World in Motion

World Cup frenzy has permeated such a wide spectrum of the Australian community that even the Green Party have put out a media release saying they “will be supporting our home team and cheering every goal from Parliament next week.”

I’m in Canberra now for the next fortnight’s Senate sittings. As part of getting into the World Cup mood, a Parliamentary team is playing a game of soccer this evening against a Rest of the World team (more precisely a Japan/Brazil/Croatia XI to match our initial World Cup Group F opponents). Everyone will then gather at Parliament House to have dinner and watch the Socceroos first game against Japan on the television.

Over the last few years, I’ve managed to break my wrist in an MPs vs the media Australian Football game and needed 10 stiches for a head gash in an Australian MPs vs New Zealand MPs game of rugby. However, the last time I played one of these types of games, I managed to escape unscathed, so hopefully my run of injuries is over.

For what it’s worth, my feeling is that the Australians have a good chance of progressing at least to the second round of the World Cup, and possible one more round beyond that. The team definitely looks more solid and organised, although I thought they were lucky to get away with a 1-1 draw with the Netherlands. However, you make your own luck as the (somewhat simplistic) sporting cliche goes , (or as golfer Gary Player said, ‘the more you practise, the luckier you get’). You do need to have a bit of luck to progress at the World Cup, but Australian soccer has had its share of bad luck in the past, and I think that’s due to turn for the better.

Having said that, I have to say I do find soccer less interesting to watch than any other code of football. I’ve always watched all types of footy, but I grew up with the rugby codes and to a lesser extent Australian football, and have developed a definite preference for the latter over the last ten years or so. I’ve tried to get in to soccer too, and highlights packages are usually good. But even though the World Cup brings its own atmosphere as a major Event, which helps add interest, there still seems to be too much of ‘a whole lot of not very much going on’ in the average game of soccer for me to ever get hooked on the sport.

And while I’m having a whinge, the things that really irritate me about soccer are penalty kicks and (to a lesser extent) the offside rule. In a game where 2 goals is considered good, to give a team a free shot at goal just because a foul has happened in the penalty area seems grossly disproportionate. If they only awarded a penalty when a foul stopped an otherwise almost definite goal it may be OK, (like the penalty try provision in rugby union and league), but when a team can win a game 1-0 or 2-1 on a penalty (which is often a disputable decision anyway), it detracts a lot from the contest for me. Being able to decide a result – including the World Cup itself – on a penalty shoot-out is also very unsatisfactory.

I can understand the rationale for the offside rule, but I don’t think it works well in practice. It is very hard for the naked eye to judge offside correctly, so legitmate goals are often disallowed, and vice versa (which again is particularly frustrating for a game where a 1-0 result is commonplace). I’d like to see them try the Australian football approach of scrapping offside all together, although it’s hard to know for sure how well it would work until people tried it, and I realise that it would be such a huge change, require major adjustment, so it’s never giong to happen.

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26 Comments

  1. World Cup frenzy has permeated such a wide spectrum of the Australian community that even the Green Party have put out a media release saying they “will be supporting our home team and cheering every goal from Parliament next week.”

    No, that’s not a surpise. The green part would of course support a sport like soccer that will cause the deaths of scores of people round the world through soccer violence. Most normal people would lkike to see that horrible game banned.

  2. What I like about the World Cup pitch is the centre, which has a big white circle, and around the edge of the circle it says – Say No To Racism.
    It always seems that the World Cup stands for much more than football, it’s about nations of the world coming together for a goodwill event.

    PC – Most normal people would like to see the Iraq war banned, many more innocent deaths!

    Only trouble is, how to watch the play all night then still manage to go to work, for a whole month.

    Fantastic Aussie win against Japan tonight, I was on the edge of my seat and shouting at the TV!

  3. I think its easy to hold these loftier ideals about the world cup in Australia, at a distance from the heartland of soccer. It becomes a sort of totem pole for internationalists and is easy to adopt for the left wing because here its always been the ‘poofy’ game or picked up offensive ethnic tags, hence it can be seen as alligned with tolerance and against violence and boofy ockerness.

