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

Cameron Rose Columnist

By , 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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