Sunday, November 19, 2006

Reflections from the Rejectory

For months now Jacob and I have had an arrangement that we'd go to one of these Roar games alone - that is, just the two of us - and spend it with the Rejects - the den of hard-core fans behind the goal posts.

"Why do they call themselves the Rejects?" Jacob asks. A fair question. Now, the boy has understood the concept of irony for quite a while, impressively enough, but the subtlety of taking the piss out of yourself is not easy for a proud young chap to grasp. In this case he's not entirely alone. Like a motercycle gang I used to know called 'The No Hopers', who were truly wonderful people but actually were, for various physical and mental reasons, no hopers, it's not clear to me whether irony is intended.

Anyway, somehow after last week in the corporate box, it seems to have somehow properly rounded out our crowd-experience.

It was fun. I mean really, the colour and intense enthusiasm was there - both in direct contrast to last week in the box where there were no Roar colours (and not even a pair of jeans), and very mixed levels of enthusiasm. But we did both decide that from now on it was back with the mass of whoevers for us.

When it comes to religion, it is the fashion these days - and I am a proponent of this fashion - to abandon the church yet maintain the importance of personal spirituality. I think I'm feeling the same way about Roar fandom. There is something rather forced and contrived - even controlling - about the 'official' fans, and although I think the overall crowd experience would be less for their absence, I choose independence.

I'm simply uncomfortable with the notion of booing the other team just because it's the other team. As I try to explain to the kids for their games, when you lose a game, you say, "good on you" to the other team because the implicit message in doing so is, we're actually better than you, so we'll get you next time. To boo the other team when they score a goal is to declare your inadequacy, and the other team hear that declaration. This equation is reinforced for me as it is quite transparently the best opposition players, as they are introduced on the big screen, and especially the goal-scorers, that get the biggest boos. So if I was on the opposition I would be hoping for the biggest boo as it is clearly a compliment and a declaration that the booers are scared shitless of you.

Now at the same time a lot of the stuff is pretty friendly. Brisbane town is just wonderful... Melbourne town stinks, is all harmless banter really and I know it can be taken as silliness. When we were lining up for tickets the Melbourne fans marched in, very organised and militant. Jacob and I had a good laugh when they chanted, you're Dutch, you're Dutch, you don't know very much. The line between humorous banter and advertising your inadequacy is pretty fine I guess, but when I see a good goal I clap, and I don't care which side scored it.

Now a specific critique of the Rejects, and their most signature effort, which happens every time the opposition goalie does a goal kick. For those who don't know what I'm talking about, everyone holds both their arms out in front in a cross between a nazi salute and spirit fingers, building up a roar sound. The crescendo happens, every time, about half a second after the ball is kicked, with the chant, "You're shit, ha!" It took me ages to determine that that was what was being said, not because it wasn't fairly clear, but because it seemed too inane for a regular, signature and otherwise quite impressive and theatrical chant. Now I'm not even referring to the principle in the last paragraph. Let's assume that insulting the other team mindlessly is the height of effective psychological warfare. If that is the case, this chant is still useless, because the moment of impact happens after the opposition goalie's seconds of concentration, and after he has kicked the ball. If anything I can imagine the said-goalie getting quite a positive ritual boost from the experience of the heightening roar behind him, especially as he gets used to the rhythm of it happening every time. Time and time again, when the "You're shit, Ha!" part happens, the entire crowd is already watching successful play occurring at the other end of the field. Irony? Just bloody stupid I reckon.

I am of course getting back to one of the running themes of this blog, and that is that football is a valid spiritual journey. One day I'll elaborate, to all round yawns no doubt, on this theme specifically. Suffice to just point out now that the fact that football clearly has no universal earth-shattering truths hardly detracts from it being a valid spiritual journey. The problem with most religions in my mind is that they think they do have some universal earth-shattering truths behind them, which is very, very dangerous, not to mention arrogant and profoundly hubristic. Ineffability is the only divine or universal attribute I'm interested in. Anything effable can get effed as far as I'm concerned (that's not mine - I got it from either Monty Python or Douglas Adams - but I love it).