    But in the countries it’s strongest in, such as the UK, it is exactly what our football is here- a magnet for violence, stupidity, racism- and much more and more overt racism than has been associated with aussie rules for a long time.

    I don’t agree with commenter above who wants to ditch it; I just think aussie lefties shouldn’t wrap up what is essentially football’s starbucks, the big multinational threatening to destroy what’s unique here, as some sort of gift from the UN.

  4. you really need to lighten up pc.

    It was indeed a good game – another few like that and I might have to start modifying my opinion about the sport as a whole. I watched it on a big screen at Parliament House with a bunch of MPs and also Embassy staff and the Ambassadors of Japan and Brazil (who as it turned out provided the bulk of our opponents in the MPs soccer game)

    Hopefully diplomatic relations weren’t damaged by the 80 minutes of slowly increasing grumbling, follwed by 10 minutes of triumphalism. The Japanese Ambassador was being stoic (or diplomatic), but certainly looked disappointed too.

    I don’t expect the 7-3 victory of the Japan/Brazil/Crotia XI over the Australian MPs will be much consolation.

  5. yo jLo – I got a bruised ankle from a wayward Japanese boot and a bruised ego from being goalkeeper while they scored 4 goals. Once upon a time I used to be able to stop some, but nowadays everything goes through (rather like the Senate really).

    Armaniac – I can’t see soccer becoming more popular in Australia than our indigneous football code – at least not in my lifetime – any more than it will replace gridiron in the USA. The over-the-top nationalism that can be brought out by the World Cup can be a bit of concern, but that’s more to do with those types of events than anything intrinsic to soccer. It’s a bit like the Olympics in that respect, but I think the positives of bringing people together from different nations around a common, shared delight and passion outweighs the negatives that may be encouraged amongst a nationalist fringe.

  6. Here we have a respectable member of society, a senator no less, bragging about his sporting injuries as trophies. Why do some reject boxing as dangerous yet football (of all codes) injuries including serious spine and brain injuries are all too often considered just part of the game. I wonder if a proffessional soccer player suffers the same brain damage as a boxer through repeated jarring of the skull and brain through heading the ball or colliding with other heads.

    Has anyone seen a high speed push bike rider hit the bitumen in their shiny lycra suits? thats another dangerous sport that should be banned with boxing and football.

    Don’t get me started on the heart risks to marathon runners, marathons should be banned too.

    A child could choke on a ping pong ball, that sport should be banned.

    Have you ever been hit in the eye with a squash ball? I saw a photo once, yuk! squash should be banned.

    A long time ago I had a friend who was killed abseiling. If abseilling were illegal he would be alive today.

    And cricket? just ask Bob Hawke’s optometrist what they think about a friendly parliamentary match.

    swimming? where is Harold Holt to tell us about that?

    Yes, I have to agree with P.C. police on this one. The Green’s cynical association wih Australian sport is just cashing in on the profile of the “green” in the “green and gold”. They will be calling themselves the Beaconsfield mine Party soon just to cash in on that.
    The idological contradictions of the Greens supporting sport, an institution that causes so much human suffering, while claiming to be advocates of human rights is a clear example of hypocracy and political correctness gone mad.

    Somebody should do something about it. If senator Bartlett was not so caught up glorifying the violence of sport perhaps he could extend his concern for animal welfare to humans, especially children. But he is as bound up in political correct hypocracy as the Greens, and remains an unrepentent sports fan, so it seems.

    Sport is the subversive agenda that the extremist left use to undermine law and order programs instituted by the police, this is the reason for crowd violence at football games around the world, it just appears as drunken agro or localised racist attacks but it is really the conspiricy of post-neo-Lenninism and sport to instill unrest amongst the neo-working class. Even the mainstream media has been corrupted and carries many regular sports programs indicating the depth of this subversive rot.

  7. Andrew Bartlett:
    Where did you play it? Who else played? Were they any good? Was it a mixed game? Did your fellow parliamentarians all take one step back when they called for a goalie? (btw 7-3 is a lot better than 7-1 that a certain Ukrainian local club had to endure years ago).

    No offside? Give it a go …..

