Boofhead mentality alive and well Print
Written by Philip Micallef, The World Game   
Tuesday, 05 February 2008 11:42

Football fans have turned out in droves to support the Socceroos and the A-League

Australia's long and arduous journey to the promised land of South Africa in 2010 starts this week with a tricky tie against tiny Qatar at Telstra Dome.

The intrepid Socceroos are leaving no stone unturned in their bid to reach their second World Cup in four years but are first to recognise that the road through Asia is as safe as a minefield.

Yet reaching the finals of the world's biggest sporting event pales into insignificance when compared to Australian football's far more difficult battle to win the heart and mind of mainstream Australia.

It's the same old problem of a perception being created that our "foreign" game is trying to make inroads in to the sporting landscape of Australian sport that is dominated by the AFL and NRL.

Jetting into town for the Socceroos' must-win match with the Qataris, one was pleased to see that the Australian team was leading the sporting agenda of the day.

The radio was giving out half-hourly bulletins on the arrivals of the Europe-based Socceroos as they touched down.

And the city's two main dailies, The Age and Herald Sun, devoted hundreds of centimetres of copy to the biggest sporting event in town this week.

The Age even had a picture of striker Scott McDonald on its front page to go with a double-page interview while the Herald Sun ran the story about the massive cost of Australia's bid to reach the World Cup on its back page.

Melbourne once again was embracing yet another big sporting event and the media was reflecting this. So far so good.

However, flicking through the inside pages, you were hit between the eye by a comment piece from Trevor Grant, one of Melbourne's most senior sportswriters.

Under the heading 'Grow up, soccer needs a reality check' the Herald Sun's experienced columnist could not resist taking advantage of national coach Pim Verbeek's controversial assessment of the A-League to launch a scathing attack on the game that "has got ahead of itself" in Australia and that is buried in "self-delusion".

Grant also says that the A-League is an "over-hyped and under-developed competition that bars no comparison with other top leagues around the world".

And "having built its new house on the shifting sands of one brilliant World Cup campaign, Australian soccer now faces the unpalatable proposition that the foundation could crack if it fails to reach the 2010 Cup".

Good heavens. What the hell has football done to such people?

Grant is not necessarily wrong and of course he has every right to express his opinion but his warped views came across in very poor taste.

We all know the A-League is no UEFA Champions League or Premier League and we also know that we need to get to the next World Cup to maintain the momentum the game's resurgence has generated in only a short time.

But the tone and timing of his article would suggest that he and his ilk - and there are many of them around still - might be privately praying for a World Cup failure for the Socceroos.

Sydney FC coach John Kosmina was so right when he declared that Verbeek's comments gave the other football codes a free kick.

But there is a huge difference between Verbeek's and Grant's observations.

While the Dutchman drew on his vast experience and cultural background to tell us what we already suspected anyway, Grant's vitriol exposed the weird attitude of many people who still think of football in "wogball" terms and who fear that the growth in Australia of the world's most popular sport could jeopardise the standing of the country's more traditional football codes.

The late Johnny Warren used to call this the boofhead mentality.

FFA head of high performance John Boultbee dismissed the writer's claims as unrepresentative of public opinion.

"We are totally committed to qualifying for the World Cup. We are seeking support and we are getting it. We certainly are not getting ahead of ourselves," he said.

"Unfortunately there will always be those who are unhappy with our success."

How else could you describe such a vicious attack on a game that is doing its best to shed its dodgy past on the eve of the Socceroos' first match of a campaign to reach the World Cup?

Why would Australia's largest selling daily newspaper conveniently forget what unbridled joy the brave Socceroos gave us - not just the football fraternity but the whole country - by their heroic deeds in Germany in 2006?

Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 February 2008 12:14