Ali Fahour incident can lead to a wider conversation on violence in football

Cameron Rose Columnist

By Cameron Rose, Cameron Rose is a Roar Expert

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    What’s more cowardly I wonder. Punching someone who is both in a headlock and has their back to you?

    Or punching someone in the face in the middle of a brawl? Personally, I’d say the former.

    Ali Fahour was suspended for 14 matches by his local football league, and as a result will never play competitive Australian rules football again. He has stood down from his position at the AFL, and is thus unemployed and, for the short term, perhaps unemployable.

    He has been demonised on the front page of the Herald-Sun two days in a row, with only Jake King and Tyrone Vickery perhaps saving him from a third. His life, whichever way you want to cut it, is in ruins.

    It’s a hefty penalty for a few seconds of action in a fight on the footy field, the type of which are commonplace every weekend throughout the country. If you’ve been to a few local footy games, chances are you’ve seen one. If you’ve played for any length of time, you’ve probably been in one.

    Some are small. Some are big. They will usually escalate when two teams with ‘history’ meet each other. You’d be surprised how powerful local rivalries can be. Local footballers have long memories. Some have short fuses. It is not in dispute that Fahour is one of those.

    The victim of Fahour’s punch, which I’m not calling a king hit even though many are, Dale Saddington, is not unfamiliar with wild acts on the footy field. As we can see on the widely distributed footage, once the scuffle had started, he couldn’t wait to get in there to throw himself around. He’s no stranger to getting suspended himself.

    The lack of nuance surrounding the reporting and opinions on the Ali Fahour case has been disquieting, but not surprising.

    It’s easy to see the punch, and draw the most simple conclusions. Fahour should be hung, drawn and quartered. Never to play again. Sacked by the AFL.

    The question has been posed about whether the level of coverage and hostility directed toward him would be the same if he had a name like Cameron Rose instead of Ali Fahour. It’s a reasonable one to ask.

    Consensus seems to be that it is a perfect storm of Fahour’s position at the AFL, the close proximity to the Bachar Houli and Tom Bugg incidents, coupled with the viciousness of the punch. Consensus is that there is no underlying racism at play.

    Tomas Bugg Melbourne Demons AFL 2017 tall

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    To the level of coverage, I think I agree. To the level of hostility, I’m not so sure. Either way, it’s a worthy talking point, one that has been simmering away since the booing of Adam Goodes caused him to step away from the game.

    It may not be easy to find sympathy for Fahour in a situation like this, but he deserves it. This would be a harrowing time for him. Yes, he brought it on himself. In his mind, he was sticking up for a teammate. In reality, he was sticking up for a teammate. He went beyond the bounds of what is reasonable in doing so.

    Is the price he has paid, is paying, and will continue to pay, commensurate with the crime?

    What about the victim, I hear you ask. Dale Saddington deserves some sympathy too, and has received it. How much sympathy did the victims of the acts that led to his suspensions get, I wonder.

    Fahour has been branded a thug. Saddington as a young father. There is a rabbit hole there.

    Football is a game built on aggression and physical contact. It is both expected and demanded. Sometimes it gets out of hand. The aggression spills over. Anyone who has played it at senior level knows this to a mathematical certainty. Anyone who has only watched it should also understand.

    Where does the line get drawn? Certainly, it should be before a wild swinging punch to the head. Most definitely, it should be before attacking someone who is defenceless and already in a headlock.

    Violence is a well-documented problem among young Australian men, and in fact men of all ages. Ali Fahour is now the poster boy for that problem. The price he’s paid is hefty, and many will argue justified.

    Step Back Think is an organisation focussed on the prevention of social violence. There can be no more worthy cause.

    Step Back Think can also be applied to our treatment and attitudes toward Ali Fahour. If some of the people who are prone to casual violence in our society have taken in the lessons from this coverage, then good can come of it yet. Hopefully the wider conversation will be meaningful and far reaching.

    Cameron Rose will be appearing on the ABC’s 7.30 to discuss the Ali Fahour incident. Tune in at 7:30pm (AEST) on ABC or watch the stream on iView to catch Cam’s appearance!

    Cameron Rose
    Cameron Rose

    Cameron Rose is a born and bred Melbournian, raised on a regime of AFL, cricket and horse racing. He likes people who agree with him but loves those that don't, for there's nothing better than a roaring debate. He tweets from @camtherose.

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    The Crowd Says (185)

    • July 6th 2017 @ 5:33am
      Dinga said | July 6th 2017 @ 5:33am | ! Report

      Would a policeman playing a game of local footy be fired for the same incident? Not sure on the answer but not sure if he deserves to lose his job for something done on the weekend.

