Sinking the Boot

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Now that the Christmas and New Year’s Eve parties are over and most of us are back at work, I thought it might be a good idea to sit down and write something completely original. Something unexpected, that no one would ever expect me to write at a time like this.

Then I thought to myself: stuff it! So here, before your eyes, is perhaps the 50,000th survey of the highlights of the 2005th year since three oriental-looking dudes followed a star to the House of Lamb (the literal translation of Beyt Lahm, or Bethlehem).

For Kiwistani readers, the big news in 2005 was that you now have a Foreign Minister even more embarrassing than ours. And that powerhouse known as the New Zealand film industry has produced a movie about a rather large gorilla.

For us Aussies, two events from 2005 stand out in my mind. The first was the Socceroos’ entry into the World Cup finals. The second was the Cronulla riots. Both were triumphs of sorts. Both represent two competing strands of thinking in Australia. In my opinion, only one strand is truly Australian.

Thanks to Bill Leak

According to some, the Cronulla riots prove that multiculturalism doesn’t work. Immediately following the riots, that allegedly conservative American newspaper calling itself The Australian devoted substantial op-ed space to articles supporting monoculturalism. The underlying sentiment of some of these articles was simple â ‚¬  persons of Middle Eastern appearance (and anyone else for that matter) looking, dressing, speaking or worshipping differently to ‘us’ had better learn to fit in, or watch out!

Not all the opinion writers had this kind of feral wind blowing out of their shuttles. But few had anything nice to say about what they saw as ‘politically correct multiculturalism’ or its alleged institutional offspring: the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS), anti-discrimination bodies, and Fairfax newspapers.

Even mosques were included â ‚¬  this despite the fact that most Aussie mosques outside Canberra operate along strict ethnic lines, so it beats me how they could be seen as examples of ‘multiculturalism.’ I also can’t see how anti-discrimination laws implementing over three decades of legislative consensus could be seen as shallow ‘political correctness.’

And what did Australia gain from the Cronulla riots? What is the legacy we are left with? Perhaps the best people to ask are the local shopkeepers and business people who rely on local and visiting beach-lovers.

Many Cronulla shopkeepers will have signed up to long-term leases, and have to pay wages to their (usually young, local) workers. Reduced sales means staff will have to be laid off. More locals will be unemployed, leading to further reduced sales.

You don’t need a Nobel Prize in economics to figure out that the insistence of some people to attack others (whether those attacked be Anglo surf lifesavers or visitors resembling Jesus and Mary) in the name of intolerance and monocultural stupidity, brings more loss than gain.

But try telling that to some of the lunatic fringe that congregate around some News Limited newspapers. They might claim to be conservative (despite the fact that many are little more than senile ex-communists). But their idea of conservatism is to reject anything supported by anyone they think is left-of-centre. Even when the Left gets it right!

Then there are the ex-National Party luminaries like a certain John (who feels he is without cultural sin and ever ready to cast the first) Stone. In one of his more outrageous pieces, published in The Australian on 18 November 2005 (and republished on Online Opinion here), Stone even called for the formation of the Queen Isabella Society in Australia. (For those who don’t know, Queen Isabella of Castile not only expelled the Moors and Jews from Spain in 1492 but also considerably nourished the Inquisition’s programs of ethnic cleansing. It is provocative for Stone, who is clearly uncomfortable with continuing Muslim immigration to Australia, to celebrate such a figure.)

Now let’s turn to the soccer. Like their Kiwi cousins, Australians love sport. Some readers will be disturbed to learn that I wore my Wallabies jersey with pride during my visit to New Zealand some two weeks ago. I was in Napier at the time, and almost caused a race riot. (In New Zealand these days, a race riot means a few Maoris smiling at me and laughing as one points his finger at my chest and declares: ‘Wot are yoh dowung wierung thet jerzay ovah heyaar?’)

But after the Socceroos’ performance on 16 November last year, both Wallabies and All Blacks supporters must now admit a painful truth:  in the eyes of the world, REAL football is that game we used to refer to as ‘pansy ball’ or ‘wog ball’ or even ‘soccer’ at school.

Following its defeat of Uruguay, Australia became a World Cup Football Nation. We will now be playing the World Game. In Germany. On the World Stage.

Real football requires the deft use of feet, knees and head. Real football penalises you for using your fists or any other part of your hands, whether on the ball or on other players. In real football, you win if you pass the ball around and play as a team.

Now we have re-entered the international scene of real football, we can strengthen the real multicultural Australian community that made all this possible.

Australian football could never have reached these heights without a healthy respect for our multicultural status quo. (Are you reading this, feral conservatives? Multiculturalism is our STATUS QUO. And no, I’m not referring to the 1970s pop band.)

Like New Zealand, Australia has a tradition of welcoming migrants and respecting different cultures. Unlike New Zealand, we still haven’t learnt to respect our Indigenous people. (But then again, Indigenous rights is one of those nasty Fairfax-SBS-Left conspiracies that we shouldn’t blacken our conservative White faces with!)

Even during the White Australia Policy era, the rules were bent to allow Cypriot, Turkish and Middle Eastern migrants. Virtually all were from football-mad nations.

Hardly four decades after General Mustafa Kemal led Turkish troops against the ANZACs at Gallipoli, Turkish migrants commenced working alongside Australians of other ethnicities in the factories of BHP and other Australian companies. Today, their descendants in Sydney and Melbourne compete in a competition named after the Gallipoli General, the Ataturk Cup. Many worship in Sydney’s Gallipoli Mosque.

The world game is an English invention. But in Australia it was largely European, South American and Middle Eastern migrants who popularised the game.

The prevalence of non-Anglos in real football has been the target of comedians. Billy Birmingham’s spoof The Wired World of Sports includes a skit in which Australian soccer players have surnames like ‘Lostthehousekey’ and ‘Sonofabitch’. At one stage, a substitute named Smith comes onto the field. The commentator remarks: ‘I hope I pronounced his name correctly’.

It was and is SBS â ‚¬  that favourite punching bag for Australian monoculturalists â ‚¬  that keeps supporting, sponsoring and broadcasting soccer games from around the world, from local clubs’ games to World Cup finals.

SBS remains a major sponsor of the Football Federation Australia, together with Westfield and the National Australia Bank. The head of the FFA, Frank Lowy, is a Czechoslovakian migrant of Jewish faith who began his working life as
a construction labourer. The CEO of the National Australia Bank’s Australian operations, Ahmed Fahour, is the son of working-class Lebanese Muslim migrants. Apart from real football, Fahour has a well-known passion for Aussie Rules.

The rise and rise of real football in Australia is a direct result of mass immigration and multiculturalism. Australia’s presence in the World Cup will yield  economic and other benefits for decades to come.

As for the frenzy and paranoia underpinning the beachside rioters and their pseudo-intellectual pseudo-conservative supporters, I doubt its monocultural ideology will be kicking too many goals for Cronulla or Australia.

New Matilda

New Matilda is independent journalism at its finest. The site has been publishing intelligent coverage of Australian and international politics, media and culture since 2004.

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