How football contributed to the Anzac Spirit

Ian Syson Roar Rookie

By Ian Syson, Ian Syson is a Roar Rookie

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    By now, we are familiar with the Anzac Day football rituals. Since 1995, Collingwood and Essendon have battled for Anzac supremacy at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

    Following the AFL’s lead, St George and Eastern Suburbs commemorate the day in the NRL.

    It’s a tradition, to which supporters of both codes have been drawn in vast numbers. Both codes supplied a great many troops, who served at Gallipoli and across Europe, many of whom were never to return.

    Collingwood lost six players, Essendon seven.

    So these clubs’ own histories add to the solemnity of Anzac commemorations.

    Yet, football too made its contribution.

    Prior to the first World War, the game had undergone something of a renaissance.

    Recovering from the depression and energised by waves of migrants, football was blooming.

    In Victoria, the Dockerty Cup (starting in 1909) had been a central plank in the game’s growth and club fixtures were regular.

    1913 saw the reinstatement of the New South Wales-Victoria clash after 25 years.

    Even though plans to form a national association were scuttled by the outbreak of war in 1914, the game soldiered on as best it could.

    The Argus of 9 August 1915 reports:

    “The annual international match between teams representing England and Scotland, under the auspices of the Victorian Amateur British Football Association took place on Saturday on the Fitzroy Cricket ground the authorities of which on this occasion granted the free use of the ground as net proceeds from the match were to be handed over to Lady Stanley’s fund for Wounded Australian Soldiers.”

    Yet, it was clear that the war was taking its toll.

    The Argus went on:

    “Four of the players who took part in last year’s match are on active service, namely Lowe, Golding, Guthrie and Hyde, the latter of whom is at present in hospital at Plymouth, England, wounded. Of those who took part in Saturday’s encounter 13 of them represented their various countries last year – seven for England and six for Scotland. Three of England’s representatives and two of Scotland’s have enlisted and were relieved by their respective commandants to enable them to take part in Saturday’s match.”

    The strong commitment made by footballers to the war effort meant that the suspension of the game was inevitable.

    And by 1916, competition was ended, not to be resumed until after the war.

    According to the Argus, when football did resume, in 1919:

    “At the first annual meeting of the British Association, on June 16, the report covering a period of four years commencing 1915 disclosed the interesting fact that 90 per cent. of the players had enlisted for service abroad or at home. No competitive football had been played during the war.”

    Pre-war football had not only grown in the metropolitan region. It was taking root in the country as well. It’s a fact little known that Mildura had a developing competition in this period.

    Indeed, the little town of Irymple, just outside Mildura, provides its own story and gestures towards the general tragedy of war.

    Of the 11 players pictured in the Irymple team of 1913, five lost their lives.

    It’s a story repeated across Australia, across sporting organisations of all codes

    The Irymple tragedy underlines a question that many in the football community have asked: why don’t we, in football, honour the Anzac legend with a celebration similar to those arranged by other codes?

    State federations have moved in this direction, but when will the national body take the lead?

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    The Crowd Says (302)

    • Roar Guru

      April 22nd 2011 @ 8:13am
      peeeko said | April 22nd 2011 @ 8:13am | ! Report

      the a league finished a month ago, we could have an annual match against NZ or Turkey but it would have to coincide with the FIFA international calendar

      • April 22nd 2011 @ 8:59am
        nordster said | April 22nd 2011 @ 8:59am | ! Report

        true, we do have an ongoing rivalry with NZ, so we play them pretty regular. There’s been anzac games with Turkey in the past at different age levels.
        I’d rather it be as it is, than be set as some locked-in match every year. With internationals in football its not really practical.
        As an alternative ??? World Peace Day is September… a multi-national tournament each year involving club teams, works for the A-L lead-in (not so much for touring opponents though).

      • Roar Rookie

        April 22nd 2011 @ 6:23pm
        Trust Me said | April 22nd 2011 @ 6:23pm | ! Report

        What about the Annual Friendship Cup football match between Australia and Turkey being played at Gallipoli on ANZAC Day every year?

        We usually send a youth team – Kerem Bulut played in it last year.

    • April 22nd 2011 @ 10:26am
      eric said | April 22nd 2011 @ 10:26am | ! Report

      Do we really need sport to commemorate this day?