      • July 6th 2017 @ 6:00am
        Kane said | July 6th 2017 @ 6:00am | ! Report

        He actually stood down from his position and yes there have been instances where cop’s have been sacked from act’s on sporting fields.

        • July 6th 2017 @ 8:13am
          Dinga said | July 6th 2017 @ 8:13am | ! Report

          I’d imagine that this was brought about from assault charges stemming from the incident. Has there been any in this? It’d be interesting what the verdict would be in a trial by jury versus public opinion.

          And you’d be kidding yourself if his step down wasn’t forced.

          • Roar Guru

            July 6th 2017 @ 11:34am
            Pumping Dougie said | July 6th 2017 @ 11:34am | ! Report

            The police will never lay assault charges unless the victim is willing to stand in court and testify. Usually, this occurs after the victim has laid a complaint, or after the police has asked the victim if they want them to lay charges. This is why it rarely ever happens with football incidents.

            As for Fahour losing his job, many organisations now have a clause in their employment contracts that give the employer the right to sack an employee if the employee is found to have brought the organisation into disrepute.If Fahour worked in the accounts department at the AFL, this incident would not effect his employment. But because he is the ‘Respect & Diversity Manager’, where he is preaching ethical behaviour, it has made his position untenable.

            • July 6th 2017 @ 12:07pm
              GJ said | July 6th 2017 @ 12:07pm | ! Report

              Whittlesea Crime Investigation Unit are investigating the incident. They have taken a statement from a 33 year old Whittlesea man.

    • July 6th 2017 @ 5:51am
      Kane said | July 6th 2017 @ 5:51am | ! Report

      You can’t be serious Cameron, who cares what his name is, why drag out the racism word? He done a thug act on the footy footy field and by the laws of footy his total suspensions exceed 16 weeks so he’s deregistered. At the start of this week i heard a bloke called Tom Bugg get a flogging in the media because of as some called it “coward punch, dog act” but i didn’t see you writing anything about his race or religion. The biggest problem in this country at the moment are people like you and the media jumping onto someone with a different name and religion and promoting the racism card when it doesn’t need to be and spreading hatred at the same time. It’s got to stop!! Call it as it is, not as something else just to make a story.

      • Columnist

        July 6th 2017 @ 7:58am
        Cameron Rose said | July 6th 2017 @ 7:58am | ! Report

        Just asking the question Kane.

        Tom Bugg was back page news. Ali Fahour was front page news. Bugg punched Mills out of nowhere. Fahour was defending a teammate. One of them gets to keep his job.

        • July 6th 2017 @ 8:08am
          Kane said | July 6th 2017 @ 8:08am | ! Report

          Was he sacked or did he resign?

          • July 6th 2017 @ 8:26am
            Blah said | July 6th 2017 @ 8:26am | ! Report

            In a highly political working environment these can be practically the same thing. The old boss takes you aside for the “talk”

        • July 6th 2017 @ 8:47am
          Sammy said | July 6th 2017 @ 8:47am | ! Report

          Hang on Cam. Bugg saw plenty of bad press about his hit. The Fahour incident happened right after buggs and being a senior AFL employee and therefore guardian of the game he really should have known better considering the line in the sand the AFL were placing on hits like that. Keep racism out of it as that is disingenuous and is a cop out.

          • Columnist

            July 6th 2017 @ 9:01am
            Cameron Rose said | July 6th 2017 @ 9:01am | ! Report

            Forgetting your last sentence, I agree with everything you’ve said there.

            • July 6th 2017 @ 7:40pm
              covfefe said | July 6th 2017 @ 7:40pm | ! Report

              And yet you’re the the first reporter I’ve seen to bring race into it, which is not very smart anyway, since religion != to race.

          • July 6th 2017 @ 9:03pm
            Mark said | July 6th 2017 @ 9:03pm | ! Report

            I like that people are just so certain there’s no undertone of racism whatsoever that they actually get upset about it. Overcompensating perhaps?

        • July 6th 2017 @ 9:17am
          northerner said | July 6th 2017 @ 9:17am | ! Report

          I am not excusing either Bugg or Houli for their actions. They both got what they deserved. But at least they were dealing one on one with an opponent. Fahour walked, no ran, towards a melee which didn’t involve him and I think it’s a pretty far stretch to say that he was only protecting a mate. If he’d walked out of a pub and sucker punched a guy in the street who wasn’t threatening him, he’d be up on charges of assault causing bodily harm.

