Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Rebecca Wilson v Football

Last Saturday, following Adelaide United's midweek loss to Gamba Osaka in the Asian Champions League final, Daily Telegraph columnist Rebecca Wilson delivered an article that can only be described as a hatchet job on Australian football. According to Wilson, Adelaide's "embarrassing performance" shows that there are deep cracks emerging in soccer's "carefully constructed masquerade".

She goes on to claim that the Australian game is stodgy and slow in comparison to the fast, skilful style played everywhere else, and paints a dismal picture of Australia as a third-rate football backwater, with ignorant fans oblivious to the fact that the rest of the world is decades ahead in terms of youth development, style, and technique.

Of course, she has a point, to a certain extent: the quality of play in the A-League and lower levels of domestic football is not as good as it is in many parts of the world, and Australia doesn't exactly churn out players like Argentina or Spain. As though we're not already aware of the difference between Lionel Messi and Ruben Zadkovic (hairstyle, for starters).

What's missing in her article is any sort of context. She makes direct comparisons between Australia and the Netherlands, a European footballing power that has been at the very forefront of tactical and technical development for four decades, without acknowledging the fact that Australian football has made huge strides forward in the past five years or so. She complains about the standard of the A-League, which has been in existence since 2005, compared to the Japanese J.League, which was formed in the early 1990s and is composed of clubs with huge financial resources to spend on players, coaches and youth development. In short, she takes a big swing at Australian football without bothering to look at the bigger picture.

At best, Rebecca Wilson's article is clumsy journalism; at worst it's a thinly disguised ambush on the round ball game, a swift and opportunistic kick in the guts following the code's 'slip-up' in failing to conquer Asia at the last hurdle. Nothing new, of course - Australian football fans are used to articles of this type appearing every now and then (see the excellent Das Libero for other examples of 'soccerphobia'). It keeps us on our toes, ever vigilant to the fact that although we have pushed our way into the sporting mainstream there are still some who find our presence unwelcome.

1 comment:

Michael said...

I fucking hate Rebecca Wilson. She's the kind of woman who would yell 'kick it!' during a football match.

I hate her so much.

So much.

As for your blog, I like it. Good work, Bill. You'll be doing the post-match analysis on life fm before you know it!