The stadia a problem, reported. The presentation a joke, reported. With the constant problems at A-League matches, fans destroy 170 seats, reported. Fans whinging about the media, reported. Socceroos qualify for World Cups, reported. Classic A-League Grand Finals, reported. Superb 2013 A-League season with crowds and viewers up, reported. Gee, we don’t mind the good stuff reported, right? If we don’t like the bad stuff reported then it’s up to us not to provide the material to report. We need to move on from this juvenile level of self-victimisation.

Ironically, when it’s our own mob slamming the sport, there’s no claims of bias there. SBS and TWG and Pim Verbeek were running down the A-League for years. During Central Coast’s recent ACL game, TWG’s Philip Micallef criticised the poor crowds and questioned whether Australia deserve the two spots that they want. None of this was in any mainstream paper. Had Micallef published there, no doubt we’d be slamming it as biased and hateful. As for the World Cup bid, it was the most inept and wasteful endeavour committed by this Frank Lowy regime. If anything, the media went too easy. TWG’s best attempt to “investigate” was Les Murray’s lap-dog interview with his sleazy mate and chief bid consultant, Peter Hargaty. Even the federal government did nothing to account for the wasted millions. The World Cup bid should never have proceeded with the stadium troubles and without unity of other sports. That’s FFA’s gross dereliction of duty, not the AFL. Instead of upgrading AFL grounds like Adelaide Oval, Gold Coast, Subiaco and Geelong, FFA should have upgraded Hindmarsh, Robina, built a new rectangular stadium in Perth, and upgrade Melbourne’s Bubble (AAMI) rather than the AFL ground in Geelong. Then you stuff the AFL and actually leave a legacy for football.

Nor is it the media’s job to educate anyone. That’s our job. It’s our sport that drives the narrative. If we don’t like the reports emanating from it, we change the narrative. With football’s steeped history in hooliganism and flares and vandalism, when it occurs at A-League matches it’s just natural to be reported, and it should be reported. Being in Melbourne and reader of the HeraldSun daily – a paper under the News Corp banner like Sydney’s Daily Telegraph that is often cited for bias – I see no bias. The only “crime” that could be cited is the sensationalist headlines. Since the newspaper does that on every topic, it’s not bias, just their style. Any opinion pieces that emerge, more typically in the DT, they are exactly that – opinion pieces. That’s freedom of speech. Often these are on topics that irk us anyway, like diving and poor refereeing. We just want such right to criticise to be restricted to our own realm. That’s ridiculous.

Again, it’s OUR job to educate. That should be first among ourselves, to stop the problems, rather than whinging on talkback radio and trying to condone the behaviour as that of a rowdy few. In fact, if it is just a rowdy few, then it should be easy to stop, as these people are typically active members of the club in the cheer squad. So far the only response by fans to halt this poor behaviour is Melbourne Victory’s and Western Sydney Wanderers’ churlish protests at their most recent respective home games trying to defend these cretins and blaming the clubs and FFA for not sticking up for them. Only when we stop being so precious and start being accountable for our own actions then we won’t see such stuff in the media. Because there’ll be nothing to report.