Thursday, 15 January 2015

2015 Asian Cup adventure - Day 3 - Kill the Buddha

I woke up in a foul mood yesterday, which may go some way towards explaining the following post.

Going out for a patented Sideshow Bob 'vigorous constitutional' only made things worse
After finding myself actually enjoying last Sunday's Iran vs Bahrain match, and thus looking forward to the rest of the tournament (at least those parts that I could attend), I decided to look up just for the sake of it who'd be hosting the next tournament in 2019. It turns out that hasn't been decided yet, but one of the bidders happens to be Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia: a nation that does not allow unaccompanied women to do pretty much anything (and of course bans them from attending football matches); a nation that does not allow expressions of any faith other than Islam, and a nation that censors all of its media to the nth degree. And yet how much more advanced are we? Let's use this as an opportunity to blow something minor completely out of proportion. During Tuesday's win by the Socceroos - which I quit watching after we went 3-0 up, because the streams I tried watching the game on became unusable - Tom Juric scored the team's fourth goal, and proceeded to lift his shirt to reveal a message in Croatian/Split dialect/Shtokavian/Serbo-Croatian/Vukovian, which said 'Mama, Tata, Braco' (Mother/Mum, Father/Dad, Brother/Bro - as a believer in the importance of the reader as symbiotic participant in the writing process, I'm letting you take your pick on the formality of the message).

Apparently a minority (or a statistically significant number, depending on who you believe) of people on Facebook and Twitter had a whinge about this - specifically on the fact that the message was not in English - and thus discussion of this filled my Twitter timeline, leading to me making a dick of myself by singling out one person in isolation for semi-confected outrage when it was utterly unfair of me to do so. That person is merely an agent of the problem, not its cause and really, I would have been much wiser parlaying my hard won wisdom into the alternative discussion about ice cream, and how cool was it when you tried to reach for ice creams at the bottom of the fridge at your local milk bar, because they would definitely be the coldest and by definition the best.

The issue remains however, that those who support the National Club Identity Policy (here we go again, boooooooooorrrrrrriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing) provide a sense of legitimacy to those people in Australian soccer (and by extension Australian society) who use that policy to further their assimilationist ends. Pointing out the fact that messages on shirts other than those things allowed to be put on playing jerseys (whatever that means under our current nightmarish regime) aren't allowed anyway (and liable to be punished by a yellow card and/or disqualification from Australian competitions) is beside the point; neither are offside goals allowed, yet the Socceroos' third goal clearly benefited from a cock up from the officials on that front, and it still counted. Unless you're the editor of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish newspaper, what has been seen cannot be unseen.

The creator of this images wishes to remain anonymous.
I guess I owe them a frap or beverage of their choosing.
Now while 'the few, the proud, the geeky' among us may have the power of furious and righteous indignity on our side, the great mass of the Australian soccer public could not give a fat rat's clacker. Our 'cause', such as it is, is doomed, due to the combination of both a jackbooted bureaucracy acting on behalf of Dear Leader (and a big 'hi' to all my North Korean readers, yes we do have our own 'Dear Leader' who will soon be replaced by his son) and vast consumerist indifference (and here's a question to consider - is apathy better or worse than indifference? Yes, it could very well be a trick question, but Buddhism needs new koans, so here I am offering something for them at least to mull over).

Ideologues are comparatively easy to deal with, if not in the actual reasoning part, then at least the part where you know where they stand. They put forward their beliefs, you put forward yours, and the age old dance of liberal vs conservative gets played out once more. With those whose main goal is a perverse search for a relaxed and comfortable middle ground, for whom the ends justify the means as long as they're not personally adversely affected, there's little you can do. This makes those comments that more or less state 'well, I think people have voted with their feet, and thus this regime must be doing something right' downright infuriating. I can't think of a way in which one would begin to approach this problem, one which is at the heart of Lowy's 'success'.

In a neat coincidence, one of the right wing people
I'm friends with on Facebook put this up on his timeline
yesterday. Being unashamed (proud?) of my physical
inferiority I find myself disagreeing with the notion
put forward in this picture, but as a vivid portrayal of
Mishima's ideology, it looks pretty sweet.
So now that it's clear that our movement is indeed doomed - and if you think it isn't that's great (really, that's not sarcasm), you won't get much value out of the rest of this section, so you can leave now, because this would otherwise be a waste of your time - what do 'I/we/me/us' do? Now Yukio Mishima may have been a right-wing crackpot alongside being a brilliant writer, but at least he believed in something, even if what he believed in was a fanciful version of the past while fully (probably?) understanding that the values he purportedly wanted Japan to re-adopt were never truly realised anyway, and never could be realised. But who among us would re-create Mishima's end - and I stress here for those familiar with Mishima's end, that this analogy is purely metaphorical, and not just because I don't have a kaishakunin - and at least be able to go out in a dignified (albeit in Mishima's and also Seneca's case, very messy), blaze of glory?

