Carlo’s Corner: Lessons in how to cover a foreigners' sport properly

Supporters of the Western Sydney Wanderers caught violently raising their arms and cheering their team.
February 21, 2013

That Richard Hinds needs a few lessons in sports journalism.

“Such has been the atmosphere created by the Western Sydney Wanderers' fans, usually dispassionate critics have left Parramatta Stadium raving the experience makes the Camp Nou [in Barcelona] seem like a winter night at the Wentworth Park dogs,” the chief sports columnist for the Sydney Morning Herald had the sheer gall to write on February 18.

The article, “Wanderers minstrels raise the bar”, was about the newest club in the “soccer” A-League, whose passionate supporters have created, in Hinds’ shocking words, “a sumptuous feast”.

The problem, of course, is Hinds’ words have the stinking aroma of truth. I can personally vouch for his statements — those who travel to “Wanderland” are treated to a loud, colourful and enormously fun spectacle with no hint of violence.

And if there is one thing that surely unites all serious journalists in this wide, brown land of ours, it is that truth has nothing to do with coverage of the game most of the world calls “football”.

I mean, it's foreign, for God's sake. And if we start telling the truth about things from overseas, we'll be forced to admit the country's first lot of boat people were illegal invaders and the current mob aren’t.

Just look at the game that inspired Hinds’ unseemly ode to accuracy. It was the A-League blockbuster featuring Melbourne Victory versus the Wanderers at Melbourne’s AAMI stadium on February 16 and ended with a Wanderers 2-1 win.

The contest was shamefully described by Hinds as a game to "satisfy the most demanding purist”. Predictably, it took Murdoch’s Herald Sun to provide some badly needed balance, posting an online article whose headline slammed “Wild soccer fans” before the game had even finished.

“Soccer fans erupt” was the carefully chosen piece of abuse found in the headline of an updated version of the article.

These headlines were provoked by a flare set off before the game by someone among the Wanderers supporters. How this one act, which filled the immediate area with some colourful orange smoke for a bit, amounted to a collective going “wild” and “erupting” was quite rightly not clarified.

There was clearly no need when there were plenty of perfectly clear images proving beyond doubt that many Victory and Wanderers supporters are both a bit “ethnic” and quite passionate. No more evidence was needed for much of the rest of the media to join the ranting against this clearly unAustralian behaviour.

Even Victorian Liberal Premier Ted Baillieu took time off from kicking nurses and teachers to get quoted in the Murdoch press condemning “recent violent outbreaks at soccer matches” as "absolute acts of bastardry".

Baillieu suggested “soccer thugs” should get life bans from attending games, but disappointingly stopped short of advocating public floggings, and transportation to Van Dieman’s Land for the hardened violent followers of the round ball game.

The media gleefully reported a claim that a spectator hit a cop. But when some Victory supporters accused Victorian police of brutality, alleging the cops used capsicum spray against them indiscriminately, shock jock Neil Mitchell abused them repeatedly, before insisting: “I know who I believe.”

(The Victorian Police, in case you wondered. Because cops never lie about getting punched. Nor is there any known historical record of the Victorian Police Force ever engaging in unprovoked violence. Never has the world seen a more fundamentally trustworthy police force, all the growing evidence of systematic corruption and violence notwithstanding.)

The AFL-broadcasting Channel 7’s Sunrise jumped in, showing footage of cops standing around while Wanderers fans chanted. Co-host Melissa Doyle earnestly asked “what can be done” to stop the “violence that erupted”... of the renowned sports analyst Derryn Hinch.

Cue Hinch’s cod-psychology that “it’s the nature of the game” because “in what other sports do people ... throw darts at other peoples head?”

And the glorious thing about that dart-throwing claim is, sure it has nothing to do with the Wanderers-Victory match, or the A-League, or quite possibly any football match anywhere on planet Earth ever, but there have been so many games in so many places over so many years, how could anyone ever disprove it?

I might as well claim I personally know of a match in which fans slaughtered opposition supporters with machetes and barbecued their kidneys on the terraces, showing yet again a shocking disregard for the effect that smoke in a stadium can have on asthma sufferers.

And not just once: a previous riot by hooligan Wanderers fans caught on film.

But the very model of how to report on this unAustralian so-called sport, a case study Hinds could do well to memorise, came before the Wanderers-Victory game.

Outraged by the sight of 40,000-plus people polluting Etihad Stadium for the February 13 Melbourne Victory versus Melbourne Heart derby, Baz Blakeney asked in a February 17 Herald Sun op-ed, how the sport could “attract so many nasty, vicious drongos and simpletons?”

It is a very good question and one that Blakeney does not let the fact he admits to having “attended only two soccer games in my life” get in the way of posing.

Don’t get him wrong, as he rushes to assure us that “some of my best friends are soccer followers”. But he slams the fact so many fans are driven by violent hatreds and rivalry.

To prove his point, he tells a terrible tale from the only A-League game he has ever attended, in which a Heart fan irritated him by leading chants with a megaphone. Sure, he freely admits he was punched out at one AFL game and spat on at another, but at least he was saved from the unspeakable horror of megaphone-led chants.

AFL fans do not engage in violent behaviour or property destruction. Except for when they do.

Blakeney insists, rather than this foreign rubbish, we should take pride in our AFL, “Where the fans generally don't kill each other ... Where every man, woman or child can pay for a seat and not tremble in fear for their lives”.

Now it may be said that, actually, there is no known sporting code in which fans “generally kill each other” while men, women and children, who have damn well paid for their seats, “tremble in fear for their lives”. But only by unAustralian traitors.

For, as Blakeney rightly points out: “The opening lines of our national anthem say we should rejoice because we are young and free ... Young and free. Young and free.

“If you don't believe those magical words, then rack off. And take your round football with you.”

Yeah. It is in our goddamn national anthem you foreign scum! Don’t like it, you can bugger off back to “round-ball land”. Also known as “the rest of the world”. You paying attention Hinds?

More hooligan behaviour by 'soccer thugs' caught on film.