Monday, 12 January 2015

2015 Asian Cup adventure - Day 2 - A Greek in the Persian Empire

Breakfast TV (we've got a long way to go; or conversely, the mainstream media doesn't know what's news and what isn't)
Now the ever so slightly churlish point about this is that the Asian Cup seems either to have made little to no impact among Australia's sporting public - which the crowds at thus far at least show not to be the case - or that the mainstream press still doesn't get it, and perhaps never will.

Having said that however, the reason I was channel surfing across the spectrum in the first place is because I had not seen any of the goals or action from the previous day's matches. Now of course I could have stayed up late to watch the highlights on the ABC, or could have used an illegal stream (not an option with my internet screwing up, whatever the dubious legalities), and I was also interested in seeing if, or how the local broadbased television services would cover the matter as opposed to just taking the relatively easy way out and looking for highlights online - because the issue is not whether someone already interested in the tournament could find information online themselves, but whether those with at best a passing interest could end up in the position of being unable to avoid it.

'They take hundreds of magazines, filter out the crap, and leave you with something that fits right in your front pocket.'
Then again, highlights packages, whether of a solitary goal in a news round up or in a dedicated program can only go so far. I recall many years ago, back when SBS still had the EPL highlights show and I still had some sort of allegiance to Liverpool. Come Monday evening I would be watching the show, getting high on a sugared up dose of all the good bits minus all the fluff, until one realises that (in my case at least) that there's actually something to be said for the live in the flesh experience itself, as well as all the attendant bits - travel, meet, greet, bad/good food, lining up, atmosphere - that one just doesn't get from watching something on TV.

I say this because I saw some old woman on the train from Flinders Street to Richmond with a copy of Readers Digest, and aside from the horror that they've nabbed another unsuspecting old person to a subscription via their sweepstakes scam, I could not believe that there are people still reading that junk. And it served as a reminder of what the live in the flesh (or whole game) experience of a football match entails; the fact you won't only be served the cherry picked highlights, but also a fair bit of slop. But that slop is what makes the cherry even sweeter when it does come, and provides a more complete experience.

Neutral venue is not neutral
Both around the stadium and at the Corner Hotel (avoid the fish), where several people (me, Steve from Broady, Joe Gorman and Shoot Farken's Athas Zafiris) were spending pre-game, there was already evidence of a very strong Iranian contingent. Not necessarily a lot of football jerseys in evidence, but certainly a lot of colour and excitement, and a fairly even split between the current Iranian flag and variations which were certainly not the current Iranian flag.

Once at the ground and on Level 3 on the eastern side (with the requisite setting sun in the eyes), we (me, Gains and his housemate) found ourselves in the middle of a huge Iranian contingent, who basically dominated that side, as they did the Olympic Park Boulevard end of the ground. Not many, if any, Bahraini fans visible.

Being amid this huge group, I was neither Xenophon on the run to the sea, nor Alexander set to conquer, nor Memnon of Rhodes giving advice that would be ignored until too late, but just a bloke enjoying both the tension on the field and off it. Neither were the Iranian fans hostile in any way, ala the Fearless Iranians From Hell. If anything (and not that I should sound surprised), the vibe was super friendly and reminiscent for me of the following:
Now of course as was pointed out in a reply to this statement on Twitter, the Iranian fans did not have their own Lefteri, and the airhorn they had soon got confiscated, but the family vibe and the passion on display sent me instinctually back to the old NSL finals days. Now whether many of the Iranian fans actually had much awareness of what was going on is another matter entirely, as they cheered the several clearly offside goals and went nuts every time their keeper made a regulation save, is a moot point. They were loud, they were passionate, and they were a lot of fun to be around.

I'm not sure any other team's fans will create as good a vibe at a Melbourne game, but the Asian Cup, whether for the on field stuff or off field, has been fantastic so far, and I'm really looking to the remaining five games here. If you do end up at a game though with what's likely to be decent crowd, try and pre-purchase your tickets, as that will save you a lot of hassle on the day.

Some boys take a beautiful girl/And hide her away from the rest of the world
The Iranian theocracy could learn a thing or two from both Cyndi Lauper and the Iranian diaspora.

The actual game itself, because there are no prizes awarded for best atmosphere
And while that's certainly a cutting remark to make, the standard for large portions of the game, especially earlier on, was poor. The decision making and first touch of the Iranians in particular was particularly bad (though I liked both wingers for Iran, they had a bit of skill and like to take players on, always good to see wingers have a go). Bahrain seemed to have the better of it initially, and probably should have scored the first goal, but eventually the Iranians came to boss this game.

When Iran eventually did get going, they weren't helped by having Iranian Archie Thompson - and even if it was actually several different players, it's easier and more edifying for the narrative to combine them into one personage for the sake of the joke -  constantly being caught offside. When the opening goal did come, it was worth it, because whether or not it was mis-hit it was a peach of a goal, and that's all that matters in the end.

What was most disappointing was that once they fell behind, Bahrain actually did very little to rectify the situation. This was further emphasised when they went 2-0 down - and really, if this tournament has taught us nothing else, it's that there is genuine value in having someone at the near and far posts while defending set pieces - they remained stagnant, committing few players forward. My hope that the Bahrainis would score two late goals - not out of some desire for vengeance for 1997, because nothing will ever make up for that, but more so for the calamitous emotional distress it would have caused.

To further illustrate the point made earlier
This morning on Sunrise: Federer's 1000th win, Michael Clarke injury concern, Packers beat the Cowboys in the playoffs.

Yes random person on Swan Street who apparently saw my hat, South Melbourne Hellas still exists
- Ζει ο βασιλιάς Αλέξανδρος;
- Ζει και βασιλεύει.

6 comments:

  1. "went nuts every time their keeper made a regulation save"... I have vague recollections of this happening with some SMFC fans during some NPL matches in the latter stages of last years season.

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    1. Yes, I actually made that observation to Gains yesterday, lol. Of course, the nature and intent of the exaggerated cheering differ significantly between the two groups.

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  2. Not good enough hellasians. What business do bitter ethnic club fans have in throwing their hard earned at asian cup tickets hosted by a federation that has and is symbolically peeing on you?
    Down Somers St way you'd be hardpressed to find anyone that has watched a socceroos match in a long time.
    Maybe you need a meaningful Greece v Oz match like we did in '06 when it dawns on your that the socceroos may as well be Mozambique. You want them to lose and lose hard.

    btw, this blog is my only source of news with regards to this dying cause of ours of which I only have a little bit of interest left. good stuff and thanks.

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    1. Some outwardly very bitter Hellatzides surprised even me by bothering to go to the final, and by driving up no less. Further proof that whatever gets said on the net or even on the terraces is often not what gets done outside those realms. Of course I'm in the 'each to their own' camp on these matters, partly because I can no longer be arsed arguing vociferously for one side or the other, and also because frankly the horse has long bolted on this issue.

      As for those down Somers Street way (and their Edensor Park brethren), they're continuing to watch the Socceroos if for no other reason than so many of their kin are still major part of the team.

      Thanks for the kind words regarding the blog - I hope you can manage to rediscover your passion for the club, but I can empathise with how you feel, having been there before.

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    2. The passion is still there for what the club once was, but the Aussie-born generation has failed to uphold the values and culture of their parents, thus changing the club. This can be applied broadly to nearly all ethnic clubs and communities in general.

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    3. I'm not sure how it could have turned out any other way, something that you seem to acknowledge yourself by referring to the other ethnic clubs and communities. Except in very particular cases, I don't see how culture can remain static and survive.

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