Sunday, August 02, 2009

A Rose by any Other Name Smells Just as Sweet (We Call it Soccer Prt 2)

This subject, I will admit at the outset, since first writing about it in September last year, has continued to absorb me. I see material everywhere, constantly, and have taken to making sure I have a notebook so I can at least partially document the extent of the absurdity. This material has overwhelmed me in fact, to the extent that it has held me back writing about it at all.

So there will be more. But here's instalment Two.

My point is not trivial. The insistence on the word 'Football' in the Australian media is holding the game back from the public mind. Now me merely stating that view will not convince anyone, so I ask that you read my points (including my first article) and THINK about this. I honestly and seriously believe that the Australian soccer community has so far lost the plot on this front.

First, in case anyone thinks I'm making this business up, consider the following sentences, from two bloggers I respect greatly for their love of the great game:

From Eamonn, of Nearpost: "It might be acceptable to Australians in State Of Origin or AFL but in my view football, men and women's doesn't need it."

And from Ambrose's Bloggerfella: "The only leagues I can think of which may offer precedent for the A-League's four subs are the other Australian "football" leagues, the AFL and NRL, which both employ four-man interchange benches with unlimited changes allowed in AFL and 10 in NRL. Their formats are entirely different and irrelevant to football's."

Now both of these intelligent people know the word 'soccer', they know what it means, it's 100% in their vocabulary and, importantly, they have no other meaning for the word. Also, their audience also understands the word, unambiguously. From a purely editorial point of view, the word 'soccer' is appropriate in these sentences, for the very simple criteria of clarity of meaning.

Why don't they use the word? This is just two cases from the past week. I see this editorial absurdity constantly. Now from an insider's view they may even get a bit of congratulations for holding the flag or something. But from any other point of view (in Australia and many other countries) it just looks like they are, um, holding the flag. That is they look like they're promoting an ideology or religion rather than a great game. They reinforce, every time they do this, the image of a slightly esoteric pursuit for foreigners and fanatics. It glares, and there's no way that these writers aren't self-conscious when they're doing this.

In the second case the author goes further, and actually tries to imply that other football codes (there is no synonym for the word football-as-generic) shouldn't be called that. That's also common, from Les Murray for example: "so-called football codes". Now that's aggressive, even rude, toward codes that have generations of passionate and loyal followers, and even evokes the question, toward us, "Who's afraid?" I'll pursue that more in the future, but suffice to say here that it's not helping anyone.

Ok, here's another quote, from a bumper sticker I see around: "Support St Aidans' Soccer."

Now I have no idea about St Aidans, but this sticker is, by being around the place, also promoting the game I love to play and watch, so I think it's cool that people have it on the back of their cars. Can anyone tell me what word they should use? Let's just state the fucking obvious: "Support St Aidans' Football" would simply NOT be promoting our game AT ALL. "Support St Aidans' Football (Soccer)" would be editorially clumsy, I add because we actually see this absurdity, even in the mainstream press.

I've barely started. I know I'm up against pretty much the entire soccer community ('football community' would only make sense if I was referring to all the codes) here, but I know I'm right and I simply have to keep hammering this one.

For my money, every time the media, on radio, TV or in print is speaking of our game, which does have a greater actuality than a decade ago and has found its rightful place in our sports press (however reluctantly), the public should be seeing the word, the brand, SOCCER. Soccer, soccer, soccer. That's what the public mind, however oblivious or married to other games they may be, would be being bombarded with. Bombarding it with yet more of the brand 'Football, football, football' does nothing. Read it again. From a promotion viewpoint, it does nothing.

Incidentally, on the three occasions I've been to the United States I've thought to ask everyday people whether they follow Gridiron. They have had no idea what I was talking about. They know it only as 'football'. Funny how language works. And funny how authority doesn't get to tell the public what words mean, except in Orwell's dystopia. People decide what words mean, and linguists tell us why, whilst lexographers record the meanings in dictionaries. Next time you want to know what 'soccer' and 'football' mean in a particular language or dialect (and Australian is a dialect) try a dictionary. The FFA are not an authority, and neither are the fanatics, and neither am I.


Blogger Mike Salter said...

On my blog, I refer to it as football because it's the word I prefer, and I know my readers will know what I'm talking about. In conversation with fellow fans I usually refer to it as football as well, for the same reason.

With anyone else I call it soccer, and I don't feel dirty or disloyal doing that; as you say, it's just a question of clarity.

Unfortunately people in the football/soccer community do tend to harp on about this (non-)issue a bit, which exposes them to ridicule in some cases.

August 13, 2009 3:06 pm  
Blogger Hamish said...

Thanks Mike. But can I ask, even on your own blog, how would you phrase the sentence, "Soccer is the most widely played, most accessible, most skillful football code in the World, which also has by far the most emphasis on the use of the 'foot'"? It's a statement which we can be very proud of in my opinion, because it is pretty much objectively true.

But how would you say it?

Here's another sentence, this time about history: "Of all the hundreds of types of football played through history, from games of the Chinese, ancient South Americans and South Australian Aborigines to the dozens of disparate codes played throughout the British Isles before the move to codify the sport, Soccer has emerged as the dominant football code throughout the World."

Well you may properly use the term "Association Football" in the latter case, which a) uses an adjective, implying that there are other types, and b) was shortened to 'Soccer', a more efficient word, by popular English idiom.

Excuse me for taking my point so seriously. As you say it should be a non-issue. Unfortunately it's not, because it comes from the top, and most of our print media are participating in the absurdity.

August 14, 2009 10:18 am  
Blogger Mike Salter said...

I guess I'd call it "soccer" in that case to avoid confusion. But I doubt I'd say stuff like that on my blog anyway!

August 17, 2009 3:49 pm  
Blogger Brendan said...

I make no judgement on this but in sydney most junior clubs have changed their names officially from soccer clubs to football clubs in past one to four years (after many decades as soccer clubs). there are less and less clubs left now called soccer clubs. my son's local club was typical I think. It was put to a vote and endorsed by gathering of volunteers at a club meeting. many of these people don't have any more involvement in the sport beyond local junior club but the vote was by a large majority.

August 24, 2009 7:08 pm  
Blogger Hamish said...

Hi Brendan. I've been a bit involved in politics over the years, and whilst I don't doubt what you say, I know that the vote, even a unanamous vote, is rarely the whole story.

According to Angela Ryan over on Webdiary, the process is "not so benign ... At presentation day I was told all the Club signs and field signs and shirts and everywhere that has the word Soccer on it has to be removed by next season or we will not be able to register our club. Rules down from up high."

With that over their head, which way would your average volunteer vote? All they want is good games for their kids.

Sounds like a great way to piss off and alienate people, and I ask the simple question again: "Why?"

August 30, 2009 2:31 pm  

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