Thursday, October 05, 2006

Oz Football Bloggery Review

When I began this blog, I did so in the honest but naive belief that there just wasn't any ongoing football bloggery going on, and hence I determined to fill the space, however unqualified I was. I even gave myself the following sunset clause:
I do not think I'm the person for this job. If the Soccer Squirrel got going again or someone was to direct me to a good Australian football blog, I'll probably abandon this project, but meanwhile, I'll have a go.
Well good blogs there are, as I have since discovered. This has been a delight, and a wonderful source of learning to boot, but at the same time I've abandoned my sunset clause. I'm staying, despite the other good blogs.

Partly this is because I appear to be the only Roar supporter keeping a blog. But also, perhaps it's relevant to chronicle the journey of a brand new tragic. This is the blog of the utter non-expert. My game analyses are impressionistic, uneducated, and usually a little tipsy. Perhaps it is indulgent, but then, if the only relevant perspective was that of the expert, we wouldn't have a growing football culture in our country. Here we have the equivalent of pub talk. Take it or leave it.

So let's check these blogs out. I believe in independent bloggery. I (now) know Fox Sport has a very active blog, as do the Fairfax papers SMH (Flog) and The Age (Balls Up). These are important, as with the mainstream media outlets in general, as these have better access to primary sources than we do, and a certain discipline which can be relied upon. By independent however I mean not attached to any revenue base or editorial restraints. In politics I think the blogging world is very important, to ask the questions, make the speculations and draw the conclusions that the MSM simply are unable to make. And football, obviously, is far more important than politics.

Apparently there was a bit of a rash of football bloggery during the World Cup. I simply wasn't following it, which is a good indication of how recently I have been 'infected' (as Les Murray terms football tragedy). The Soccer Squirrel remains a good example of an apparently great blog, with several contributors and a mandate to be, "The best opinion based soccer blog which focuses on current issues within the world game. There is a specific focus on the development of the game in Australia, the A-League and the Socceroos." It, along with other blogs, apparently ceased to be attended soon after the World Cup. If it doesn't come alive soon, the link will be disappearing from my sidebar.

Who knows what happened to "A League of Their Own"? With the brief, "A less than serious look at the all-new Australian football league, possibly the only competition in the world that has a frisbee for a trophy. Part of the Real Life News blog community" it sounds great. The evidence for its existence is there, but there is now no such url.

But there are surviving bloggers. Happily just this evening I note the resurgence of Vando's Aussie World Cup & A-League Blog, which had lain dormant since the World Cup. If it is true that my blog had anything to do with Vando coming back to the fray, then I have done good there. Sure he's light, discursive and opinionated. Brilliant stuff! Bring it on! Buy the man another drink to loosen his tongue further!

There's a couple of other blogs which I'll just mention fairly quickly. Keks looked pretty good, and its author had at least begun with a commitment to following the A-League, but it does seem to be in languish since the WC, and it took almost two weeks for my comment to be moderated. It was moderated however, so there's someone there. Hello Keks? Come on mate. Maybe you've moved to another platform?

Like Keks, Owatalk is not just football. Football is just a main (if not the main) category. Wes is the author, and he's interested in other sports, including Christianity. I simply can't complain because I've been known to go on about politics, a far more dangerous sport than either rugby or religion.

Just yesterday I discovered Round Ball Footy, quite by accident, which has an explicit Socceroos focus but apparently is alive! There was a post about a week ago, the first since the 27th July! Hopefully with a bit of socceroo action coming up, we'll be hearing again from Philos and his mates.

I've left the three blogs which have really helped me, and which, without meaning to slight anyone else, I want to most greatly recommend, 'till last.

Confessions of an A-League Junkie, by James Brown, is always worth a look. I hope he doesn't mind me saying that his style reminds me a little of me, except with about seven oceans more knowledge of the game. He gives us regular reports, reviews, commentary on (football) politics as well as play, and he maintains an excellent list of football links. James is regular, and answers comments with friendliness and courtesy. He directly encouraged and helped yours truly in fact, in my search for blogs. At the same time, he humbly noted his 'jealousy' of the following two blogs, which in my mind (and I suspect James's) are genuine treasures for anyone in Australia who wish to follow football.

I mean it. Between Tony Tannous's The Round Ball Analyst and Mike Salter's The Football Tragic, we have an independent football resource to be very proud of. They are better - in my view by a country mile - than any football journalism the mainstream has to offer. In comments on their own blogs I'm sure I've thanked them so much that they're getting bored with it, but at this stage, novice tragic as I am, I am in debt to these two gents and call them both sensei.

