Good on the FFA’s new head of communications Kyle Patterson for sticking it to 3AW radio shock jock Neil Mitchell in midweek. Mitchell was in his element launching into one of his typical agenda-driven rants, but Patterson left the veteran broadcaster looking like he had his “head in the sand.”
Patterson was speaking on Mitchell’s morning radio show in Melbourne after the Socceroos played out an entertaining 0-0 draw with Serbia in a friendly watched by more than 28,000 fans at Etihad Stadium on Tuesday night.
One fan was arrested and seven were evicted for anti-social behaviour during the match, but Mitchell chose to ignore those facts by claiming “several thousand people were involved in this, according to the police,” before later revising that figure down to “2,000 or 3,000.”
Like a schoolyard bully lashing out at the smartest kid in the class, the hectoring Mitchell did his best to antagonise an unflappable Patterson but seemed exasperated when his tirade failed to elicit the desired response.
“If you think it’s an over-reaction, you’ve got your head in the sand. It’s going to happen again and you won’t get anybody going to the game,” Mitchell said.
“I take your wisdom and your judgement. I don’t think you’ll find that the majority of sports fans, or football fans will agree with it,” Patterson replied.
“Soccer fans,” sulked Mitchell.
Mitchell’s childish retort speaks volumes for the kind of small-mindedness football fans must put up with every day in Australia, and there was plenty more of it on display on the website of Melbourne’s AFL-obsessed Herald Sun.
Just under 300 readers commented on a story entitled “Police flag heftier penalties for fans lighting flares at the soccer,” and refreshingly many of those comments criticised an obvious media beat-up.
Predictably though, there were those who used the story as a platform to espouse their own unique world views.
“Anyone who can sit through a game of soccer is not going to have the highest IQ,” wrote one enlightened reader.
“Listen to you whinging about how the H(erald) S(un) is anti-soccer – wake up – Australia is ANTI SOCCER,” wrote another.
Still another wrote, “(h)appens at almost every game, racial vilification and abuse within the crowds is tantamount to any soccer game played in melbourne, its (sic) part of the culture of the sport here” – although I personally have never witnessed any such behaviour in Melbourne.
An overwhelming number of readers claimed scoreless draws were the reason for anti-social behaviour, while many more respondents employed the phrase “go back to your own country” in referring to the story.
Of course, those readers are entitled to their opinions – even if factual evidence appears to have little bearing on them.
But the problem for the FFA going forward is the inexplicable vitriol prominent media figures like Mitchell continue to pour on the game.
That’s where Patterson’s contribution was so vital.
For once, the FFA had an actual football lover in place to articulate the feelings of fans frustrated by the constant media beat-ups and selective reporting of journalists like Mitchell.
That said – and this is a point I’ve made several times before – but any time flares are ripped in an Australian stadium, it gives the game’s detractors all the ammunition they need to pen reams of anti-football rhetoric.
And while it would be a tragedy to not invite a fine football team like Serbia to our shores, hindsight suggests they perhaps weren’t the most risk-free choice of opponent.
Still, I saw more fans ejected when I attended the first day of the Ashes cricket Test in Brisbane last year.
I didn’t hear Neil Mitchell call for a blanket ban on English supporters in the wake of anti-social incidents at the cricket, but then I guess that doesn’t suit his blatant anti-football agenda.