  8. Reggie – make sure you snuggle into that doona this morning. Its not safe to go out these days.

  9. Andrew Soccer is the most popular mens sport in Australia. Only Netball has more registered players. It has been that way as long as I can remember and I started playing at nine. My Dad played 1st div in NSW before the ethnic takeover after WWii.

    The rugbies and AFL are parochial little sports by comparison. Certainly on a world wide basis there is no comparison.

    Watched the game. We had it all over them even when there was no score. But we had no one to help Viduka up front. No one was running off him or taking on the backs. Why Cahill and Aloisi were left off for as long as they were is beyond me. At least Hiddink took off the right players. (except moore)

  10. I find myself agreeing with Geoff :) What a bright and positive start to the day!

    To Reg, sport is probably the only thing that the general population have these days to take themselves away from the daily, grinding misery of their lives – other than alcohol and guess what, with sport, they can combine the two!

    The right just can’t bear to see anyone happy can they? We’ve all got to be locked down in fear and fright of anything and anyone around us according to them. The only place they want people to go to outside of their homes is work, until you drop and don’t expect any extra bonus for that!

  11. sorry, don’t know why my post converts to that boxed in thing, it’s not like that in the preview.

  12. Reg,

    I think that is the funniest blog reply I’ve seen all week. You’ve managed to satirise on a global scale.

  13. Great post, Andrew. Ever since Bob Hawke’s infamous encounter with a well-directed bouncer I’ve always been fascinated by sporting injuries in politics. Good to see your contribution in this ‘field’ :)

  14. Hey Andrew here’s some tips to sort out your unfamiliarity shall we say.

    ” In a game where 2 goals is considered good, to give a team a free shot at goal just because a foul has happened in the penalty area seems grossly disproportionate. If they only awarded a penalty when a foul stopped an otherwise almost definite goal it may be OK, (like the penalty try provision in rugby union and league), but when a team can win a game 1-0 or 2-1 on a penalty (which is often a disputable decision anyway), it detracts a lot from the contest for me. Being able to decide a result – including the World Cup itself – on a penalty shoot-out is also very unsatisfactory.”

    Well it is called the Penalty area Andrew. But not all infringements inside the penalty area result in a penalty shot being awarded.

    I think you’ll find most if not all players and supporters agree with you regards a game being decided on a penalty shoot out.

    “I can understand the rationale for the offside rule, but I don’t think it works well in practice.”

    it used to.

    “It is very hard for the naked eye to judge offside correctly, so legitmate goals are often disallowed, and vice versa (which again is particularly frustrating for a game where a 1-0 result is commonplace).”

    Well it could be 6-0 if we gave ourselves 6 points for every goal. Wouldn’t make a difference though. Any sport relying on human umpires etc, have the chaance of falling foul of human error… tennis anyone? League, Union, AFL, Cricket, Hockey….. etc, etc, etc.

    “I’d like to see them try the Australian football approach of scrapping offside all together, although it’s hard to know for sure how well it would work until people tried it, and I realise that it would be such a huge change, require major adjustment, so it’s never going to happen.”

    Then the Striker and Goalie would spend half the game talking to each other. Yes, thank God it will never happen. Nothing wrong with Offside, it’s been the tampering with the rule and reinterpretations of it that have caused the problems thanks FIFA, thanks South Americans.

  15. I think I’m more nervous than the players themselves.
    The refereeing will do us in if we are unlucky it’s been apalling and biased.

    I think we can beat Italy. In fact given the right circumstances there is no reason we couldn’t go all the way. I’d like a rematch with brazil in the final… with a different outcome this time.

    I guess that’s hoping for too much.

  16. yes, the refereeing has been pretty off, although I guess that’s part of what frustrates me about soccer and penalties in particular. When goals are so scarce, too much is down to the referee, so when they do get things wrong it’s more problematic than most times in most other sports.

    However, even though Australia has had some dud decisions, they have also had enough luck to get through. I think it was Clint Eastwood who said ‘deserves got nothing to do with it,” but I think on this occasion it clearly is a deserved outcome. Even though a bit less luck would have seen them elimanated, there’s been enough bad calls go against us to think there’s we’re still owed a couple of good ones.

