Wally Mason’s editorial in The Australian, about how diving damages football’s chances of becoming huge in Australia, has many fans shouting for a yellow or red card to be brandished in the face of the paper’s sports editor.
But the man has a point. After all, the newspaper devotes space to the beautiful game on a daily basis. The term ‘mainstream media’ is not one I favour and it is becoming a pejorative one, but while there may be instances where there is genuine hostility shown to football, surely this paper gives the game a fairer go than most.
I met Jade North a few times in Korea where he had quite a tough time. Once I asked his club Incheon United if I could interview him to be told I could – on the condition that I asked him how he was settling into life in Korea as United had no idea.
An articulate and intelligent man and defender, North made a mistake last weekend and his dive was embarrassing.
It may not, as Mason claims, mean the end of football’s hopes to become the country’s number one sport. But at very best, it does not do those chances any good.
Fans of other sports who are that way inclined use the practice of diving/simulation/pretending to be injured as a stick to beat the game with and it is hard to blame them. It is an ugly side of the game.
Some may see it as an affirmation of their existing dislike for the sport, but to dismiss the suggestion that it can turn off potential converts is wrong.
As is the idea that the sport is perfect and the practice of becoming angry when someone points out its flaws. There are many great things about football – we all have our favourites – but there are negatives too. Obvious cheating, for that is what it is, is a major issue.
Surely few football fans would argue otherwise.
The messenger shouldn’t be shot when he or she has a point. If there is hyperbole, sensationalism or untruths, they can be refuted but getting upset when it is noted that football has a diving problem is not the right response.
There has been criticism that a so-called non-football journalist has written about the game. This is also misguided. It would be fine, one assumes, if he had written something positive; but criticism does not go down well when it comes from ‘outside the family’.
There have been some gleeful hatchet jobs in the past and this, while perhaps a little over-the-top, is not one of those.
It has been said that diving is ‘unAustralian’ and this was repeated recently by Greg O’Rourke, the head of the A-League. I am not sure what that means, especially as that term has been used in the past to describe the entire sport. ‘The UnAustralian’ sounds like a good name for a newspaper.
Diving does seem to be relatively rare in the A-League, though it does go on, or, to put it more accurately, go down. Yet, as many fans are fond of telling supporters of other codes, football is the world game and as long as it happens in the big leagues, it is going to be talked about. You can’t be part of the world game when it suits and not when it doesn’t.
The A-League is just one part of a global whole and there is never any shortage of examples of such blatant cheating.
Having a few happen closer to home just gives the criticism a local flavour.
Wally Mason should not be crucified for writing about it, his piece had a point even if you don’t agree with his conclusion.