Thursday, 4 March 2010

Michael Cockerill endores biffo - on and off field

Apparently Sydney and Melbourne are playing for the 50 millionth time this season. I only bring this to your attention because I want to have a cheap internet attack on various groups. I don't think there's any real point that I'm trying to make, and if I am, it's as poorly as per usual.

Mike Cockerill's article. The relevant part is below.

On the field, it's often been a war. Off the field, things can get even more heated. In cyberspace, and in open space, the fans bait each other incessantly. Sometimes they even hit each other. Pubs in Sydney, and in Melbourne, have borne the brunt. The long arm of the law usually gathers in the culprits. After a few hours in a paddy van, they're out and proud, their brief incarceration claimed as a badge of honour.

This is the way of football the world over. This is the character which defines the A-League's biggest rivalry. There was a time when Football Federation Australia tried to dampen down the fires. Heavy-handed security. Seating arrangements changed. CCTV cameras installed. It didn't work. It was never going to work. Now they have come to realise the emotion driven by the clubs, the players, and the fans, is a strength, not a weakness.

The boys will be boys line - again. Is anyone surprised? Maybe we as a sport, maybe just in this country, maybe a select part of it, but an important part, actually want there to be this kind of thing, just quietly. Reminiscences of violent incidents past - off field ones, unless you count pitch invasions as on field - there's often an unnerving twinkle and glaze in the eye of the storyteller. A sort of fondness for the taste of blood, whether it was experienced firsthand or merely observed and absorbed vicariously. The attachment to the danger and vitality of youth, and its neglect of middle aged common sense.

Of course, we shouldn't completely disregard or downplay our own failings. When people get into soccer fights, self identifying as members of one ethnic group fighting against another, it doesn't leave other people with much room to negotiate a different description - whether they want to or not. And while it may suit those who despise soccer and foreignness to pin the blame on foreigners and a foreign game - it may suit the patricians of our own sport to also pin the blame on ethnicity as the defining factor behind violent soccer incidents - and when it's gone, as it is now in the A-League, there is a layer removed, there is a certain level of clarity, and a wistfulness, and perhaps even an end to some of journalistic hibernation as the bears of the winter come out for the spring, and perhaps the sensing of an opportunity to, just quietly and very carefully, endorse what polite society and the PC Brigade don't want them to.

Personally, I think it's a stupid stance to take, no matter what beliefs I may have held, or irrelevant slogans I may have chanted as a lonely teenager back in 1996. The violence on the terraces and in the backstreets, whether ethnic or mainstream, drunk or sober, is just stupid - an easy statement to make from the safety of my ivory tower, I know. But that doesn't matter, really, if the turnstiles continue to click over at a decent rate, and fully grown men with respectable jobs and much more popular authority than I will ever be able to muster have the opposite opinion.

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