Sunday, 18 January 2015

2015 Asian Cup adventure - Day 4 - Slapdash

Crisis? What crisis?
Upon reaching Richmond station, I realised that I had either forgotten to bring my match ticket, or had somehow lost it along the way. No matter; the issue was sorted out at the ticket booth, and no harm was done.

Oh, Palestine! Also, Jordan was there, too.
I think that enough has probably already been said (and will continue to be said) about the political implications of Palestine being at this tournament, and what it means for the members of their diaspora. Most of it, too, will be far more interesting and better thought out than I anything I could come up with.

Some may even consider it trite, given the way the Palestinian national has been covered during this tournament, to even talk about the playing merits of the team itself, and on any front, I'd be the last person who should probably making comment on that. However, it should probably be something that's at least acknowledged in the greater scheme of trying to figure out if Asian football is actually getting better.

As with the previous Asian Cup, the teams which have qualified for the 2015 tournament include two teams from the AFC Challenge Cup, a biennial tournament for developing nations which grants the winner entry to the Asian Cup proper. Last time, it was North Korea and India who won spots in the final draw; this time North Korea and Palestine.

I'm not quite sure how they sort out which teams are classed as 'developing nations', because for North Korea to qualify via this mode twice, while also managing to qualify for the World Cup seems a little nutty. Further to that, how did North Korea manage to be classed as a 'developing' nation when nations like Syria, Hong Kong, Yemen and Singapore were put into the main draw?

Whether it's actually benefited the other nations - India and Palestine - from a playing level is impossible to tell - my guess would be pretty much no, but there are so many mitigating circumstances for the lack of progress for both nations that one can't just expect one major tournament appearance to change a nation's football fortunes.

Would those teams that were put into the main draw and missed out on qualification, and perhaps the tournament itself, benefited from being given a spot at the expense of the developing nations? Looking at Asian football in terms of the sharp dip in quality of the say top eight or ten teams, probably not. Still, I don't  think expanding the competition to 24 teams, as will be the case for the 2019 tournament, will do much good.

As for the game, there were some fairly skillful players out there, but as has probably been noted already, their penchant for naive play and making dumb decisions was plain for all to see. Jordan were more clinical, showing up the gulf in class between a borderline 2nd/3rd tier Asian nation with one somewhere lower than that. It was nice that Palestine scored, though being 5-1 down at the time they probably could have spared a moment to celebrate with the rowdy contingent of Palestinian supporters behind the goal instead of rush the ball back to the middle.

Diminishing returns/Sphere of influence
This game was of course a grand opportunity for the Palestinian people to make some headway in the public relations stakes, and I think it's fair to say they made a reasonable impression, with one major caveat, which I'll get to soon. The Palestinians mostly took up a bay or two in their designated supporter end, as well as being scattered throughout the eastern side. They had a great visual presence, and made a lot of noise, often with the chant 'Free, free, Palestine'. By the end of the game, even the little Anglo kid in front of me was quietly chanting it.

But one has to wonder how much of difference it will make in the long run. This is not to say that the Palestinian fans (and their leftist supporters in the crowd, including the person with the Scottish flag) should not have taken the opportunity provided to them, especially outside the context of a noisy and angry regular protest, where they'd be framed as ethnic agitators. But how many people did they actually reach? And in a way this is not just a question relevant to this game, but the tournament as a whole, in trying to figure out - albeit in an entirely anecdotal and slapdash manner - how much it's crossed over into the Australian popular imagination.

There were about 10,000 people at this game. Many of those would have already been sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, while others would have been just been there for the football at cheap prices. While the attendances across the country have been very good, the coverage of the tournament in the media as a whole has been mediocre at best, I think. Now this is me talking as someone who doesn't listen to commercial radio or even the ABC, and also as someone who doesn't read print newspapers. If I was to judge from what I've seen so far, most of the mainstream television media has been utterly uninterested in the Asian Cup, with the exception of the Socceroos.

So has the tournament managed to connect with non-soccer fans in Australia, or has it been confined to the already established soccer audience? Certainly the A-League audience has turned up, as have soccer people outside that milieu - every game I've attended so far has had plenty of South people - and there has been good diaspora attendance from most of the teams that can muster up said support (regardless of whether individuals in those groups actually have an interest in the game). But I just can't see this tournament as having crossed over outside of those groups.

Going out for a drink after the game, there didn't seem to be any indication that there was this major tournament happening right now. Sure, pretty much any pub that's not strictly catering to an old man 'dishlicker and pot of VB' crowd would have had the Iraq-Japan game on, but how many would have taken an interest, especially if they weren't even really taking an interest in the Australia vs England one day cricket match on the big screen?

In that sense, even if the games were live on free to air, I'm struggling to see them having made much of a ratings splash. Of course that doesn't include the Socceroos games, which have long since crossed over, at least in the public consciousness, as being worth even non-soccer people's time, at least at important moments.

So complaints about the lack of live free to air Socceroos matches almost threatens to become more of a personal complaint. It seems absurd to me, regardless of the need to pay the bills, that our national team is not accessible to the widest possible audience.

Len: Hey, big fight coming up.
Karl: Yea, you wanna come over to my house and listen to round-by-round updates on the radio?
Len: Oh, yeah, okay. Oh, and then after the fight, we can watch the still photos on the 11-o'clock news.
Karl: Not too shabby!

- Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment
After struggling with a laggy and increasingly delayed illegally obtained Brazilian live stream - at one point it was clear from Twitter talk that South Korea had scored, but five minutes later my stream still hadn't caught up to that moment - I gave up, and decided to try and find a terrestrial radio broadcast. No good on that front either, as ABC local radio seemed to have some regular boring programming on and ABC News Radio had only general sports blather, including a chat while with Cricket Australia chief James Sutherland, though it was of them to let us know that Australia had a throw in at one point. So it was off to the the internet again, for the ABC's broadcast of the game.

And while I know that I could have chosen one of many easier options - just gone and searched for the internet radio stream in the first place, or traipsed down to a local pub showing the game (which in reality is not an option for me, as I don't go to pubs by myself) - I just don't feel it should have come down to this. Is this further evidence of the transformation of the game from a working class game to a middle middle class commodity? Possibly. Or is it a demonstration that soccer is big enough to create a valuable niche product (and therefore ideal for pay TV), but not one that's big enough to be worthwhile for free to air commercial broadcasting?

The continuing adventures of Nutmeg the Wombat

The best part of the evening was...
... that I managed to get home in time to watch the second half of the Red Dwarf episode with the version of Earth where everything runs in reverse.


  1. Funky Bunny didn't rate a mention. Shame on You.

    1. Funky Bunny was in an earlier draft, but was later omitted.


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