Demetriou wants to win Australia’s new arrivals

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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

    AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou is not every sports fans’ hero. Many AFL traditionalists bemoan a “softening” of the game under his stewardship. Fans of other codes see him as overly aggressive in his promotion of Australian Rules Football, to the detriment of our recent FIFA World Cup bid.

    Though it is unlikely the bid would have got up even if Demetriou and the AFL had co-operated fully with all the FFA’s original wishes.

    But a speech Demetriou gave recently to the Diversity Council of Australia gives a deeper insight into the AFL chief’s values – values he wants the code he oversees to embody.

    In it, Demetriou draws on his own cultural heritage (“As some of you may know, my parents are from Cyprus and I’m very proud of my heritage. I’m even happy to be referred to as a Greek”) and how footy helped he and his brothers integrate into suburban Melbourne in their youth.

    He lauds the AFL’s progress with integrating and helping indigenous Australians and their communities. But he notes the AFL has a great challenge to bring migrants from Asia and Africa to the game.

    Implied in his speech is a goal to change Australia’s suburban and country culture, to soften not only the old head high biff out of the game on the field, but the once (and too often, still) intolerant and insular attitudes in clubs, leagues and suburbs across this twenty-first century nation of immigrants.

    He concludes with: “As the son of migrants, I know first-hand how Australian football helped my brothers and I connect with the community. To meet people and make new friends. And to explore new opportunities. The same way it did for Jezza, Dipper and Kouta. And in the same way it’s now doing for Majak Daw, Bachar Houli, Jamie Pi and Ali Faraj and, I hope, many others in the years to come.”

    Whether you think Demetriou is “AD, the wrecker of our once great game”, or “Vlad, the impaler of other codes”, or simply a Greek Cypriot immigrant lad who was an average AFL player but a quite visionary and fiercely protective AFL exec, the article is an insight into where he wants Australian Football as a code to go, and what he wants it to do for Australia.

    It is worth reading in full before commenting below.

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