Sunday, 9 July 2006

Australian Rules Football

The World Cup is ending tonight, and the first thing I want to say is: Vive la France!
I do have several other things to say, hopefully on the more constructive side of things:
  • My prediction from before the World Cup came true (not that it was such a big gamble): If you want to watch the best football, you'd be better off watching the European Champions League or one of the two big teams meeting in the local leagues (and you really don't have to go as far as Real Madrid vs. Barcelona). The World Cup is nice, definitely in football deprived Australia, but it's not the real thing.
  • While most football games are played with a group of 22 morons running around the pitch, with their combined IQ lower than the show size a little girl up in the crowd, one of the things you could see in this World Cup is the value of a decent coach. Not that I think the French coach is worth a final, and I definitely don't think too highly of Italian tactics, but you could see clearly see how teams make (Hiddink, Klinsman) or break (Perriera) by their coach.
  • The thing I hated to see the most in this World Cup, even more than some of the worst refereeing we ever got to witness, was the diving. It seemed like Italy and Portugal reign supreme in this department; I want to watch the final before deciding which of the two, Christiano Ronaldo or Italy's Grosso, deserves the thorny crown of "diver supreme".
Talking about diving, Australia will remember this World Cup mainly for Grosso's injury time dive that won Italy its "round of 16" match. People don't really care that for Australia's quality, reaching the final 16 is much more than they could ever hope for, or that overall Australia gave a fine show (again, given the raw quality they had to offer). In Australia all that matters is winning.
Which is a pity, because during the month that was the World Cup it actually did dominate the news and the coverage here. For a month, Australian Rules and rugby and lawn bawling and swimming and netball and cricket and all the other boring sports that dominate Australian media played second fiddle to football. It was quite the deja vu for me.
But now, with the way Australia lost, the achievement that was Australia's success in the World Cup will be gone and we'll go back to football being the last thing's on most people minds and media coverage where even the miserable local league is covered only by hyper expensive cable.
Which fits the plans of most sporting stakeholders in Australia, for whom the World Cup was a major nightmare: Their kingdoms were about to fall to the invasion of the richest sport around, and if football did manage to gain a foothold here they would all be doomed, losing their hold on Australians' agenda and money. What would all the AFL analysts do if no one would be interested in their words anymore? What would the newspapers do if all their sports reporters were suddenly useless? Yes, they could recruit more people and learn to live with the new kid in town, but that is as likely as the USA offerign the Soviet Union to share technologies during the Cold War so that both could dominate the world without competing with one another.
You could see it all over the place: Radio stations making a big fuss out of minor World Cup things, newspaper articles complaining about the inadequate coverage of football on TV (saying things like "why don't they show personal possession statistics, which may matter in the AFL but are quite meaningless in football). But most of all you could see them all trying to build up an atmosphere of "we're going to win this World Cup".
An atmosphere such as that is silly in places such as England; it is 100 times sillier in Australia, which has zero football heritage and pretty much zero talent as well.
The thing that annoys me the most is that these people won the day: Everyone that was excited just two weeks ago is now expressing total alienation towards football.
The dark side of capitalism has won, again.


Oz Kanka said...

At least you had hype over in Melbourne. As an Aussie in Ankara I had no hype at all. Agree with the rest of your comments though, and yes... that penalty to Italy in the dieing moments was a true kick to the guts.

Moshe Reuveni said...

I'm tired of the hype. We have hype before every lawn balling tournament!