      • April 22nd 2011 @ 1:00pm
        Ian Syson said | April 22nd 2011 @ 1:00pm | ! Report

        eric, that’s a debate we need to have within the soccer community. I’m not sure we need to commemorate it either but if we are ‘mainstreaming’ the game it’s an idea that should be discussed.

        • April 22nd 2011 @ 2:00pm
          Bondy said | April 22nd 2011 @ 2:00pm | ! Report

          Ian .
          There are no Soccer Associations all State and Territory’s are Football Federation’s.

          • April 23rd 2011 @ 11:56pm
            Ari Viderci said | April 23rd 2011 @ 11:56pm | ! Report

            We got you the first time Bondy, it’s called football!!!

            Does Bondy even realise the citizens of the great footballing nations say “soccer”?

            Why does he keep jumping on Australians for using “soccer”?

            • April 24th 2011 @ 12:05am
              Sherrin-Burley-Faulkner said | April 24th 2011 @ 12:05am | ! Report

              ATM they are trying cultural appropiation, but they also have cultural cringe, small man syndrome, soccer chip on shoulder syndrome, jealousy, they got it all.

              They are confused in their beliefs, that somehow soccer has played a really important part of Australias sporting history, when in reality it is somewhere between hurling and baseball.

              • April 24th 2011 @ 12:28am
                Ari Viderci said | April 24th 2011 @ 12:28am | ! Report

                That’s a bit hard, it’s a significant community sport and I’m a huge fan.

                Not sure it works that well for football, having the politically correct brigade jumping all over people for using the “wrong” language. Makes the game about as appealing as radical feminism.

                Strange how they’ll fight for the right to use foul language but heaven help anyone who says soccer.

              • April 24th 2011 @ 12:32am
                The Cattery said | April 24th 2011 @ 12:32am | ! Report

                We’re all huge fans of soccer – it’s just some of the johnny come lately soccer fans that we don’t like too much!

              • April 24th 2011 @ 12:48am
                Ari Viderci said | April 24th 2011 @ 12:48am | ! Report

                Fair enough. Hurling must be bigger than I thought.

                Just figured no one here played or Bondy and Fussball would have bagged it by now.

              • April 24th 2011 @ 12:50am
                Aussie Rules said | April 24th 2011 @ 12:50am | ! Report

                So us Australians and confused because we play or follow football and you say
                “their belief that somehow soccer has played a really importand part of Australian
                sporting history. What importance has Australian Rules played in Australian sporting
                history? Australian Rules players look like seagulls fighting over a chip. But I can’t
                see how you describe football to hurling and baseball…..!

              • April 24th 2011 @ 12:58am
                Sherrin-Burley-Faulkner said | April 24th 2011 @ 12:58am | ! Report

                @ Ari Verdici, fair enough, maybe i exagerated a bit, i do like hurling though.

                Probably more popular in this country in the 1880’s than what it is now, which is a shame.

       hurling &searchLimits=

                Collingwood V Kyneton in 1879, so the game was quite widespread.

            • April 24th 2011 @ 12:53am
              Aussie Rules said | April 24th 2011 @ 12:53am | ! Report

      • April 22nd 2011 @ 1:43pm
        Harry said | April 22nd 2011 @ 1:43pm | ! Report

        No Eric.
        Getting more and more uneasy as to the increasing commercialisation of Anzac Day. All the football codes have to be very careful about this.

      • Roar Rookie

        April 22nd 2011 @ 6:30pm
        Trust Me said | April 22nd 2011 @ 6:30pm | ! Report

        ANZAC Day is commemorated by all walks of life and forms of society including sport and a game of two up – I have no problem with that.

        The problems arise when a certain football code is claiming ownership of ANZAC Day all for itself, as though its the only sport that the ANZACs ever played or watched.

        This sport is almost unheard of in New Zealand.

        • April 22nd 2011 @ 9:55pm
          The Cattery said | April 22nd 2011 @ 9:55pm | ! Report

          But if I have understood you correctly, at least 90,000 will gather at our cathedral to watch two old famous clubs of that sport, and they will stand in absolute silence before the bounce of the ball.

