This Article was originally posted at Bhatt.id.au in March 2010
The A-League Finals are coming to their climatic conclusion and the Socceroo’s much anticipated appearance in the FIFA World Cup South Africa is fast approaching. Interest in the world game in Australia is likely to turn hysterical this year. But will that hysteria by Aussie ‘soccer’ fans come anything close to those supporters from around the world who live here in Australia.
To understand our hotblooded passion, you have to understand the sometimes illogical rationale behind that passion. You have to understand the despair we feel when we see how they’ve allowed “Media” companies to buy and sell OUR “content”. When facilitated Sponsor hanger-ons take OUR seats in the vain attempt to make us consumers of their trash. Our disdain when we see how they try to turn OUR players into Superstars of gossip magazines, billboards and chat shows. How they’ve ruined our team Jerseys in the name of Marketing, unimaginative design or even “Fabric Technology”. And, most worryingly, changed our logos to Trademark them or make them ‘modern’.
But while they think they’ve taken our game from us, consuming our cash, knowing we give it freely, overpricing the seats, removing the terraces, knowing all the while we will still go, thinking it’s just another product to sell, they forget it’s still OUR game. They try to associate themselves with us in the hope of providing some credence to their existence, but they’ll be gone and we’ll patiently still be around. We’ll be the ones who will devotedly resurrect the team after they run it into the ground, we’ll be the ones who’ll steadfastly bail their failed consortiums out after yet another disastrous new “business model”. We’ll ardently prevent our teams from “merging” with others in order to save “our identity”, we certainly won’t let them move to a city we hate.
We resolutely remember our history, they may try to appropriate it, but soon they’ll be forgotten just like their predecessors. We’ll still be there following unwaveringly even if they finally succeed in bring the club to its knees. We’ll turn out in rail, hail or shine, all over the globe, to groan as the referee makes another absurd decision. We’ll rail against the poor efforts of our own players and delight when a great tackle stops a goal, a save out of nothing is made or a great cross from the left is headed with power into the back of the net with 2 minutes to go. We’ll fervently remember that victory in songs, written by us, commemorating the event, the players, the manager. Giving them legendary status.
We’ll disagree with our fellow supporters over the importance of the timing of the sacking or departure by ‘mutual agreement’ of a manager 10, 15, no 25 years ago. We’ll speculate whether the dreaded ‘vote of confidence‘ means just that or ‘we’re looking for someone else but need to keep him charge for now’. We’ll argue long into the night about whether the squad merits a 4-4-2 formation, or if it would be better as 4-3-2-1 in order to prevent a loss rather than going for the win.
We remember seasons where we did the ‘double’ over the local rival, despite finishing outside the top 10. Actually we remember when only winning the championship was important. Before they changed it’s name so they could sell it, before they allowed the the losers to be part of ‘Champions’ tournaments. We remember when players went ‘abroad’ to ‘see what it was like’, before our team ended up having more ‘foreigners’ than local talent. Mate, we remember when the only ‘foreigners’ were Scandinavians, Irish or Scots.
We rant at the television, even if the game was recorded in the middle of the night and its now 5am. Yes we ONLY have Cable or Satellite so we can watch the football. Or we’ll get up at 2 am to watch our team, even in their most mediocre of seasons in the hope that one of ours will show a dazzling flash of brilliance to make you forget what time it was we got up or the season so far. We’ll proudly wear our teams jersey after a win, even though we know most locals won’t have a clue what it is or why we are wearing garb with a gambling company’s logo splayed across the front of it.
We despise our opponents, we don’t have “number 2” or B teams, we’d rather go to our own teams reserve games or watch a DVD of classic goals from the 70’s rather than watch anyone else. We especially detest players or managers who leave us for one of the absolute enemy or grubbingly turn up at one of those enemies late in a career in order to prolong it or just for the money. We show scorn for referees – unless he gives us a contentious penalty or gives one of the opposition a red. Then, we’ll defend him to an inch of our life. We’ll make a mockery of the efforts of the opposition or the referee in witty, acerbic or even bile filled songs. Songs which haven’t been “commissioned” by “franchise owners” or the League – we wrote them.
Ex-players from one of those opponents we disdained, even if he scored an important goal against us at some point, will soon become our darling if he joins us and stands out in a team of mediocre talents or wins us an Cup Final.
We might seem unpredictable, inane, exasperating, infuriating, divisive and yes annoying. But we are eloquent, heartfelt, poignant, spirited, sturdy, and, most importantly, loyal.
We are football supporters and we are coming your way. We claim a global passion about sport that your local sports really can’t match, hard as they try. We are expats, immigrants, sons and daughters of immigrants, Wogs, Paddies, Poms, Scots and Brazilians. Every four years we gather in Pubs, clubs, bars, your house, his house in the middle of the night (except 2002), to watch “our” teams play in the hope they can knock over the big teams or claim a glorious loss.
Now you’ve decided to join us in South Africa, we’ll join you for each 90 minutes. Let’s make them good ones. And may OUR team win.