Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Soccer and Civic Pride, by Dawn Albinger

Well I haven't blogged for a long time, but today I am very pleased to introduce as a guest blogger my beautiful partner and wife Dawn Albinger. Thanks for you fresh, candid journey notes, my love.


I grinned all the way from King George square to the corner of Albert and Charlotte streets. I grinned as I ordered the decaf and muesli. I’ve been grinning at our customers for an hour since I made it back to Archives Fine Books. I think it’s called ‘civic pride’, and whilst I have certainly felt happy often in my life, this is a particular kind of buzz that I have not often experienced. I felt a version of it last year when thousands of people rallied in my suburb of Fairfield to clean up after the floods. And I’m feeling another version of it today after celebrating the Brisbane Roar A-League championship victory.

It’s not without some self-consciousness that I make this admission. I’m an artist, a theatre-maker and performer, and for most of my life – and especially the early part of my career – I defined myself in opposition to the kind of ‘mob mentality’ that I thought characterised the sports fanatic. ‘I’ was all about being a unique individual, and one of my conceits was that I was more discerning than your average sports fan.  Yet on ‘Orange Sunday’ I was in the second row at Suncorp Stadium: yelling, chanting, whistling, screaming, leaping out of my seat: hugging husband and stranger alike when Berisha Besart scored the equaliser and then took the penalty to help Brisbane Roar make history yet again. And today I lined up for the ticker-tape parade so I could clap and cheer and salute the team and their coach and their training staff.

So what’s changed? How have I gone from being the kind of artist who deplored footy fandom as some kind of ‘lowest common denominator’ entertainment – rife with sexism, racism, homophobia, and violence – to enjoying the thrill of adding my voice to 50,000 others when my team scores a goal? And how have I come to call it ‘my’ team, as though I participate somehow in wearing both crushing defeat and ecstatic victory? I have been mulling this over for a few months and I haven’t quite arrived at a satisfactory answer. It lies somewhere between my love for my soccer-mad husband and the joy I take in his love of the game; my own relationship with soccer that has been developing since I joined a soccer team for the first time at the age of 45 and discovered to my astonishment that I love running and that I still have a lot to learn about team-work; my delight in discovering the metaphors that soccer constantly provides for life; and the fact that through soccer I experience a sense of embodied community: people coming together for a common cause.

Soccer makes me smile. I love that in Brisbane we have a multi-cultural team made up of men who 110% committed to the game and yet have interests besides soccer: music, art, philosophy, life. I love that for two years we have had a coach who encourages this, who has lifted the quality of the game nationally, and who has led our team from obscurity to championship glory. I love that I returned to Brisbane and discovered The Beautiful Game at the precise moment that Ange began his journey with the Roar. I love it. I’m a fan. And today I felt a real connection between loving my city and loving my soccer team.

There are many things I want to understand and change about the world I live in – sexism, racism, homophobia, violence included – and I have addressed some of these issues through my theatre. I have discovered that the global soccer federation FIFA has also gone some way to addressing racism in particular, which is to be celebrated. It could go further on the other issues (especially homophobia and parity for women in sports). But one thing I am very happy about and don’t want to change is the Brisbane Roar. My connection to soccer and to the Brisbane Roar team has deepened my civic pride. And I’m proud to call myself a fan.