Tuesday, February 26, 2008
World Cup Soccer (Football) 2018 bid
I hate soccer.
It is lauded as the "world game." So often in Australia people cringe at the dominance of American culture and resist it as strongly as possible. So why then are people falling so madly in love with the dull round ball game? To do so is as much an abandonment of Australian culture as pursuing American culture is.
Kevin Rudd has announced that Australia will bid for the 2018 soccer world cup. Arguments are always made about the economic advantages of large events. No doubt that is true. But arguments have also been made that a world cup would help "social cohesion" for Australia with the rest of the world.
Australia needs to be secure in its own identity. The Australian populace right now thinks that we need to get with the rest of the world and join in the "world game". As an Aussie living in Russia I feel I have something to say about the "world game". Russia is another country that is often insecure in its identity and wants to be like the rest of the world. Russia used to be a champion nation at ice hockey. Canadians remember the glory of defeating the Soviet Union at ice hockey in the early 70s because the Soviet Union ice hockey team was a force to be reckoned with. There are still Russian players in the NHL, but I think that will decline in the future.
Ice hockey is dropping in popularity in Russia because of soccer. There are outdoor ice hockey rinks in neighbourhoods all over Russia, but they don't get used any more. People play soccer on them, all year round. I have often marvelled at the craziness of people running around playing soccer at -20 degrees. Russians are now mad about soccer. They want to be like Europe. Young people want the money that soccer offers in Europe. But somehow they have forgotten that the NHL also pay big money in ice hockey. Soccer is killing Russian culture. Russians do ice hockey well, but not soccer.
The Russian national team can not even qualify for the world cup. Russia is the most populated country in Europe. Europe have more seeds at the world cup than any other region. All of Russia's sporting muscle is being poured into soccer these days and yet they still can not qualify for the world cup. They have thrown their ice hockey legacy away for the dull round ball game.
If Australia insists on pursuing this love affair with soccer we will also throw away much of our heritage. We actually already have two world games that we are very good at. Cricket is a world game. No one can dispute this. Cricket is only growing in popularity in the world. It may not be as big as soccer, but it is actually second. There is more and more money in cricket all the time, due to the booming Indian economy. We have a world game that we are champions at, why do we need to pursue soccer at the expense of other sports?
Rugby Union is another world game that Australia is good at. Rugby is also growing in popularity in Europe. The Rugby Union world cup was held last year in France. France won the Rugby world cup in 1999. Italy are also pursuing the game of Rugby. Australians feel we should pursue soccer because it is big in Europe. But this is simply an attitude of following. If we want to be leaders then we should continue to lead in the sports we are good at.
If Australia is to host the 2018 soccer world cup then the AFL and NRL will have to suspend their seasons in the middle of the year in June and July. This is because the soccer world cup has to be held during the European off season. It seems ludicrous that Aussie Rules and Rugby should have to shut down so that Australia can watch soccer. This is a bit strangulating and arrogant of soccer. They would have to take over all of the large stadiums in Australia to make the world cup happen.
The AFL and NRL have legal rights to the stadiums during the winter. So legally they should have the power to stop the world cup from coming to Australia. The AFL were pressured by the government to accept an international drug code that they were not keen to sign for various reasons. It would be a shame and disgrace if the governments of Australia pressure the AFL and NRL into suspending their 2018 seasons.
Aussie Rules football is the only truly Australian game. It was invented in rural Victoria in the 1850s. It has its roots in three sports- an Australian Aboriginal ball game played with a ball made of possum hide and certain aspects of Gaelic Football and Rugby. Tom Wills is credited with the invention of the game in 1858, Wills grew up playing the Aboriginal game with Aboriginal children in western Victoria during the 1840s.
If social cohesion is something we desire in Australia then Aussie Rules Football is well qualified to do this. Aussie Rules is the most popular sport in indigenous Australia. Recent programs in South Africa have seen white and black children playing Aussie Rules together. It is viewed as the sport of reconciliation in South Africa, as soccer is the sport for black people and rugby for white people. Soccer however in Europe has a long history of racially motivated violence. How is this good for social cohesion?
Of course the biggest indictment against soccer is that it is boring. Many of the games end in 0-0 or 1-1 draws. Many soccer world cups have been decided on penalty shoot outs. Cricket has been accused of being boring in the past. But draws are almost non existent in test cricket these days. In limited overs cricket a tie is extremely rare. Draws proliferate in soccer.
Soccer scores are always low. Even in professional ice hockey, scores are regularly 6-5 or 4-3 etc. Scores in Rugby usually get up to 20 or 30 points. Scores in Aussie Rules football usually get up to 100 points. An Aussie rules game will usually see around 10 or more goals per team.
Soccer is boring and a dull cancer on the cultural heritage of Australia. Soccer is greedy and wants to crush all other sports in its wake including ice hockey and Aussie rules football.
I hate soccer and hope it never succeeds in Australia.