          • Columnist

            July 6th 2017 @ 9:19am
            Cameron Rose said | July 6th 2017 @ 9:19am | ! Report

            A footy field is different to a pub in my experience.

            Saddington did wrong, and then got wrong done to him. Once Saddington voluntarily entered the fray, the onus is on him to be aware.

            • July 6th 2017 @ 9:54am
              northerner said | July 6th 2017 @ 9:54am | ! Report

              That is victim-blaming. And in some countries, a player doing what Fahour did on the field would be facing a magistrate. Assault is still assault, even on a football field.

              • Columnist

                July 6th 2017 @ 10:06am
                Cameron Rose said | July 6th 2017 @ 10:06am | ! Report

                I understand the concept of victim-blaming, but he was in the wrong. He just happened to receive his (admittedly excessive) punishment immediately. Fahour has carried his publicly for the best part of 72 hours.

            • Roar Guru

              July 6th 2017 @ 11:48am
              Pumping Dougie said | July 6th 2017 @ 11:48am | ! Report

              Gee Cam. Are you one of those blokes who thinks its perfectly expected and acceptable to run into a melee and whack a bloke who isn’t looking at you?

              I’m guessing you’re not one of those dinosaurs. Yes, it’s advisable when entering a melee to keep your radar on high, just in case a person of this nature enters the fray. But that doesn’t make the victim partially culpable. The assailant is still 100% accountable.

              • Columnist

                July 6th 2017 @ 12:36pm
                Cameron Rose said | July 6th 2017 @ 12:36pm | ! Report

                I agree, Fahour is 100% accountable for his actions. Saddington is also 100% accountable for his.

              • July 6th 2017 @ 7:34pm
                covfefe said | July 6th 2017 @ 7:34pm | ! Report

                “Saddington is also 100% accountable for his.”

                What for being a punching bag?

                Gotta love twisted logic.

                Next thing you’ll be saying is that So and so’s wife deserved to be bashed because she threatened one of his mates.

            • July 7th 2017 @ 12:03am
              Scandal said | July 7th 2017 @ 12:03am | ! Report

              You have seriously lost me there. You have got to be kidding. Wow. Can I borrow that for my legal practice? Wow

            • July 7th 2017 @ 11:56am
              Bruce said | July 7th 2017 @ 11:56am | ! Report

              He was aware of the bloke he was grappling with straight in front, but not the sniper hit from an angle.

          • July 6th 2017 @ 10:49am
            northerner said | July 6th 2017 @ 10:49am | ! Report

            We do not live in a vigilante society. We have rule of law, and we have courts and tribunals to determine guilt and decide on punishment. Whether Saddington was in the wrong or not, it wasn’t up to Fahour to make that decision nor to deliver the penalty. And he, of all people, should have known that.

        • July 6th 2017 @ 10:21am
          Michael said | July 6th 2017 @ 10:21am | ! Report

          Fahour is a recidivist who had Demetriou step in for him in 2012 when he assaulted a spectator.

          And he arguably only has his job due to nepotism.

          • Roar Guru

            July 6th 2017 @ 11:55am
            Pumping Dougie said | July 6th 2017 @ 11:55am | ! Report

            Yep and yep.

          • July 6th 2017 @ 9:39pm
            Matt said | July 6th 2017 @ 9:39pm | ! Report

            Yep. he’s a dog

          • July 12th 2017 @ 12:47pm
            mdso said | July 12th 2017 @ 12:47pm | ! Report

            Its true Ali has form in this regard. This Saddington incident may not the first time and maybe it won’t be the last. But Ali sure as hell is going to remember the circumstances which bought him to this place where he is. Whether he learns from this experience is another matter. Ali is fortunate Saddington has been able to recover from this hit without extensive damage. Many others have not been so fortunate.
            There is great learning from this incident for all of us.

        • Roar Guru

          July 6th 2017 @ 11:43am
          Pumping Dougie said | July 6th 2017 @ 11:43am | ! Report

          Cam, I think your assertion that he was defending a teammate is ridiculous. People were pushing and shoving and he came in from the side and violently whacked a bloke who wasn’t even watching him. To say, he went beyond the bounds of what is reasonable, is a massive understatement and is severely downplaying the viciousness of the attack. It’s assault and there should be no level of sympathy.

          Fahour has already previously been suspended for 3 weeks this season prior to the incident, so he is clearly a man ‘with form’. In the video, seconds before Fahour strikes, we can see another player (number 5) from his team, strike a bloke in the kidneys from behind. Both of these acts are coward acts of assault and should be treated as such. No sympathy for the thugs.