    I think we can match Italy, and if we get past them, going up against the winner of Switzerland vs Ukraine should be an achievable task too.

  17. Yep, I saw the Ukraine’s first game and they were absolutely abysmal. Something has obviously gone right for them since.

  18. I’ve been reading a few of the Cup blogs and it seems that some of the English fans have no great love for their ref Graham Poll, there were really funny comments like:

    “now the rest of the world can see what we have to put up with every week at home” and “only England would send their convicts to a country better than their own”

    Looking forward to the match against Italy, more heart stopping excitement from Australia’s World Cup Heroes.

    Carn the ‘roos!

  19. As I said near the end of my original post, penalties are one of the biggest flaws in the game of soccer – something I think has now been amply demonstrated. A grossly disproportionate consequence of an often innocuous action which can frequently be the difference for the whole game – and that’s before you take into account the fact that the decision as to whether or not a penalty should be awarded is often very contentious or that players often dive around in the penalty area with the chance of getting what almost amounts to a free goal. Hard to see how they call that can it ‘the beautiful game’ with that sort of flaw at its core.

    They may as well just save everyone the trouble and toss a coin.

  20. Well only the SAM’s call it the beautiful game. It is a great game though, even with bad refereeing. That is the blight we are seeing now and have seen in the World Cups recently.

    Don’t try to tell me referring in other codes of football are errorless Andrew. The Video ref has of course cut that down. But that is easier to do in stop-start games like League.

    FIFA and the Referees have much to answer for.

  21. Yes of course all games have refereeing errors (although this World Cup does seem to have had some truly world class errors). However, even if the penalty given to the Italians was correct (and it is at least understandable how the referee may have seen it that way), my point is more that it is a grossly disproportionate penalty to give a free shot at goal for such a minor offence – especially given that goals are so rare.

    For the only score in a whole game (and therefore also the definitive incident) to come about through such a lame manner is rather, well, lame. And it’s not as if this sort of sceanrio is a rarity in soccer.

  22. There is only one way to score in soccer and we don’t get 6 points for a goal in Soccer Andrew. Even so if you strip a ball in League in the play the ball right in front of the posts your likely to give the other team 2 points or the chance to score a try, 4 points with a coversion to follow, 2 more points.

    A penalty is the chance to score a goal. I note the Japanese Goalie saved one in the Cup recently. Seems to me the point scoring is all relative and irrelevant. There need only be one point in a losing margin and that can happen in any football code.

    I agree the refereeing has been attrocious. It’s well known that certain countries are a protected species. Look at the Australia/Brazil match for starters. The question is… how do you prevent bad refereeing decisions being made?

    Part of the answer lies in teaching referees. In my opinion no referee should be granted a ticket if they haven’t played the game at some level just for starters. Maybe a video ref could be used and a drop-ball used to restart a bad decision. I don’t see drop-balls happening in the World Cup. Yet I do see lots of bad decisions. Of course Fifa is also to blame with its influence on referees interpretations of the rules etc. We all know what countries Fifa favours.

    Oh I note the Italian league is in all sorts of difficulty at the moment with match fixing etc… Makes you wonder doesn’t it.

  23. You see gents this is the basis of the passion of the game so much felt by europeans and south americans and harder for us anglo saxon rationailisers. Its an expressionn of human fraility and tragedy rolled up in skill and stamina mixed with theatere. Another very important part we sometimes ignore is that overall a great football team needs almost all its players to have intuitiion, anticipation and a modicum of brains. Most of the otehr codes only need one or two endowed with anything ohter than physical ability.

    Well a lot of bs but it sounds good.

    Sadly we had so much ball but really fell short of the skill and speed to transfer that posession into goals at the buinsess end of the field. The touches just fell short and the speed and ball conntrol was jsut not quite there. Kewell would have made some differne, having more of that skill, but in the end we did as well as one could have ever wildly hoped.

  24. You could have just said they cheat and don’t play in the spirit if the game Ken.

    Wonder where we will be ranked after this ken.

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