Is football culturally unsuited to Australia?

dinoweb Roar Guru

By dinoweb, dinoweb is a Roar Guru


106 Have your say

    The Sydney Derby always brings out the best in the Wanderers and Sky Blues. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

    Related coverage

    First up, apologies to any female readers, but this article is all about male perceptions, and their effect on what sports we associate with.

    Like it or not, the best male athletes in the country are drawn to participate in the rugby and AFL codes, not football.

    The “Australia’s Greatest Athlete” series, shown on commercial TV a few years ago, amply demonstrated that football players in Australia are some distance behind the overall athleticism of players from other sports.

    While it is certainly true that the skills and attributes required for football are different, equally, I don’t think anyone can disagree that people like Billy Slater would be champions at football, if it was their chosen sport.

    Why then are these men predominantly choosing other sports?

    I believe it is because of the underlying, sub-conscious belief in the general community that physical strength equates to manliness, and that the other codes obviously fit this model better than football.

    Football relies not only physical prowess but also on delicate skills and touch, plus a certain amount of agility, attributes that are not in line with Australia’s vision of the rugged pioneer or ANZAC warrior.

    As the home of all codes of football, England, through whatever quirk of history, embraced football more than rugby. James Bond may be tough, but he is stylish while doing it. The same sort of ethos prevails through continental Europe and is well represented by football.

    In South America, the rhythms of the samba and tango are things that also lend themselves to the natural skills of Football.

    In Australia and the USA, both places were, until relatively recently, frontier communities separated by vast distances, that still required conquering, and needed tough, strong men who had little time for the finer things in life.

    My family literally lived only a few miles from the property made famous in the “Dad and Dave” stories. In my childhood, I knew men who grew up at the time depicted by Steele Rudd, men who travelled by bullock dray and on Cobb and co coaches. It is not as far in our past as some might think.

    These men were my father’s role models through youth. They influenced his view of manhood, and he, in turn, influenced mine.

    Continuing the movie analogy, James Bond might be an English and European idea of manliness, but it was John Wayne and his numerous cowboy flicks, that struck a stronger chord in both the USA and Australia. I enjoy James Bond movies, but it has always been John Wayne that my idea of being a “real” man is modelled after.

    It is why, for so long, many people in this country have written off football as a game for “fairies”. It doesn’t fit in with their sense of what being a man is all about. It is why immigrant communities embrace the sport more easily, but longer term Australians do not.

    Times are changing though. “Man-scaping” (shudder) is one symptom of a change in perception. Australian men are developing more of an appreciation that manliness is not tied just to sheer physical prowess.

    It may take a couple more generations, but I believe football will become more and more recognised as reflecting the traits of “manliness” and more accepted as a real part of the Australian sporting landscape. Once that happens, more of the better athletes will come to the sport.

    Only then will football in Australia start to realise its true potential, both nationally and on the world stage.

    Do you find yourself logged out of The Roar?
    We have just switched over to a secure site (https). This means you will need to log-in afresh. If you need help with recovering your password, please get in contact.

    This video is trending right now! Submit your videos for the chance to win a share of $10,000!

    Have Your Say

    If not logged in, please enter your name and email before submitting your comment. Please review our comments policy before posting on the Roar.

    Oldest | Newest | Most Recent

    The Crowd Says (106)

    • Roar Guru

      May 29th 2013 @ 6:59am
      Cameron Kellett said | May 29th 2013 @ 6:59am | ! Report

      Absolutely fantastic piece! That’s all I got to say…

      • June 3rd 2013 @ 12:29am
        Chairman Kaga said | June 3rd 2013 @ 12:29am | ! Report

        Soccer needs to lose the diving and cheating to appeal to the Anglos. They can sell the sport as a world game and a skillful game, but the underhand stuff, that is just low and goes against the principles of our society. I like the sport and I understand the latino attitude to life, but it is not going to wash. FIFA needs to introduce trial by video for the diving. Problem is FIFA is latino.

        • June 3rd 2013 @ 6:05am
          Bondy said | June 3rd 2013 @ 6:05am | ! Report

          That sounds like aussie rules and tanking, uno the thing that doesn’t exist, clubs get fined for tanking but they didn’t tank.

