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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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