The famous Buddhist koan - at least within the East, not necessarily here in the West where we tend to obsess about the sounds of trees falling and one hand clapping - asks us that if we see the Buddha on the road, to kill him, and that goes for Nansen's kitten as well I presume. What then must we as 'bitters' destroy in order to get out of our cycle of romanticism, self-righteousness and self-pity, all while those whom have contributed to our relative destitution continue as they please? Can I even go to my local manoush joint any more, now that they're putting up posters for Salafist speakers? Do any of us have the stomach to transform this movement of five or six people on the internet to become something transcendent and therefore meaningful beyond our little circle? Can our beloved anger become useful, or is our fury, however justified by the circumstances, a hindrance? Is this sense of irrevocable apartness that I feel from the great mass of soccer's support in country a terminal condition? Am I destined to become another one of 'those people', the kind whose support of the national team - which I hitherto held if not as sacred, then at least as separate from the poisonous atmosphere of the current political situation - is reduced either to apathy or bilious hatred?

Saudi Arabia vs North Korea
Approaching the Bubbledome on Wednesday evening I was filled with intense moral quandaries, because both of these nations are evil, and therefore one could not possibly support either of them; and yet there would be people supporting them. Now in the case of the much maligned (sometimes fairly, sometimes not) Iran, this problem could conceivably be ameliorated via the perspective of ethnicity and the affection the diaspora has for the homeland, without necessarily having the tacit approval of any of the policies of said nation state.

For Saudi Arabia and North Korea, this is complicated by all sorts of things. In Saudi Arabia's case, because it's not even a real country as we know it today, just the parts of the Arabian Peninsula ruled by the Saudi family since the 1930s. There were quite a lot of Saudi fans at the game yesterday, but not many women as far as I could tell. Still, the Saudi fans managed to hand out quite a few flags to a lot of people who would probably be revolted with the way that country is run. For the North Koreans, run by an equally hideous regime, there were as far I could tell (or reasonably expect), no actual North Korean fans from North Korea in the stadium. Instead their supporters end at the northern end of the ground was taken up by various members of the Melbourne Victory's active groups.

A good clue towards establishing that they weren't real North Koreans, even from my spot in the good seats, is that the chants (all in English, and all largely taking the piss, eg. North Korea is best Korea, or some such), is that they kept referring to North Korea, which the real North Korea would never do, since they (like the South) consider themselves the real Korea. Speaking of real Koreans, that is people from the Korean Peninsula, there were apparently some in the crowd, I'm guessing sitting well away from the 'North Koreans'.
There were also apparently people wearing Kim Jong-Un masks in the northern end, and when security went in to confiscate them, they were jeered by those North Korean sympathisers, who didn't seem to appreciate the gesture made by stadium management towards creating a genuine North Korean experience.
Closer to home in Aisle 4, Row D, we were more concerned with not getting crushed to death by the ceremonial flags hanging off the rafters.
As the patrons in the relevant area were moved across into the neighbouring bays without too much fuss, one had to wonder though: what was the cause of the problem? While the half filled stadium (attendance at a touch under 13k) allowed patrons to be moved to adjacent bays, what would have happened had the stadium been filled up, say, for a Socceroos match? And who's going to be held responsible for this debacle?
Of course, because no one was killed or injured, there was also a lighter side to the flag situation.
Can you believe that lighthearted comment spiralled out of control into a Bitter vs New Dawn argument? Of course you can, it's the internet.

Now friends, there was also a match being played, and it was pretty damn fun and frustrating to watch in equal measure, as both teams pinged the ball back and forth as quickly as possible. The North Koreans looked the more likely to score in the beginning and they did, but surprisingly perhaps the Saudis didn't collapse in a heap, and actually ran over the top of their totalitarian counterparts, while looking quite stylish at the same, though their finishing could do with some work.

The most bizarre thing about the North Koreans though, apart from their coach apparently being on a direct line to Pyongyang, was the overly physical approach they brought to the contest. They copped a yellow card within the first couple of minutes for a pretty savage tackle, and after a few more bad tackles interspersed throughout the game, they finished it off with a brilliant shirtfront which somehow managed to avoid receiving any sort of card. Of course, if you did that in the AFL these days you'd get suspended.

Epilogue mode stolen from Gillian Rubenstein's Beyond the Labyrinth
If you rolled six or under:

Not that it matters anymore, but where is the social club? Since the only acceptable way to socialise in Australia is with booze, and goodness knows no one can possibly have fun without it, it'd be nice if we had some place of our own to have 'fun'.

If you threw over six:
A week or two before Christmas, someone at Victoria University did a bit of a ring around to all the relevant people (except me, and possibly others who I am not aware of) looking for ways to contribute to finding connections to the Asian Cup so Victoria University's academics could be at the forefront of writing on the tournament, thus reinforcing our reputation as the 'sports university'.

After being included (eventually) via being CCed into an email, I did get a phone call asking me what my expertise was exactly, and how would that fit into what the project was about. Well I tried to put forward what my angle is, difficult as it was considering I don't really conduct interviews, and nor does my research have an utterly direct and completely obvious connection to the Asian Cup, and neither did this person really explain what it was that they wanted, but could I at least email him some examples of my work for him to see.

I did so, and never heard back from him. After looking back at this post, it was probably for the best.


  1. Yeah that one escalated quickly, hope I don't get sued.

  2. Gotta love the irony of a bunch of non-Koreans being able to attach themselves to an ethnic cause not of their own ethnic background.

  3. I wonder if any of them were at the Socceroos game and later lamented the lack of atmosphere?

  4. And pass me the sick bucket, Aussie fans are having a love-in with Iran again

  5. How could I have forgotten to have related this anecdote? As the North Korean line up was being read out, one of the blokes behind me said that now he felt like having a stir fry. Souvlaki Stadium eat your heart out.


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