All aboard the ’soccer haters’ bandwagon!

Mike Tuckerman Columnist

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    AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou

    AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou addresses the media during an AFL Media Conference at AFL House, Melbourne. Slattery Images

    I nearly choked with laughter when I saw AFL boss Andrew Demetriou feigning ignorance of the Socceroos’ farewell match at the MCG.

    I think Demetriou was trying not to laugh too – either that or he’s become alarmingly forgetful – as the first cab off the ranks lined up his personal pot-shot at the departing national football team.

    “Oh, they are playing, are they? When?” enquired Demetriou with a grin the size of a Cheshire cat, as the broadcast media quizzed him for his thoughts before Australia’s farewell match against the Kiwis.

    Forgive my incredulity that the son of Greek-Cypriot migrants hadn’t the foggiest idea that the football World Cup is just around the corner, but the fact that the AFL is now scheduling Monday night fixtures suggests that Demetriou was probably giggling like a naughty school girl after he pulled out his calculated one-liner.

    As much as I don’t understand the small world that so many Australian sports administrators inhabit, I can’t help but hold a begrudging admiration for men like Demetriou.

    His sport of choice is in rude health, the smell of expansion wafts through the Victorian air and Demetriou himself is a powerful figure on the Australian scene – even if those of us wishing to see Australia host the World Cup would prefer to see him sail into the sunset towards his holiday home in Lake Como.

    But when Jonathan Green penned a piece entitled, “Socceroos snorefest a sign of things to come” for ABC Online on Tuesday, he had me bashing away at Google in a vain attempt to uncover which sports actually do tickle his fancy.

    Aussie Rules – if you’re playing along at home – but that didn’t stop the man once labelled by website Crikey as “a journalist since before you were born” from putting the boot into football like Tim Cahill on a pair of unguarded Leo Bertos shins.

    “Unlike an enraged Barry Hall headlock, soccer’s violence is something gutless that comes cold-bloodedly from behind,” mused Green on the subject of nasty tackles, with a razor-sharp insight that no doubt had our old friend Demetriou nodding along in agreement.

    “Watching last night on the telly – action so limp even the commentary team gave up on it for long silent pauses – was like seeing a Fremantle possession drill extended to occupy 90 minutes,” added Green authoritatively

    And Green is entitled to his opinion, even if it comes across as a surprisingly childish one for a journalist who holds the esteemed title of editor of The Drum – the ABC’s online analysis and opinion website.

    But wait, the ABC? Aren’t they currently screening the AFC Women’s Asian Cup, where the mighty Matildas have done superbly to reach the final and in the process book a place in next year’s World Cup?

    On the one hand, a journalist with real authority like Green claims that “the next home and away round of the native game will hold more excitement, skill, dash and controversy,” than the upcoming World Cup.

    And on the other, the TV arm of the ABC is doing its utmost to raise the profile of women’s football in Australia!

    Green’s spiteful analysis of Australia’s farewell game at the MCG was as churlish as it was unnecessary, and it ignored the millions of sports lovers across Australia who will tune in to watch the Socceroos strut their stuff on the world stage.

    Sadly, his anachronistic view is a sign of things to come, as the dinosaurs of the Australian media landscape crawl out from under their rocks to offer views on a sport that they don’t understand, let alone watch.

    With the World Cup now just weeks away, we can expect the usual flood of once-every-four-year critics to clamber aboard the “I’m not a soccer hater, but…” bandwagon.

    And if we listen closely, I’m sure we can all hear the faint murmurings of opinions that nobody asked for, as the “soccer haters” train prepares to leave the station.

    All aboard!

    Mike Tuckerman
    Mike Tuckerman

    Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he settled in Brisbane, and has been a leading Roar football columnist from December 2008.

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