Joga bonito it was not – despite the Brazilians (haircuts and players). Any cup final that blows out to that extent (6-0) is not a pretty game to watch for a neutral. OK, I support the mighty Sydney FC and we already have the A-League’s bizarre toilet seat trophy in our clubhouse and will be representing our country (along with Adelaide) in this year’s Asian Champions League games.

But what a wasted opportunity for the world game not to steal a march on the Aussie Rules Kingdom before the feral ruler calls on his errant faithful devotees to return to the faith of their fathers. To attend the first regular service of the new AFL season when Carlton play Essendon at the Dome on Saturday night – when everything will be back to normal. The new round ball game fell for the native game’s greatest cunning stunt: “How you gonna keep them down on the farm, now that they’ve seen Paris?”

If the Football Federation of Australia (FFA) believes it gave the Melbourne football public “Paris” on Sunday night, then they are sadly mistaken. Massive though it was, the A-League grand final was not a patch on the real thing when you’ve seen it live at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge and Germany’s World Cup stadiums.

Michael Cockerill, normally an astute observer of the round ball game, fell face first into the trap in yesterday’s SMH when he claimed sotto voce that the 55,436 mob that packed the Dome was “the biggest crowd ever to watch a game of club football in Australia.” Hello, silly Sydney boy! Was I dreaming on 26 September 1970, when I attended the MCG to see my beloved Carlton smite Collingwood by a glorious 10 points with 121,696 like-minded devotees of the Sherrin faith? Not footy, you say…

Get your facts right. We Aussies actually trace our footy back to Marngrook, a traditional Aboriginal game played by the Gunditjmara people from the western region of Victoria, thousands of years ago. Australian football was codified in 1848. The English “football association” broke away from the Rugby Union in 1863 but didn’t really get its act together until 1871 when Wanderers won the first FA Cup and 1872 when England ventured forth to Glasgow to play Scotland.

The word “soccer” is a Fleet Street abbreviation for “assoc.” or “association” football. It is used in Ireland where “football” means Irish (GAA) football, in Australia, where “football” means Australian (AFL) football and in the US, where “football” means gridiron. The SMH is the only paper in Australia to refer to soccer as football. It’s tragic but true. Semantics has overcome both common sense and common usage.

Yesterday, AFL chairman Ron Evans stood down and the astute retired merchant banker, Mike Fitzpatrick, took his place. This didn’t happen because soccer is riding its greatest high tide since the World Cup fillip last year. The AFL has always considered soccer a clear and present danger to its bulging rivers of gold. This is why I am disappointed that Frank Lowy and Ben Buckley didn’t treat the Melbourne football public with proper respect when showcasing the A-League Grand Final in the AFL heartland on Sunday.

First, lose the loud pre-game rock music that subtracts from the atmosphere rather than adds to it. Evermore should be heard nevermore! The turkey singing the national anthem must have had bird flu because he was singing at half the speed of the backing band. Does nobody check this stuff? If Abide With Me is good enough for the FA Cup Final, it is good enough for the A-League Grand Final. Show respect for tradition. Get your filthy hands off the yoof market yobo toggle! And get rid of those dreadful paintball TVCs…

Second, stop the flares from the old NSL ethnic past. If anyone is going to do the “smoking” at the A-League GF, it should be our Marngrook Kooris. Third, lose the language. “Fu*k off United!” has absolutely no literary merit. However, the “bodies in a barrel, you keep your bodies in a barrel” chant is a beauty – but I heard it at the first Victory game against Adelaide in August 2005 and it is due for retirement. Write better stuff and sing when you’re winning.

Go Sydney. Go Soccer. Bye-bye wogball. Hello world.

Peter Fray

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