          I have played open age football in this league (Diamond Valley League / Northern Football League) for the last 30 years and I can tell you, this kind of behaviour on-field is synonymous with some clubs.

          • Columnist

            July 6th 2017 @ 12:38pm
            Cameron Rose said | July 6th 2017 @ 12:38pm | ! Report

            Number 5 was hitting Saddington in the kidneys. It is highly unlikely that Number 5 and Fahour both decided on the spot not to like Saddington and punch him. Extremely unlikely.

            • July 6th 2017 @ 12:43pm
              Jon boy said | July 6th 2017 @ 12:43pm | ! Report

              Were you at the GAME Cameron?????

            • Roar Guru

              July 6th 2017 @ 8:14pm
              Kaks said | July 6th 2017 @ 8:14pm | ! Report

              So?

              What difference does it make if Saddington was unlikeable or not? Does not give you the right to run in and sucker punch someone.

              No sympathy for Fahour just because he can’t control his emotions.

        • July 6th 2017 @ 4:54pm
          Peter the Scribe said | July 6th 2017 @ 4:54pm | ! Report

          defending a teammate???? How is this dinosaur was of thinking even possible in 2017? You can defend a team mate without king hitting someone, possibly one punch killing him.

        • July 7th 2017 @ 12:00am
          Scandal said | July 7th 2017 @ 12:00am | ! Report

          Defending a teammate? Seriously? From what? I also don’t understand the comments from a teammate about Ahmed Saad being under attack. As a Saints supporter, I recognise Saady well and he was nowhere near Saddington. I seriously do not understand any defence of Fahour at all in this case. Also keen to know of your knowledge of Saddington’s history. You quote as though you have a detailed history of his playing history and communications with alleged victims of his. Please share and provide all details you have of such.

        • July 7th 2017 @ 5:18pm
          Jack said | July 7th 2017 @ 5:18pm | ! Report

          Ali’s employed position was headline news, even if the act happened on the weekend, also he has a history of aggressive behaviour. Bugg was not as important an individual. race,creed,colour doesn’t come into it.

      • July 6th 2017 @ 8:14am
        Christo the Daddyo said | July 6th 2017 @ 8:14am | ! Report

        Couldn’t agree more.

        And now Cameron hides behind the “just asking the question” defense. That’s the sneaky, cowardly way that allows racism to fester in society.

        • Columnist

          July 6th 2017 @ 8:38am
          Cameron Rose said | July 6th 2017 @ 8:38am | ! Report

          A disappointing response Christo, but I understand that this is an emotive issue with several worthy points of view.

          • July 7th 2017 @ 8:05am
            Christo the Daddyo said | July 7th 2017 @ 8:05am | ! Report

            Disappointing how?

    • Roar Rookie

      July 6th 2017 @ 6:18am
      Stevo said | July 6th 2017 @ 6:18am | ! Report

      Sophistry from Cameron. Let’s find a few words and arguments to lessen the event. Oh yes, it happens all the time – that’s a goody. Fahour deserves symnpathy???? A serial aggressor!!! A person who only now says I need help! The guy has used the game of AFL as cover for his aggressiveness knowing that people like Cameron and some AFL veterans will come out to sympathise.

      • Columnist

        July 6th 2017 @ 8:00am
        Cameron Rose said | July 6th 2017 @ 8:00am | ! Report

        Fantastic word use, Stevo.

        Fahour has his issues, no doubt. He’s certainly been forced to face them in a more public way than any of us will ever have to.

    • July 6th 2017 @ 6:53am
      I ate pies said | July 6th 2017 @ 6:53am | ! Report

      Why mention racism? His position at the AFL is untenable because of his actions, regardless of his race. Are you suggesting we should feel sorry for this bloke, who has done this type of thing before? Where’s the sympathetic article for Tom Bugg – at least he was retaliating against someone who had just hit him.
      Fahour has form – he’s a thug on the footy field. If we’re serious about stamping out violence on the footy field (which will never happen) then the repeat offenders have to have the book thrown at him. Unless you want to excuse someone on the basis of their race. But that would be racist…

      • Columnist

        July 6th 2017 @ 8:41am
        Cameron Rose said | July 6th 2017 @ 8:41am | ! Report

        I am suggesting we feel sorry for the situation he is now in. He has been suspended for life, and that is a fair outcome based on this act and his history.

        Tom Bugg gets to play football again and keep his job. Fahour was defending a teammate.