Oh my God, I've really gone out on some limb haven't I? The game? Ok, Packer's home goal, which I swear he was aiming straight at me (I flinched in my 3rd row seat) was depressing of course. Bit of a communication problem there. Matty was not his brilliant hard working self (the best thing he did was technically a blatant foul; when a Roar player was injured and Victory clearly should have kicked the ball out but kept playing, Matty shouldered a Victory player away from intercepting the ball going out, with no pretense at all of going for the ball, sprawling the latter, who then looked like he was injured himself; the ref judiciously - and rightly - ignored Mat's foul). Seo was the clear star for the Roar. Reinaldo was once again second-rate, and frankly Zhang should have replaced him rather than Dario.

If anyone wants to read about the game properly, firstly the mainstream A-League and media sites are rubbish. Mike the Football Tragic has already done a good analysis of the Roar's game, and Tony the Round Ball Analyst will no-doubt do his usual excellent wrap up in a couple of days. Scary Monkey also made some light-hearted comment on the game on Girl's Guide to the A-League. She made some further comment about the shower of yellow cards as well.

Cheers. I hope everyone is enjoying the weekend.



Anonymous Guido said...

Despite watching football for yonks (being Italian and all) I never got into the organised side of things until I started going to Melbourne Victory games.

What has happened to the Melbourne organised support would make a fascinating sociology thesis.

When Melbourne Victory formed, the club made the decision that it would not create an 'official' supporters group.

So some fans came together and created 'The Union' this tried to cover all fans. From the so called 'hardcore fans' to the mum and dads with the kids.

The tensions about how to support the team came to the surface. Some wanted to be a continental type group. What it is called in Italian 'Tifo' with colour, movement and plenty of Oles! Some wanted the British style with drinking, lots of chanting and taunting opposition players and supporters.

Some with families wanted to support the team but without the 'adult language' that sometimes develops.

So the Union split into different groups. At one end you have the Blue and White Brigade. The biggest group they follow the continetal style of support.

At the other end you have the SDC which follows the British style.

And then you have other groups, like the one I belong to: 'The Off Side Set' which is designed to support the team but in a more 'family friendly' environment.

November 21, 2006 10:37 am  
Blogger Hamish said...

Thanks for this review of Melbourne fan groups Guido. I mean to write more about fan groups in the near future. The cultures they produce certainly seem to go in very different directions.

By the way, I like your blog Rank and Vile. I'm off politics for the time being as I begun to find it far too depressing, but I'd say I roughly share your pragmatic point of view. I call it true liberalism, which for the benefit of others has as much to do with the Liberal Party as socialism has to do with the Labor Party.

As I learn more about this parallel world of football, of course, I discover that politics will follow me everywhere. Nearly finished Jennings' Foul! What an eye opener that is!

I feel slightly guilty Guido that you have kindly linked my blog from your site and I haven't linked yours. Please forgive me that I'm trying to keep it pretty strictly football.

Cheers, and thanks again for the comment.

November 21, 2006 8:31 pm  
Anonymous Guido said...

No problems! :)

November 22, 2006 12:26 am  
Blogger john said...

Hi Hamish

What don't like is the booing of the home team when we lose. Last year the fans hounded Miron out of the stadium a couple of times. Some of this stuff made me question my commitment. But my commitment really is to the team.

Many boo the ref. I have done a bit (of refing that is) and I know how hard it is without a video. They don't seem to notice. Although, once I sat at the fence, and pointed out a foul and the ref called it - I swear he was looking at me and not the incident.

Reinaldo has scored 3 times for the Roar this year and set-up 3 more with great crosses. Zhang set one up for Ante. He needs to run more.

By the way, Seo looked good at the park but the Foxtel guys gave him a serve - all those shots not really looking like going in.

November 22, 2006 7:48 pm  

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