Football is a game of opinions, or so the old saying goes. So why does it often feel like we’re all just a little bit too scared of actually voicing them?
“You can’t tell me this is bad luck,” thundered Western Sydney Wanderers coach Markus Babbel after Wellington Phoenix were awarded a highly contentious match-winning penalty against his team last weekend.
“This is too often now, too often against us and there’s something behind it, that’s my opinion,” the German added for emphasis.
Why wouldn’t he? If the rumours are true, Babbel could soon be out of a job and possibly on the lookout for a tattoo removalist to get rid of his freshly inked Wanderers tattoo.
But what happened next was as predictable as Alessandro Diamanti skying his first shot of a game into Row Q.
“Football Federation Australia has issued a show cause notice under the FFA National Code of Conduct to the Western Sydney Wanderers FC Hyundai A-League Head Coach, Markus Babbel,” read the statement from the FFA.
“The citation relates to comments made in the official post-match media conference and in a Sky Sports interview following the Hyundai A-League 2019/20 Round 9 match between Western Sydney Wanderers FC and Wellington Phoenix on Saturday, 7 December 2019.”
So far so droll. But which ones?
Presumably the ones where he said: “We have to understand that we play not against 11 but against 12… this is a trend now.”
And by the letter of the law, you can understand why the FFA insists that refereeing decisions must be respected. After all, respect for referees is an issue that effects every level of the game – from the top tier all the way down to the grassroots.
But you can equally understand why some fans think there aren’t many personalities in the A-League, because any time someone says something mildly controversial, they cop an official rebuke from the FFA.
And since we’re on the subject of controversial statements, how about A-League head Greg O’Rourke’s reply to SBS journalist Lucy Zelic after Sydney FC fans claimed they were mistreated by stadium officials at GMHBA Stadium in Geelong a fortnight ago?
“The story starts with a lie then is perpetuated by those whose agenda suits the narrative. Inside and outside the game,” O’Rourke told Zelic, who then relayed the conversation via Twitter.
“Unlike you, not many sort (sic) to know the truth as if they had there would have been no sensational and false headlines.”
Pretty damning stuff.
But it wasn’t hard for someone like me to find out what happened because I had a few mates in the away stand and I simply asked them.
I’ve stood on the terraces at hundreds of A-League games. How often has Greg O’Rourke done the same?
But while the Sydney fans weren’t complaining about being kicked out en masse as the statement insinuated, but rather were upset at being manhandled by security personnel who allegedly ignored both supporter marshals and police protocols in doing so, let’s just assume Greg and I probably have different opinions around stadium security at A-League games.
And that’s okay. We need more opinions in the A-League.
Football is not a protected species, and the only way administrators will ever get the hint that it’s not their exclusive domain to lord over however they see fit is if we tell them.
Yet one of the most obvious obstacles is the fact there are so few media jobs on offer.
It’s a natural reaction to pull your punches if you’re worried that getting offside with the wrong person might jeopardise your pay cheque.
And that’s what’s so great about this website, where fans can share their opinion on any topic they see fit.