A-League fans, halal snack packs and the mainstream media

Stuart Thomas Columnist

By Stuart Thomas, Stuart Thomas is a Roar Expert

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134 Have your say

    My youngest child is lucky enough to attend an excellent little Catholic School only three hundred and fifty metres from our house in the North West of Sydney.

    On rare occasions, I get away a little early from work and have the privilege of picking her up and not feeling like a disappointment in shipping her off to after school care. No Catholic guilt there.

    In the process of the pickup, I normally have around ten minutes to kill before the bell sounds. That time gives some of the mums and dads a chance to chat and chew the fat.

    A few weeks back I heard a discussion between an English migrant who has been here for a couple of years and a second generation Italian-Australian woman. Both of whom I know reasonably well.

    I wasn’t involved in the actual conversation and stood nearby as I heard their discussion turn to the topic of football. As pathetic and stalker-like as it sounds, I edged a little closer to try and gather what they were saying.

    In short they were discussing football and the woman asked the man if he enjoyed watching the A-League, obviously realising that he was a huge football fan back in his homeland.

    ‘Oh no’, he said. ‘I watch all the English matches, but I don’t like the fans of the A-League.’

    ‘Yeah, they are disgusting, aren’t they?’, she replied.

    To say I was hurt and angry is an understatement. However, to say I was shocked and surprised would be a lie.

    I couldn’t help but think that it might be the same thing they would say about a halal snack pack before they had actually tried one.

    But what else would I expect? Unlike some of the parents at the school who are Wanderers or Sydney FC members, the woman in question isn’t and takes more of an interest in the plight of the Parramatta Eels in the NRL competition.

    I stood there thinking of the sources and roots of her comment. I pictured a busy mum, with three kids, doing all the things that hard working people do to organise their week around school, sport and their own employment.

    My conclusion and I think it is a fair one, was that her understanding and impression of the A-League had most likely been nurtured via a series of short sighted and bias mainstream media grabs.

    Western Sydney Wanderers' fans

    Perhaps she had seen Channel Nine’s summation of the most recent Sydney Derby as ‘a night of soccer violence’, or read some of the subtle jibes and pot shots taken at the local game from people like Eddie McGuire.

    She may have even been a regular listener to Alan Jones, who has compared some A-League crowd behaviour to the Paris terrorist attacks.

    Maybe she was a subscriber to The Australian and had read some of their articles about the ‘scourge’ that diving had become in the game. Whatever the source, her summation of the fans as being disgusting and her dislike for the Australian game sounded rather final.

    The gentlemen involved in the discussion interested me even more, in that, as an Englishman, his rather poor view of the A-League and the behaviour of its fans reeked of irony and hypocrisy.

    Honour on the terraces was not something for which English football became famous and revered and while great strides have been made in the modern EPL era, images of hooliganism from days gone by are still vivid in the football community.

    How dare you call us disgusting? Have a look in your own backyard buddy.

    The origins of the comments made by both parents were clear to me. The mainstream media took a combative approach to football in this country as soon as the game took a foothold and started to impact the broader landscape of sport.

    Romeo Castelen Western Sydney Wanderers

    Whether it be a journalistic conspiracy or just a by-product of culture and preference I am not sure, whatever the case may be, football has suffered at the hands of an inherent bias in media coverage.

    I’m not sure if anyone would be proud of creating such false impressions in seemingly fair and reasonable people who, in turn, label an entire community of supporters in an unfair way.

    Thus, to those who feel the need to tarnish the beautiful game with a brush applied with the most broad strokes. I give you the following advice.

    Sometimes passions overflow at sporting contests. Just as they did at the showdown in Adelaide last week, where we saw a continuation of the ugliest side of Australian sport; racism and discrimination of the highest order.

    The AFL acted swiftly and sternly and the advertising campaign that followed was moving and effective. While there has been a pattern of behaviour, no reasonably minded person would suggest that the behaviour is indicative of the average AFL fan, nor label the entire fan-base as disgusting.

    However, the sweeping condemnation of the football community after the derby, comments by shock-jock radio parrots and commercial news networks rather summative and inaccurate reporting of events, held football to a different standard. A standard not demanded of other codes.

    That standard appears to stem from an alarming fact that, yes, some football fans do look a little different to the ones with which you might be more comfortable. A lot of them have full dark beards, wear more sports-wear than beach-wear and like to bang traditional instruments as a tangible physical manifestation of their support.

    They are what people of my mother’s generation used to call ‘ethnics’. That’s right, they are Italians, Greeks, Serbs, Lebanese and others whose heritage stems from Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

    Oh, and just to clarify for the narrow minded parents at my kids school, they are not disgusting as a collective. There are disgusting individuals among them of course, as in all communities, yet my children have bloodlines from the Middle East as well, after my marriage to a fiery Lebanese belly-dancer who I met on a wild night in Istanbul.

    If anyone would like to label my three girls as disgusting, I might have to put on my teacher voice.

    Mainstream media, institutionalised racism aside, might also like to consider the following.

    Run across your front lawn as fast as you can and have another member of your family throw out a leg and knock you off balance so that you tumble to the ground. Hurt didn’t it?