          In that context, it doesn’t really matter that others have not heard of the game – it only matters that we’ve heard of it, that we follow it in very large numbers, and that there is a clear cut link between the game and our diggers going all the way back to the Boer War.

          That’s the thing that mattters.

          • Roar Rookie

            April 24th 2011 @ 10:35pm
            Trust Me said | April 24th 2011 @ 10:35pm | ! Report

            Thanks for proving my point Cattery.

            All that matters to AFL fans is what AFL fans think.
            What AFL fans think is what the AFL media tell them to think.

            • April 24th 2011 @ 10:46pm
              The Cattery said | April 24th 2011 @ 10:46pm | ! Report

              Your point was that the game is unknonw in New Zealand.

              As it happens, the NZ Herald ran a large story on Australian Football only this very morning.

              Here it is:

              Quite timely don’t you think?

              • Roar Rookie

                April 24th 2011 @ 11:00pm
                Trust Me said | April 24th 2011 @ 11:00pm | ! Report

                the AFL players use NZ for a bit or R&R to take drugs and drink alchohol.

              • April 24th 2011 @ 11:06pm
                The Cattery said | April 24th 2011 @ 11:06pm | ! Report

                Is that an admission that you were wrong?

              • April 25th 2011 @ 12:37am
                Aussie Rules said | April 25th 2011 @ 12:37am | ! Report

                I thought it was going to be a true ANZAC Day Australain Rules match with NZ it just might be too, but it just old news been talking about it for years (Hawthorn/Bulldogs) and they call it Australian Rules not Football in NZ and the NZ paper says “once again is looking across the Tasman to continue its growth”.
                The AFL is really running setting up team here and there, because of increasing football, League and now Union in Melbourne where there was only Australian Rules as the only weekly major sporting event.
                Why cant AFL and NZ start its own team up like with the Gold Cost Sun – Thats because Australian Rules is not that well known in NZ.

              • April 25th 2011 @ 12:44am
                Aussie Rules said | April 25th 2011 @ 12:44am | ! Report

                The Cattery – Your said nothing about this NZ newspaper artitcle – You do have the characteristic’s of the AFL who mislead their fans and the people.

                “St Kilda are overhauling their player development program as the AFL club reels from the suspension of four players for drug and alcohol-related indiscretions”.,,,,,,,

        • April 23rd 2011 @ 8:17am
          Aussie Rules said | April 23rd 2011 @ 8:17am | ! Report

    • April 22nd 2011 @ 12:23pm
      BigAl said | April 22nd 2011 @ 12:23pm | ! Report

      Unfortunately, a big part of ‘commemorating’ this day with sport boils down to making money…

      • April 22nd 2011 @ 12:32pm
        Sherrin-Burley-Faulkner said | April 22nd 2011 @ 12:32pm | ! Report

        Dont think, it has ever been any different, as long as a % of money finds it way back to those who really need it, then that is the most you can hope for.

    • April 22nd 2011 @ 12:46pm
      Bondy said | April 22nd 2011 @ 12:46pm | ! Report

      Good read.
      It would be terrible to think that sporting organisation’s would try to leverage out of the day to promote their sport did more than the others.I hope it’s not being used in that way, the sacrifice of so many.

    • April 22nd 2011 @ 2:36pm
      Pecs McGee said | April 22nd 2011 @ 2:36pm | ! Report

    • Roar Guru

      April 22nd 2011 @ 4:29pm
      Fussball ist unser leben said | April 22nd 2011 @ 4:29pm | ! Report

      I honestly cannot see how playing sport “honours” anyone other than the players.

      Sure, the match-day takings can be used to raise money for any worthy cause, but, in my opinion, a sporting contest is not an appropriate way to “honour the departed” … quiet reflection, is an appropriate way to “honour the departed”.

      Doesn’t mean Anzac Day sport is wrong, but let’s not make it out to be something noble – it is simply a means to exploit a Public Holiday to make money.

      Just as sport on “Good Friday” doesn’t “honour the sacrifice” that Christians hold sacred on this day, but if you feel it’s appropriate no problem.

      As an RC I certainly wouldn’t even watch the FIFA WC final, if it were played on Good Friday … but, of course, il Papa is a fanatical Football fan, so this is never going to happen!

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