        • July 6th 2017 @ 9:58am
          sammy said | July 6th 2017 @ 9:58am | ! Report

          tom bugg for starters has not accrued 16 games of suspension in his career like Fahour has so even if he was in Fahour’s footbal league, he would not be life banned as he has not been on the wrong side of the rules to the same extent over a period of time. Fahour also resigned, he chose to lose his job because he realised that as a senior AFL employee he had more responsibility on him to set the right example

        • July 6th 2017 @ 11:31am
          I hate pies said | July 6th 2017 @ 11:31am | ! Report

          It’s ok to belt a bloke if you’re defending a team mate? Are you suggesting justifiable assault?

        • July 7th 2017 @ 11:41pm
          Jovial Jock said | July 7th 2017 @ 11:41pm | ! Report

          i understand your point, but the police have now charged Fahour..the act was done with absolute intent and malice, it was almost vicious, at a suburban game with families, children around. He then ran on to another opp. player who looked shocked or terrified at what was coming. I also found his initial media remorse somewhat unconvincing, looking into his eyes i felt he was staging for the cameras, fully knowing his culpability-that might be taking it a bridge too far, just a gut feeling. anyway he’s done now regardless of our opinions.

        • July 12th 2017 @ 12:50pm
          mdso said | July 12th 2017 @ 12:50pm | ! Report

          Football thuggery makes it o.k. No way.

    • July 6th 2017 @ 7:34am
      bobburra said | July 6th 2017 @ 7:34am | ! Report

      Some are suggesting that Fahour be sacked over this incedent, if that was to happen by extension does that mean in the future that incidents like the Houli case would have players sacked / de-rigerested for life, after all they are all employees of the AFL are they not?

      • July 6th 2017 @ 1:30pm
        northerner said | July 6th 2017 @ 1:30pm | ! Report

        Fahour was deregistered because of the number of points he’d managed to collect in his footy career. If Houli had that many points on his record, he too would have been deregistered for life. But he didn’t so he wasn’t.

    • July 6th 2017 @ 7:52am
      Neil from Warrandyte said | July 6th 2017 @ 7:52am | ! Report

      Saddington also deserves some scrutiny for his actions that precipitated the whole incident.
      Choking someone to the point where they cannot breathe while punching him in the head is a low act. How much time did Saddington get?

      • Columnist

        July 6th 2017 @ 8:01am
        Cameron Rose said | July 6th 2017 @ 8:01am | ! Report

        From the footage, it looks like Saddington’s teammate has the choker hold on Ahmed Saad, while Saddington himself is doing something to Saad. I’m not aware that either faced charges.

        • Roar Guru

          July 6th 2017 @ 8:04am
          Cat said | July 6th 2017 @ 8:04am | ! Report

          Don’t you know, choke holds are okay, Hodge was allowed to wrap his arm around Selwood’s neck a few weeks back after Selwood tripped on Hodges feet and got him in the back.

          • July 6th 2017 @ 8:57am
            Birdman said | July 6th 2017 @ 8:57am | ! Report

            irrelevant tripe, Cat – give it a rest.

          • July 6th 2017 @ 11:44am
            Carl said | July 6th 2017 @ 11:44am | ! Report

            I think that was Sam Mitchell. West Coast Eagles. But self interest and bias always clouds the judgement of everyone.

            • Roar Guru

              July 6th 2017 @ 12:14pm
              Cat said | July 6th 2017 @ 12:14pm | ! Report

              You’re right, but it was worth being wrong just to rev up Birdman.

          • July 6th 2017 @ 12:08pm
            Brendon the 1st said | July 6th 2017 @ 12:08pm | ! Report

            I reckon Selwood was trying to implant his elbow into the back of Mitchell’s head and missed

            • Roar Guru

              July 6th 2017 @ 12:15pm
              Cat said | July 6th 2017 @ 12:15pm | ! Report

              That explains why Selwoods hands were the first point of contact …

          • July 6th 2017 @ 5:18pm
            Peter the Scribe said | July 6th 2017 @ 5:18pm | ! Report

            CAT “Hodge was allowed to wrap his arm around Selwood’s neck a few weeks back” that’s because Selwood is still the one and only master of dropping the knees after the high tackle.

            • Roar Guru

              July 6th 2017 @ 5:32pm
              Cat said | July 6th 2017 @ 5:32pm | ! Report

              You obviously have no clue about the incident I was referring to. The only person that got hit high was Mitchell (not Hodge, I admitted my mistake above but obviously you only read bits and pieces).

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