          This would have to be the worst year for aussie rules since becoming a profession ‘cough”, more people turned up for C Palmers Gold Coast than GWS.

    • May 29th 2013 @ 7:12am
      house of love said | May 29th 2013 @ 7:12am | ! Report

      Not sure if this should have a “Ha” tag on this on or not. Whilst you have expressed an opinion, you need to back this up with solid evidence to support your argument, saying that Billy Slater would be a champion at football. Please can you provide the evidence, can he trap a ball? is his touch good? can he read when to intercept a pass? does he know how to mark a player in the penalty area? can he pick a pass? is he a natural goal scorer? great at defending set pieces with his head?. I could go on but i’ll leave you with this thought, you can’t make a great athelete be a great footballer but you can make a great footballer be a great athelete.

      • Roar Guru

        May 29th 2013 @ 7:26am
        Cameron Kellett said | May 29th 2013 @ 7:26am | ! Report

        House of Love,

        He said… “If it were his chosen sport.”
        He’s an athlete and most athletes have shown they are gifted in more than one way in terms of athletic ability.

        • May 29th 2013 @ 8:30am
          house of love said | May 29th 2013 @ 8:30am | ! Report

          @ kellet, like I said athletic ability does not make you a great football player, a good footballer or even an average footballer. You’re either born with great technical football skills or not, you can’t learn to be a great footballer.

        • Roar Guru

          May 29th 2013 @ 8:58am
          Fussball ist unser leben said | May 29th 2013 @ 8:58am | ! Report

          “He’s an athlete and most athletes have shown they are gifted in more than one way in terms of athletic ability”

          Only 12 months ago, we had evidence that a champion NRL player could not acquire the technical skills to transition to AFL.

          Most experts at developing footballers say that “if you don’t have good football technique by the age of 12, you will never have good technique”.

          • Roar Guru

            May 29th 2013 @ 6:49pm
            Cameron Kellett said | May 29th 2013 @ 6:49pm | ! Report

            I forgot about Israel Falou, but Karmichael Hunt has proven the transition can occur well. Izzy has now gone to union and is doing extremely well. I don’t know if any footy players have made that transition to football but if experts say what you’ve provided me with, then there really isn’t much more too it.

    • May 29th 2013 @ 7:26am
      Martlo said | May 29th 2013 @ 7:26am | ! Report

      Totally disagree that people like Billy Slater would be good footballers- football requires skills totally different from other codes.

    • May 29th 2013 @ 7:28am
      nickoldschool said | May 29th 2013 @ 7:28am | ! Report

      Although i find the topic interesting I felt there were too many generalisations in the article.

      “I don’t think anyone can disagree that people like Billy Slater would be champions at football, if it was their chosen sport.”. Well I can. How and why can we say he would be a Messi or Ibra if he had chosen football as a kid? And why would Messi not have been a great scrum half (rugby) or Ibra a good backrower should they had chosen rugby as their sport? No one can answer these questions imo.

      I am not convinced that aussie kids choose other codes “because of the underlying, sub-conscious belief in the general community that physical strength equates to manliness, and that the other codes obviously fit this model better than football.’. IMO they are just much more exposed to other codes in medias, at schools, their parents etc.

      As a European who has played football as a teen then rugby, we had the same assessment that rugby was more ‘manly’ as you put it than football, same as here really. So what? Boxing, MMA and many other combat sports are even ‘more manly’ than rugby, doesnt mean aussies or americans embrace these sports more. Cricket isnt very manly at all imo, yet its much more popular here than in most euro countries who have football as there n1 sport.

      I just dont think, or at least i disagree, that the reasons why football is not more popular in oz are related to the lack of manliness of the sport.

    • May 29th 2013 @ 7:50am
      Damiano said | May 29th 2013 @ 7:50am | ! Report

      This article isn’t a joke right? Just feels like it.

    • May 29th 2013 @ 7:58am
      Jukes said | May 29th 2013 @ 7:58am | ! Report

      Yes it is a joke. I just got censored.