For detailed, considered analysis of the games, apparently without fear or favour (maybe just a little bias toward Victory, but given their success rate, who can say it's bias?) Tony is the best bar none. If Tony is poached as a football journalist for a major newspaper at some stage, it will not surprise me. (Actually I'd say the same for Mike, but for different strengths.)

Tony's is not a daily effort. The regular features, which appear to go back to the beginning of the A-League, are a 'Round Up' after each round, and a 'Team of the Week' after each round. Browsing his archives I note that Tony does have the odd post on the Socceroos, and he certainly covered the World Cup when it was on, but these two regular segments are the features we can rely upon. The Round Ups are the best post-game analysis I can find anywhere, and for me (as a learner in early stages) his fantasy 'Team of the Weeks' are a most excellent introduction to the players with their strengths and weaknesses, with an obviously deep and intimate knowledge of their histories. Invaluable stuff. Just invaluable.

Having commented a little on his site I can also report that Tony is friendly in reply and has been encouraging to me as a newbie. If I have a criticism of his site, I think there's something just a tad arrogant about having no links to other blogs and resources. Bloggery, in my humble opinion (and I've had much more to do with bloggery than football) has a strength in community. But maybe Tony has aspirations to be more? A budding professional football journalist? Maybe he should be indeed.

Mike Salter of The Football Tragic might also aspire to be a professional football journalist, and clearly has some media background as well as connections in the industry. If so (to either Mike or Tony) good luck!

I've outlined Tony's strengths with unabashed flattery, and I meant every word, but Mike, apart from being obsessively regular (generally daily), has a much broader and more courageous sweep in his subject matter. It is impossible to review the content with justice, so I'll just touch on a few of his areas. Mike's is the only blog of which I have gone through and read every post and every comment. It was worth it.

Mike's player reviews (eg David Carney, Tony Vidmar), generally reflecting on the moment in their career but always very informed, are excellent. He covers international as well as Australian players.

Cliché Central, (Part 1, Brief Update and Part 2), and other journalism about sport journalism (eg Let's Get Physical) is excellent. Mike is a self-confessed 'football journalism tragic' as well as a 'football tragic'.

On football journalism, of commentators, Mike does not like Craig Foster, apparently since the latter's initial criticism of Sydney coach Terry Butcher, and most recently in Floundering Fozzie - Update. I'm just not qualified to get involved in this controversy, but having watched Sydney play a few times now, I'm inclined to think Mike's home-bias is colouring his defence of Butcher. It doesn't make the discussion any less entertaining, or even informative, however, and after Sydney's last result, maybe the Butcher-critics (including myself) are due for a diet of their own words.

When it comes to the rules, of which he speaks a fair bit, Mike is bold in recommending changes, which I find especially fascinating. Have a look at Rethinking the Restart Part 1 and Part 2 for an excellent example of this. The Penalty Curse, Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 is also challenging and bold stuff. Once again from my newbie perspective, extremely educational as well. Love it.

Mike's analytical reach is broad, including on occasion women's football and local games in Sydney, but also reaching to the scandals at the highest levels of international soccer. He's critical of the Blatter regime at FIFA, and indeed the whole sordid network. Most recently, With Friends Like These... gives us an insight into one of the mates, Jack Warner. His Places at the Table series is the best intro I've encountered on how the different confederation's places in the World Cup are determined, practically and politically. It is also a good example of Mike's broad watching view of football media in general. I am not exagerating when I say Mike is an incredibly important source for all aspects of the game.

Mike also attracts some intelligent and helpful commentary. 'Magnum' stands out in this regard. The football blogging world is far from mature in this respect in my view. In sport as in politics, we get closer to the truth of the matter in the midst of dialogue than we do from a particular expert.

If I'm just far too gushing, especially of Mike and Tony, it is the awe of a novice speaking. Perhaps as I get wiser in the world of football I will see the edges better and will become more guarded and critical, but I'm not looking forward to that. I'm learning from these guys, and really loving it.

As a final thought, there's some niches that definitely need filling. In terms of the A-League, explicit supporters from Perth, Adelaide, Newcastle, Gosford and Auckland would be very welcome I reckon.

