Fans have always been a massive part of football.
Dick Smith Electronics was a revelation when it first opened around 50 years ago. It was the era where anything electrical or technological was like a drug to the new consumer class of techno-nerds.
Dick himself was a giant of the marketing game. He cultivated the nerdy image to perfection; the heavy framed glasses, short sleeve shirt with a cheap tie look.
The things they sold were amazing. Some of my pals would assemble all sorts of things from those kits (my short attention span and poor motor skills prevented me actually completing any.)
There was all kinds of flashing lights and things that buzzed when you shook someone’s hand and they even made lie detectors that still went off even if you were telling the truth.
But I can’t remember it being an overly patriotic kind of store. It catered more for an internationalist nerdism than the dinky di sort.
It was Dick’s foray into a patriotic food distribution empire that would eventually lead to his downfall.
For Dick, it was the ‘extreme capitalism’ of the German supermarket chain Aldi that was the final nail in his tub of OzEmite.
There’s the implication that it was un-Australian to not buy his products and that foreigners had been the downfall of an Australian icon.
You can’t get anything more representative of Australia than the FFA Cup round of 32. Don’t you just love watching all those community clubs battling it out on those quaint suburban cow paddocks right around the nation.
The feature match was between Avondale and Marconi. Of course, we all know that Marconi is one of the great old Italian backed clubs. They even play in a strip the colour of the Italian flag.
For some of us, we soon found out that Avondale was also a club with an Italian heritage. Not that you would know it from looking at their jerseys.
In fact the most conspicuous thing about their kit was the black duct tape on the back of the shirt.
Now I love duct tape as much as the next person, especially around football teams. Who could forget the fiasco of the Brisbane Roar shirt numbers in the Asian Champions League last year?
That was so much fun.
Anyway, it turns out that Avondale’s black tape was disguising – shock, horror – a little Italian flag. Very un-Australian.
Perhaps Dick had put the call into FFA headquarters. If it turns out they used Dick Smith brand duct tape it could have been a marketing masterstroke.
But is it all really necessary? Why should Australian football fans be shielded from a miniature Italian flag, a flag representative of one our oldest football communities?
Couldn’t we just put out a community services announcement to warn the children: “Warning, this program may contain traces of culture.”
Haven’t we just marvelled at a World Cup involving teams from, you know, like, other countries? Isn’t celebrating our many cultures half the fun of following football in Australia? What is more un-Australian; to display another country’s flag or to hide it?
Other sports in Australia go out of their way to flaunt their multicultural credentials. But in football we just want to tape over it.
Perhaps it’s time for the game’s administrators to rethink how the culture of our great sport is represented.