A Nation of Sheep

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“A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves”

This quote attributed popularly to the famed political broadcaster, Edward R Murrow, is a warning to the people that if they sit idly by that they will become ruled by tyrants. It’s of no surprise he was not speaking of the football landscape in Australia, in 2013. However, the message of this is quite relevant in many aspects of society including our own footballing microcosm, the Hyundai A-League.

The events which have unfurled over the last week has seen social media explode with what seem to be isolated issues yet one can only think unrest has been brewing for much longer within the football “family”.

Fans, media, coaches, administrators, players and everyone in between has had their say and taken shots at one another over a variety of issues. Accusations and recriminations sprout up every passing hour like convenience stores in Japan. Much like the three Lawsons, two 7Elevens, and one Family Mart on the same Hiroshima street within two minutes walk of each other, there are probably more than we need.

Some of the main issues on social media prompting heated debate have been Val v Gombau; Edwards v Burns v Sage; Melbourne Victory board v North Terrace; and Media v Fans/Pretend journalists.

Lines have been drawn in the sand. Sides have been taken. Barrels have been loaded.

Tone is always the key in any argument as it is the way in which we gauge the respect others have for us and our opinions. A perceived lack of respect can subsequently lead to a normally mild-mannered person to arch up and defend their position like a cat trapped in the corner. Need we all hold hands across Australia in one big circle of love? No, and this would be the worst thing for the growth of our game. Should we try as hard as possible to argue our point respectfully? Definitely, even if this is very much reliant on all parties involved.

The point is though without pressure on those leading us at all levels and in all areas there is no way the game can develop in Australia.

Opinions, discussion, debate, and the questioning of everything and everybody is the only way there is somewhat a degree of oversight in place to ensure we don’t end up some where we never planned or wanted to be. Media must be allowed the freedom to attack a story and subject from every angle if only to ensure that the final product that makes its way to the wider public is as close to the truth as possible. The closest version to the truth is after all we – the public – can ever hope to know.

A popular belief is that coaches and players are generally well-compensated, not only monetarily but also by the fact that they get to live the dream of many, you’d hope they would be able to rise above any taunting, criticism, or line of questioning they feel uncomfortable with. What must be remembered though is they are only human and everyone has a breaking point.

Antagonising someone to their breaking point is not the way we should be seeking answers just as following blindly and accepting whatever doctrine at the time is in fashion won’t get you anywhere either.

Many mistake “slogans for solutions” but what good is a catchphrase or hash tag if there is nothing deeper? Packaging and labeling is great to attract people in but without any substance, what is the point? People will tire and move on.

The A-League public are starting to wake up to the fact they are “consumers” of a product and not “members” of something more meaningful like a club which they really belong to and have a real say in. As such there is of course going to be discontent but also confusion because who does one get angry at in that situation? So intertwined are all the areas and interests in football we don’t know exactly who’s to blame for our own dissatisfaction. As a result, we either sit in the corner rocking back in forth hoping for change; or we shout and scream at everyone hoping that someone is listening.

We all need to understand that we’re all in this together but that doesn’t mean we have to be complicit with one viewpoint or never ask a “Why?” or “What?” question.

Recently on the international level, former AIS player and Croatian international Josip Simunic was banned for “pro-Nazi” chants. As a student of politics back in my university days this set alarm bells ringing. Croatians were Nazis? So does that mean the Turks and Japanese were too?

Is “Banzai” now considered a Nazi chant? So when alarm bells ring I do what we should all do and that is investigate deeper. So I asked some Croatians living in Australia and Croatians living in Croatia to tell me about “Za do spremni” and it turns out that it was in use in Croatia almost three centuries before the ideology of Nazism sprung up let alone Fascism.

It was popularly used by generals and there soldiers when they were defending their homeland against Turkish invasion. You can see why it could also be used to celebrate victory especially in international competition. Sure one group of fascists called the Ustase used it during World War II but this doesn’t mean something entrenched in a culture is suddenly evil due to its use at one point of history by a group considered objectionable.

As fans and general public our knowledge and conversely ignorance is determined by what we are fed in print, on TV and ever more so on the internet. When the mass-media flash “Pro-Nazi” headlines around most of us are going to assume whatever was done was, well “Pro-Nazi” because surely we trust the media and FIFA?

The internet is as much a part of our society as radio and print now and is probably almost rivaling TV now so there is less reason for ignorance about certain matters. This of course is hard when it comes to the ins and outs of a club as we have seen recently. Usually only one side is ever told publicly as balanced stories generally keep issues festering. It’s always best to wrap up an issue in a nice, easily to handle bundle as we have seen with the Perth Glory issue. Is it any surprise only one side of the argument is put out there in the mainstream media and that is the side which will in the end protect the image of the game more?

Scratching and digging deeper we all need to do, every last one of us in this ‘family’, disagreeing at times is more likely to lead us down the path to better the game in Australia. Don’t blindly follow those at the top or those alongside you. Question everything. Look for alternatives whether it be alternative philosophies, approaches, sources, or answers.

Just going back to the original quote of the piece. If you dig deeper, you may find that Murrows may have borrowed that from a French philosopher named Bertrand De Jouvenal, or that both men were paraphrasing a passage from a Thomas Jefferson letter in the 18th century. The point is there’s always more to a story and we should never be happy to sit around eating the feed given to us by Farmer Brown when there’s a whole world of choices out there.

Adam Howard

Adam is one of the founders of Football Central and the creator of OSAussies.com.  He has followed the career paths of Australian footballers playing in leagues all over the world.  Born in Adelaide and currently residing in Hiroshima, Adam brings a unique perspective to Australian football.  He is an ardent supporter of Australia's domestic competition and national team.

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