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For me, old soccer is still on the nose

Roar Guru
24th September, 2014
81
1689 Reads

The Sydney-based football media has been extremely enthusiastic in promoting the Sydney FC versus Sydney United FFA Cup game, and its supposed linking of ‘old soccer’ with ‘new football’.

These same journalists have generally been critical over the past several years of the apparent disconnect between these two groups, and the feeling that the past has been unfairly ignored in the push away from the ethnic background that old soccer represents.

From my point of view, spanning over 35 years as an active player, administrator and supporter from country Queensland, I would like to know what we are supposed to owe to the old soccer brigade?

The journalists and commentators, brought up through and produced by the old soccer environment, would have us believe that without the post WWII migrant influx, football in this country would be much poorer.

They point to the scores of Socceroos from migrant backgrounds, and the migrant community clubs that produced them.

While the history of the game in Australia would certainly have been vastly different without them, and I do not begrudge the many positive contributions they have made, old soccer still has a lot to answer for in relation to the stifled off-field development of the game in this country.

I know first hand of quality young players in Sydney, players good enough to represent their region at youth level, who gave the game away once they reached senior level. They stopped because to play at a high level they felt they needed to play for the ‘Italian’ club, or the ‘Greek’ club, or whatever other nearby ethnic-based club was nearby.

Understandably, they felt uncomfortable with the idea of representing a club that did not represent them.

How many potential Socceroos and potential supporters were ostracised from the sport for years because they were not from a particular migrant background?

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At a club and administration level, the history of the sport is filled with lost opportunities and growth constrained by the petty politics associated with ethnic rivalries.

Even migrants themselves have not been exempt from the bickering and in-fighting these clubs have brought with them. Leo Baumgartner and Frank Lowy are two high-profile migrants that instantly spring to mind, whose contributions to the sport, at various times, were hamstrung by others unable to see past migrant community agendas.

The power and success of these clubs understandably extends from their being the focal point of their particular migrant community. They have in the past, and continue in the present, to perform a dual role within our multicultural society of providing valuable support to their members, and providing a window into their cultures for those of us outside of those communities. I applaud them for that and hope they long continue in that ongoing role.

But the sport has moved on.

No longer are we reliant, if we ever actually were, on the passion of the migrant communities to foster our sport. There are a far larger and rapidly growing number of non-migrant supporters, with just as much passion, now carrying the code forward.

Coming into its tenth season, the A-League has proved we don’t need ethnic based clubs for the sport to grow, yet those old soccer clubs, and the journalists who’ve grown up with them, can’t seem to accept that the sport is moving on from their domination.

The endless nostalgic articles, pining for days lost, do not reflect the current climate or indeed the modern experience of most football fans.

I for one am glad Sydney United lost. I certainly do not believe we need to hear the chant of “Sydney Croatia”, and its like, echoing once more around the national stage.

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The sport is succeeding because it is finally embracing the wider community and representing local regions that more of us can relate to, not a narrow demographic focused on a location thousands of miles away that most of us are never likely to even visit.

Bring on the new football. For me, old soccer is still on the nose.