Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Tonight I'm singing for the Socceroos

Tonight I'm singing for the Socceroos. Although I won't be leaving my club colours at the door, I'll be cheering, singing and waving my flag for the socceroos - even players like Milligan and Thompson.

Why? Not for jingoistic fervour or in defence of Australian nationalism. Cheering to get one up over our opponents from Iraq, and demonising them to do so, is incompatible with my values and those of the world game. Indeed, those using the opportunity to apologise for Australia's participation in the 2003 Iraq War should be commended.

Those who seek to steer the beautiful game towards close-minded nationalism, and who revel in the opportunities presented by our dominance in other sports to mock the global south or the "whinging poms", are often the very same voices who alternate between belittling and demonising the game and its supporters in its domestic incarnation.

It's because the game brings out the best in our society that I'll be singing for the Socceroos. The history of 'soccer' in this country is as much a history of the struggle against racism and towards multiculturalist values as it is of sporting contests. This spirit is encapsulated by SBS's The World Game - never demonising our opponents, but always respecting them as worthy adversaries.

To sing for the Socceroos is to sing for legends like Johnny Warren, both a legendary player and figure who pushed us to accept new migrants of the 20th century. It's to prove him right, that he told us so.

It's to sing for Charlie Perkins, footballer and legendary Aboriginal activist who Warren worked with as coach of Canberra. Perkins was first accepted as fully human and deserving of rights by migrant football clubs; my local National Premier League club, Sydney Olympic, paid his way through his studies at the University of Sydney, where he participated in the Freedom Rides.

It's to sing for Kyah Simon, captain of Sydney FC's victorious W-league team, and the first indigenous Australian to score in a world cup (let's hope Jade North joins her this time round!) - and to sing for the Matildas and their victory over the Ferns last week, and the developing level of women's football in Australia.

And it's to sing for the latest generation of stars like Lucas Neill, who refused to take even a minute answering questions for Fox Sports last Thursday in order to have more time to speak to the thousands of fans who turned up to an open training session at Kogarah. This may be his last time round at the World Cup, but I'm sure his role in the game, and our national discourse, is far from over.

Every bit of success for the Socceroos helps boost the beautiful game's place in Australia, helps dispel the bigoted thinking of the past about it, and helps to cement our place in the football world.

No comments:

Post a Comment