    Probably took you a minute or two to get your composure back hey? While you may have laid on the ground, moaning, looking for a bit of sympathy from your spouse, it actually didn’t tickle.

    So the next time you read an article about simulation, or as the mainstream media like to call it, ‘diving’, have a think about the vast majority of moments in a game of football where the victim has been chopped down quite hard.

    Stop questioning a footballers courage and start measuring the behaviour against comparative acts across all codes, where players stay down to ensure the video replays pick up minor contact in order to advantage their team or gain favour from umpires.

    As Sydney FC attempt the unthinkable and strive to complete the almost perfect season, it is a shame that some people will continue to see football as an ethnic, violent and pathetic game played by cowards.

    What it will take to change their mind is hard to gauge. Yet understanding, awareness and perspective is undoubtedly the key.

    It’s a little bit like the invitation I extended to Pauline Hanson last year, requesting a meeting over a halal snack pack. I’m sure there is no inherent bias there on Ms Hanson’s behalf, just a case of her probably never having had the opportunity or motivation to give it a go and truly understand it.

    Stuart Thomas
    Stuart Thomas

    Stuart Thomas is a sports writer and educator who made the jump from Roar Guru to Expert in 2017. An ex-trainee professional golfer, his sporting passions are broad with particular interests in football, AFL and rugby league. His love of sport is only matched by his passion for gardening and self-sustainability. Follow him on Twitter @stuartthomas72.

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    The Crowd Says (134)

    • April 18th 2017 @ 3:25am
      Midfielder said | April 18th 2017 @ 3:25am | ! Report

      You best article yet.

      • Columnist

        April 18th 2017 @ 2:48pm
        Stuart Thomas said | April 18th 2017 @ 2:48pm | ! Report

        Thanks Mid, been on my mind for a few weeks. Didn’t want to go negative, tried to keep it lightish.

    • April 18th 2017 @ 3:26am
      Midfielder said | April 18th 2017 @ 3:26am | ! Report

      You best article yet.

    • April 18th 2017 @ 3:41am
      marcel said | April 18th 2017 @ 3:41am | ! Report

      Joe and Joanne public are largely mindless sheep bleating out whatever clickbait the media has presented to them recently…It’s not that they necessarily believe it with any conviction…it’s just that as a nation we remain politically lazy….our conversations place no value on authenticity and inquiry….hey It was sunny today, again, so who really cares.

      The media tells me that the Australians are now racists, sexist, islamiphobic etc etc …but I actually observe none of this in my day to day life….so I choose to think for myself…and conduct my life accordingly.

      The Sydney media has given up any pretence of independent reporting…the respective agenda more clearly on display than ever before…

      Did you notice that one local news outlet chose to publish multiple pictures of a couple accused of a quite disturbing crime…in their Wanderers kits…i refuse to believe there wasn’t some “intent” behind the choice of those pictures.

    • April 18th 2017 @ 3:42am
      Midfielder said | April 18th 2017 @ 3:42am | ! Report

      Also right now our own media both social and Football media is kinda in attack mode and if I read 442 and this site and knew nothing of the actual status I would be forgiven for thinking FFA and Football was about to disappear.

    • April 18th 2017 @ 4:11am
      Matt Jones said | April 18th 2017 @ 4:11am | ! Report

      newsflash – one suburban mum influenced by the media!

      as for the AFL putting a lid on the terrible behaviour in Adelaide. People have been making jokes at Adelaide boogans all week and will continue to do so ( i will at least)

    • April 18th 2017 @ 5:30am
      Gnasher said | April 18th 2017 @ 5:30am | ! Report

      When the English dad at the school gates said he didn’t like fans of the A-League, who’s to say it was because he didn’t like “ethnics”? Perhaps he just dislikes supercilious, judgemental snobs like the author, confident he can read the minds of complete strangers based on overhearing a snippet of conversation. Set aside for a moment the inconsistencies in his argument:

      “How dare you call us disgusting? Have a look in your own backyard buddy.”
      The Englishman didn’t call fans disgusting, the Australian woman did.

      “They are what people of my mother’s generation used to call ‘ethnics’. That’s right, they are Italians, Greeks, Serbs, Lebanese and others whose heritage stems from Europe, Asia and the Middle East.”
      So ethnic, like the Italian-Australian mother, that’s clearly why she hates them.

      It’s deep hypocritical for an author to decry lazy prejudiced ignorance on the part of others, while ascribing their dislike of his favourite game to base foundations ranging from docile stupidity to racism and Islamophobia, on the basis of…well, next to no evidence.

      “What it will take to change their mind is hard to gauge.”
      If you spoke enthusiastically to people about your enthusiasm rather than sniggering at their presumed idiocy and vileness, you might get somewhere.

      • April 18th 2017 @ 6:23am
        peeeko said | April 18th 2017 @ 6:23am | ! Report

        Well thats quite an unloading there Gnasher.

      • Columnist

        April 18th 2017 @ 7:02am
        Stuart Thomas said | April 18th 2017 @ 7:02am | ! Report


        Must pick you up on a few things here. Firstly, when the lady said the fans were disgusting, he agreed and they shared a little mutual admiration society moment. I don’t claim to be able to read people’s mind yet can observe, and be hurt by human behaviour.

