Adrian Deans, a lifelong Arsenal fan but also passionate Mariners supporter, goes undercover to talk with a bunch of Eurosnobs about the merits of the A-League and the Socceroos.
It’s five o’clock on a Saturday, the regular crowd shuffles in to the Concord Hotel and are dismayed to see the hundreds of people already there in their favourite chairs – most of them wearing red and white shirts and speaking in loud mockney voices.
I was there, in my Arsenal shirt with BERGKAMP on the back, but also wearing my A-League heart on my sleeve.
Beer in hand, I insinuated myself into a group in the front bar. They were three Australians and three poms. Their responses are aggregated below but give a fairly accurate account of the conversation:
AD: Come to watch the Wanderers have we?
Eurosnobs: The Generals, you mean? Come to watch ’em pick the ball out of the net.
AD: Do any of you boys follow the A-League?
(Loud burst of incredulous laughter.)
Eurosnobs: Life’s too short mate.
AD: But you’re football fans?
Eurosnobs: Yeah, proper football…not the crap they play in this country.
AD: Really? How many A-League games have you been to?
Eurosnobs: Not many, but you don’t need to. Australian football is rubbish.
AD: Do you watch many EPL matches?
Eurosnobs: Whenever we can, in this stupid time zone.
AD: Because I have this theory that most people that rate the EPL as way beyond the A-League mainly just watch highlights packages. They only see the goals and the best bits of play.
Eurosnobs: The worst bits would still be better than the best bits of the A-League.
AD: Probably…given they can afford all the best players, but football’s not just about playing quality. Once the quality reaches an acceptably watchable level, it’s more about a good contest. The A-League’s got that in spades, and the competition isn’t dominated by the same teams every year.
Eurosnobs: That’s because they can’t keep their players. The second they show some ability they go overseas. If Australian players don’t commit to the A-League why should we?
AD: Fair point, but with the money involved we have to be realistic, and I for one am always pleased when an Australian graduates to a bigger league and makes a success of it. It opens up spots for more youngsters in the A-League and improves the depth of the Socceroos.
(Another general burst of laughter)
AD: You don’t follow the Socceroos? Not even the Australians among you?
Oz Eurosnob: Yeah, I do but they’re too frustrating. They can’t even dominate Asia.
AD: You do know we’re the reigning Asian champions?
Oz Eurosnob: They’re not gonna make Russia and that’ll set football back 20 years.
AD stares in bewilderment at the Australian who had made that comment.
AD: So…if you’re worried about football being set back 20 years, that implies you would like football in Australia to be better supported?
Oz Eurosnob: Of course I would.
AD: But in the meantime you continue to bag it. So how’s it ever gonna be better supported by the mainstream when the actual football fans are bagging it without even going to see matches?
Eurosnobs: They have to improve the product and then maybe there’ll be more consumers.
AD: But you guys don’t know anything about the product. You never watch it.
Oz Eurosnob: I have been to a game. Sydney FC versus Central Coast…it was like watching paint dry.
AD: How long ago?
Oz Eurosnob: I dunno…five or six years ago. The football was rubbish and the atmosphere was like a funeral.
Eurosnobs: That’s why the A-League will never really catch on in Australia. There’s no proper football culture so they can’t generate a proper football atmosphere at games.
AD pulls out his phone.
AD: Oh really? Well let me show you something.
AD: That was just before kick off at the A-League grand final this year. You don’t reckon that’s a proper football atmos?
Eurosnobs: Holy shit! (not quite what they really said)
AD: The game has really grown in the last five or six years…on the pitch and off…but it needs blokes like you. Actual football fans to wake up and realise there’s a bloody fabulous league developing right here. You don’t have to wait until the EPL giants come out to see a game. You need to be part of it. You need to contribute to the culture.
Eurosnobs: Well…maybe we’ll give it another try.
AD: Do that. And if you like what you see, spread the word. Now, let’s go watch Arsenal smash those Westie bastards!
Adrian’s latest book Political Football: Lawrie McKinna’s Dangerous Truth is in the shops right now or available through Booktopia. Adrian also wrote Mr Cleansheets.