Far more gaping however is the need for a dedicated follower of the Matildas. The Matildas are not, in my view, destined to merely be a second-best competition, as in tennis and swimming. We know the women's league is growing and that the Matildas are doing very well, but this is not my point. The nature of football is such that just because the women may not be able to (on average) lob kicks as far up the field, do aerial combat so high, or be as physical with one another, does not mean they'll play a lesser brand of football. On the contrary, these are exactly the things the purists call for less of. Quite plausibly, the women will ultimately be producing a more beautiful game than the men. Food for thought there.

Cheers, and good night.



Blogger john said...

Good wrap Hamish. Leaving comments on bloggers sites seems to encourage them to keep going.

I am am keen for some debate on whether Carbone will be good for the a-league. I think no, as Miron said this week, without Carbone there is no reason to fear Sydney.

But with him? He is at least twice as good as Yorke and in front of Adelaide's biggest home crowd he made their stars seem, well poor (ie Carl Veart ending up on his backside).

And how is he going to be funded? Half, $450,000, of Yorke's pay was reportedly from Hyundia as an exgracia payment - hardly fair to the other clubs that need to win to pay their bills. The papers have hinted that O'Neil saw conflict of interest within FFA as a reason for leaving? Maybe this need to have Sydney as the dominant club is a sympton of that.

My view, clubs that can build great teams within the salary cap and learn last years lessons (roar & victory) deserve to have patient fans rewarded.

Why should Sydney be allowed to steal the comp just because thet afford the most expensive player?

October 05, 2006 10:37 pm  
Blogger Mike Salter said...

Blimey Hamish, I'm blushing all over! ;-)

Many, many thanks for your kind words.

Actually, the truth is that I still don't consider myself as knowing very much about the game at all, given that I've never played, managed or refereed at any level of consequence. Definitely a student of the game, rather than an expert on it.

But Les is right about it being an infection...

My distaste for Foster dates from long before his criticism of Butcher, by the way. He has some worthwhile ideas (and as a straight match analyst I've got plenty of time for him), but he just never seems to think his ideas through properly, and lambasts a lot of people unfairly in the process.

October 05, 2006 10:38 pm  
Blogger Mike Salter said...

...The papers have hinted that O'Neil saw conflict of interest within FFA as a reason for leaving?...

A Sydney FC insider friend of mine believes that was very much the case, for what it's worth.

October 05, 2006 10:41 pm  
Blogger Mike Salter said...

Hamish, BTW:

Here is a site dedicated to the Matildas and Oz women's football in general:

October 05, 2006 11:04 pm  
Blogger Hamish said...

Hi John and Mike. Thanks for your interest.

John, my main beef with Carbone so far is that everyone's raving about how good he was and I didn't get to watch the game. I still blame Fox.

Seriously though, I didn't realise that these big contracts went above and beyond the salary caps. Is this really so? If so it sucks. Why have a salary cap if it's not a cap? Frankly it sounds like cheating to me.

Can you elaborate a little on how O'Neil fits into this?

Mike, your modesty becomes you.

Re: Foster and the roots of your distaste for some of his analysis, I'm happy to stand corrected. I did think he was a bit hasty in condemning Graham Arnold by the way, but in general I'm going to have to observe him over time to really form a judgement about what you mean. I have a pretty strong pro-SBS bias, so I'm not going to let Foster fall in my eyes easilly.

Thanks for the link to Australian Women's Football (it now appears to the right). I still reckon a dedicated blog would be good though.


October 06, 2006 11:28 am  
Anonymous Guido said...

Thanks Hamish for your reviews. A few more blogs to put in my blogroll!

Due to the dearth of incisive writing and discussion about football in the mainstream media, blogs are the perfect alternative vehicle for this to occur about our game.

Often the blogs from the SMH and the Age get predictable negative comments from fans from other codes which then start the even more predictable sloush.

So having a vehicle where fans can write and comment is a godsend.

October 06, 2006 2:47 pm  
Blogger Hamish said...

Welcome Guido! Thanks for stopping by.

I'll have a better look at your own blog as soon as I get to it. Thankyou for linking Football Down Under.

October 06, 2006 6:46 pm  
Anonymous Wes said...

Many thanks Hamish for mentioning my blog in your review.

I have found the blogs featuring the A-League quite refreshing and with your article I have unearthed a few more which I will be closely following in the next few days.

October 08, 2006 7:55 am  
Blogger Hamish said...

Cheers Wes, and no worries. I'm glad you didn't take offence to my sense of humour!

October 08, 2006 7:59 am  
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