Those tuning in to their Sunday night commercial TV bulletins around Melbourne last weekend were treated to an old-fashioned tabloid set piece. Wog Ball hooligans they all but screamed, as reports of a fracas involving fans of Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory at the Telstra Dome on Saturday night had somehow been transformed into a full scale riot in the hunt for a headline.
Sadly, the facts didn’t quite justify the headline hype. Eight fans were evicted from the venue. There were a couple of tram windows broken by empty head morons on the way to the ground in what has become a lame tradition of visiting fans walking en masse to the venue in a pathetic show of strength. Inevitably, the use of capsicum spray by the police was used at the end of the match to separate fans at as the verbal volleys being fired off threatened to escalate into something ugly.
All of which is totally unacceptable, and as the A-League continues to eke out a home for itself in Australia’s sporting mainstream it can ill afford incidents like this. With 32,000 in attendance last Saturday, the FFA must be furious that a retinue of knuckle dragging adolescents play acting in some football hooligan pantomime they’ve read about on the terraces of Marseille or Milan should characterize the nature of the contemporary game in this country.
FFA boss Frank Lowy has vowed to stamp it out and ban offenders for life.
He and his CEO Ben Buckley, along with the participating clubs will need to act fast and be decisive when next confronted with such an incident. In the battle for legitimacy in a sports market already bursting at the seams, the A-League and Football in general have little margin for error.
The mainstream media is deeply suspicious of the game, and in some cases openly hostile to it. Take one commercial news bulletin from the weekend. Starved of actual footage of the disturbance, it ran with file footage of an incident at Bob Jane stadium involving a South Melbourne match in the old NSL. It seemed that if you’ve seen one soccer riot, you’ve seen ‘em all!
The message was clear though. The game is dangerous and we’d be better off rid of it. And there’s the obvious dog whistle aspect as well. This is the old wog ball with its balkanised politics and petty hatreds all dressed up in its new corporate kit but with the same old impulse for violence.
Melbourne media is particularly hostile. With literally hundreds of people making a living covering AFL football it’s in their self-interest to jump in with a two-footed tackle whenever they can to knock the FFA and A-League off their perch. Stupidity and recklessness as displayed by the mob of fans who caused the disturbance last Saturday night plays right into the hands of those who would rather see the back of the game all together.