If you were planning on firing a few darts at a board to decide your tips for this week, don’t worry, you are not alone.
Anyone can contribute to The Roar and have their work featured alongside some of Australia’s most prominent sports journalists.
Football writers are always under the pump. Committing ideas to print can be a dangerous practice, as many contributors to The Roar discover on a daily basis.
Baring one’s opinions and beliefs without a safety net opens up avenues to ridicule, criticism and sometimes sheer abuse. Speaking from personal experience, I have seen and read examples of all three with my work as the subject.
Thankfully there is a level-headed majority that understands two simple realities: first, that each and every one of us is entitled to an informed opinion, as difficult as it may be for others to comprehend at times, and second, that writers are human too!
Early in my writing journey a few comments well and truly made their way under my skin and dented confidence and composure.
Years later things have changed, with the diverse opinions in football something that tends to bring a smile more frequently than a frown.
The game is obsessed over by people of passion, and when that emotion runs high forthright views and opinions bubble to the surface. It is something that the game should never shy away from, as it lies at the core of the fervour and passion that is lived in the stands each and every week at football matches across the country.
The recent sacking of Alen Stajcic, Graham Arnold’s appointment to the top job and the Asian Cup performance of the men’s national team have all provided plentiful angles and lines of thinking for writers across the nation.
The Australian’s Ray Gatt has been consistent in his cries for justice in regards to the fallen Matildas coach. Others, such as Lucy Zelic, alluded to a secret truth being required in order to gain a full understanding of the circumstances surrounding his removal. Either way, the story gave football writers plenty to discuss.
Some scribes saw the Socceroos’ performance in the UAE and the style of football played as a disastrous first step for a team led by a manager appointed by a Sydney bias with little ability to coach in the first place. Others have labelled it a reasonable campaign by a side that will improve and was hampered by injuries.
Perhaps it was more a combination of both? One thing is for sure: There is really no definitive answer.
Simon Hill has composed some wonderful prose about the state of the game in Australia, as has Michael Lynch, Roger Sleeman and Ian Syson. I enjoy Mike Tuckerman’s work and devour whistleblower Bonita Mersiades’s articles, which always delve deeply into the political aspects of the game.
Many of those writers and others will assemble in Jamberoo on 23 and 24 March for the inaugural Football Writers’ Festival, where local writers and international guests will attend a weekend planned to celebrate the importance of quality football thought and writing across the globe.
Former United States goalkeeper Hope Solo will attend, along with German investigative journalist Jens Weinreich.
Australia’s own Craig Foster will also speak along with a wealth of respected domestic writers who have been covering the game in Australia for decades.
Even little old me gets a gig as part of a panel to discuss the modern challenges of producing and earning money from football content in the modern digital age.
The event has been produced and coordinated by the Johnny Warren Football Foundation and Fairplay Publishing in an attempt to provide a space for collaboration, dialogue and debate. And there is always plenty to debate.
New FFA chairman Chris Nikou will attend and one can only guess at the nature of some of the inevitable questions that will come his way over the course of the weekend.
The event is an altruistic endeavour and open to anyone with an interest in the writers themselves or the broader issues around the game.
By following this link to the website you can register for the event should you be in New South Wales around that time.
Alternatively, you could email firstname.lastname@example.org if you require any further details.
I plan to write a review of the weekend soon after and share some of the ideas and events that took place. Most scary is the football match planned for the Saturday afternoon.
Whilst Craig Foster may shine, I’ll be bumbling around at right back and will be a fair chance of picking up a card or two. I hope there’s no VAR.