        Thirdly, you seem to think I’m suggesting that the mother has nurtured the attitude and as you point out, she has a migrant past, as we all do. That is the point, the irony of the comment and the mainstream medias role in perpetuating it.

        Moreover, there is no evidence required in the opinion piece such as this. It is a line of thinking based on a true event. It’s reflective and as long as there is truth in the narrative then people can judge its content however they wish.

        Your final comments about being enthusiastic rather than sniggering are funny if you look at my body of work over a long period, as is your assumption that football is my ‘favourite’ game, whatever that means.

        Never been called a snob before, thanks. My friends and colleagues will get a good chuckle out of that one.

        Have a great day, I’m taking my kids to the Easter show. Thanks for reading.

        • April 18th 2017 @ 2:47pm
          Paul2 said | April 18th 2017 @ 2:47pm | ! Report

          “Moreover, there is no evidence required in the opinion piece such as this. It is a line of thinking based on a true event. It’s reflective and as long as there is truth in the narrative then people can judge its content however they wish.”

          Of course no evidence is needed. All you need to do is to seize upon snippets of some conversation, and then weave those snippets into the familiar persecution narrative that soccer fans cling to to explain the failure of the Aleague to conquer the domestic sporting market.

          Nice work, Ace;)

          • April 18th 2017 @ 2:51pm
            Chris said | April 18th 2017 @ 2:51pm | ! Report

            Who said we failed?

            • Columnist

              April 18th 2017 @ 2:58pm
              Stuart Thomas said | April 18th 2017 @ 2:58pm | ! Report

              That was my next question. At what? Failed at what? Conquer?

            • April 18th 2017 @ 4:53pm
              Paul2 said | April 18th 2017 @ 4:53pm | ! Report

              God you people are hard work.

              Soccer tragics have been insisting for decades that the days of the AFL and NRL dominating the sporting landscape are numbered, that it’s only a matter of time before the world game beats them into submission etc. Clearly, that hasn’t happened (see attendance figures, TV viewing numbers). Hence the term ‘failure’. Insisting that there is a grand conspiracy out to frustrate soccer’s growth at every turn serves as the perfect alibi for that failure. Hope that helps.

              • April 18th 2017 @ 5:32pm
                Mickyo said | April 18th 2017 @ 5:32pm | ! Report

                Let the whinging socceristas wallow I say, article after article after article, they love it, nothing smacks of Australian soccer more than the persecution complex.

              • April 18th 2017 @ 5:33pm
                marron said | April 18th 2017 @ 5:33pm | ! Report

                What evidence do you have for this story Paul? Sounds like you are relying on snippets of conversation mate.

              • April 19th 2017 @ 9:22am
                Evan Askew said | April 19th 2017 @ 9:22am | ! Report

                Failed? The NSL average crowds were 4000 per game. Now we average 12,000 per game. True in 2007 we averaged 14,000 per game but in 2010 we averaged around 9000 per game so while we haven’t yet returned to the heights of 2006 to 2008 neither have we returned to what we were before the Lowy reforms.

                People have said that the sudden surge of popularity that football experienced after 2006 would die off but the A league is evidently here to stay. I am quiet happy with where football is, I just wonder where it would be if it was treated the same way in the media.

          • Columnist

            April 18th 2017 @ 2:57pm
            Stuart Thomas said | April 18th 2017 @ 2:57pm | ! Report

            Football thanks. Might I suggest you have a read of some of my other work. You might be surprised. Just wondering what sort of evidence I might gather to prove that the main stream media portray football poorly other than the conversation and the fact that the people most likely, without following the game closely, picked up on a few headlines. Thanks for the sarcastic insult based on my writing skills, disagree with me, fine, but best not to be personal towards someone you dont know. I have more respect towards you than to ever do the same. Thanks for reading anyway and have a great day.

            • April 18th 2017 @ 5:11pm
              Paul2 said | April 18th 2017 @ 5:11pm | ! Report

              “Just wondering what sort of evidence I might gather to prove that the main stream media portray football poorly other than the conversation and the fact that the people most likely, without following the game closely, picked up on a few headlines.”

              At this point, it feels like we’re pretty close to agreeing that your analysis is driven by confirmation bias rather than by a careful survey of what is actually happening. I guess I should be thankful for this.

              Here’s a suggestion: take one of the whiney claims frequently made in forums like this, perhaps this one:

              “The media never report on violence at AFL games. They either bury the story, or pass it off as a bit of larrikinism”.

              Then step back from your own pre-conceived ideas, and test that claim i.e. see how well it matches reality. You might identify an instance of crowd violence at an AFL game, and question whether the media REALLY were careful to avoid any reporting of it, or perhaps whether they REALLY did take a deflationary attitude to that violence.

              That would be a more objective approach. It might provide some clarity on whether soccer’s problems owe themselves to a grand media conspiracy, or whether (as I suspect) you and your friends have inhabited an echo chamber for too long.

              p.s. I never intended to insult your writing skills.

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