The View From Down Here #70 – Anti-Soccer and Olympic Greed

The West Indians finally reach our shores. And soccer goes out of its way to score as many own goals as possible. And the Olympics in Australia are apparently going to go broke. And, of course, there’s a few other sports out there. So come in and have a read.

Cricket
International
West Indians Tour Of Australia

Queensland v West Indians
            A four day warm-up match for the tourists to help them get their eye in and adjust to the Australian conditions. A brief rant here – in the olden, golden days of maybe fifteen years ago, the touring sides would come to Australia and play maybe three or four of these matches against state teams to really help them get ready for the tests and to give more Australians a chance to see them play and more players a chance to face them. The same went in England, where county sides would be trotted out to face touring teams. But it’s stopped. And why? Because of money. They need to make money so the teams play ridiculous international schedules with no chance of a more relaxing match thrown in except the odd one or two here or there. So another part of cricket’s old traditions succumbs to the money aspect of sport. Sigh…
West Indies 271 & 6/357; Qld 7 (dec)/617 – match drawn
            The Windies needed this game. After all the turmoil over contracts before they arrived here, with the thought that maybe a third-string team would be sent over, it was good to see the Windies play. Their captain Chris Gayle was forced home with a family emergency (and everyone’s best wishes are for him and his, and it does appear he will be back in Australia in time for the first test), so Ramdin stepped in as captain. The first innings was not a brilliant one for the Windies, and their bowling during Queensland’s innings was off. But in their second innings, the batsmen seemed to get their eye in. So I am hoping for a tight, intense test series.
            Mention must also be made of Alister McDermott, son of former Australia fast bowler Craig McDermott, who made his debut for Queensland in this match. He looks like his father, bowls like his father, and if he can serve his country as well as his father, then out future bowling stocks are in good hands.
Sheffield Shield
New South Wales v Tasmania
           NSW 8(dec)/420 & 5/208; Tas 482 – Match drawn (Tas – 2 pts)
            This match shows a little of what is wrong with the long form of cricket – there was some great cricket, with some excellent batting and yet after the second day the result seemed a foregone conclusion. It was almost being played for the draw. That’s a shame because it’s this sort of thing which frustrates the casual viewer who may just enjoy the game.
Victoria v Western Australia
            WA 277 & 227; Vic 246 & 3/259 – Victoria won by 7 wickets (pts – WA 2, Vic 6)
            Quite an entertaining match, with both teams seeming to be very well matched in the first innings. However. It seemed like Victoria just took it out of second gear in the second innings and after some good bowling and fielding they batted with ease to what was a comfortable win.
Ford Ranger Cup
            No matches this week.
Women’s National Cricket League Twenty20
Victoria v Queensland
            This match was marred by rain (Qld were 4/54 at the time) and so the Duckworth/Lewis stupidity… method was invoked.
            Vic 7/146; Qld 54 (15.3 overs – they needed 135 from 17 overs) – Victoria won by 80 runs
Australian Capital Territory v New South Wales
            NSW 138 (19.3 overs); ACT 4/126 – NSW won by 12 runs
            Quite the entertaining match here. The quality of women’s cricket in Australia never ceases to amaze me, considering the scant publicity they get.
Women’s National Cricket League
Australian Capital Territory v New South Wales
            ACT 216 (49.4 overs); NSW 2/218 (34 overs) – NSW won by 8 wickets
            Quite the dominating performance by the New South Wales team. Bowling out the ACT for a competitive score, they then knocked it off so quickly it was almost embarrassing.
Victoria v Queensland
            Qld 151 (49.4 overs); Vic 6/152 (40 overs) – Victoria won by 4 wickets
            Victoria played well within themselves to defeat the Queensland side.
Australian Capital Territory v New South Wales
            NSW 175 (41.4 overs); ACT 6/176 (47.3 overs) – ACT won by 4 wickets
            What a turnaround! After being totally outclassed in the first match, the ACT come back and pull off an outstanding victory.
Victoria v Queensland
            Due to amazingly poor weather (Melbourne had their monthly average downpour in one day!) this match was abandoned without a ball even being bowled.
            No Result
Special Match
            This is an exhibition match with some recently retired players, some younger players, and some members of the current Australian squads playing a Twenty20 game. The concept is that the younger guys will get a chance to play under the eyes of the selectors and with some of the game’s greats, to help them in the future.
Australian Cricketers’ Association XI All Stars v Australian XI team
            A damn entertaining match, played in good spirits. Of course, the result meant nothing except pride, but they still played hard, and it was a bit of a nice nostalgic walk down Australia’s recent cricketing past.
            Aust XI 5/173; ACA 9/156 – Australian XI won by 17 runs
            Glenn McGrath can still go, and the young guns looked like the future of Australian cricket is in good hands… if they can only get a game in the real national squad. Unfortunately, all this does is make the fans wonder when we will get to see them and not some of the guys who are getting past their prime and holding these youngsters back.

Soccer
International soccer
            First, I need to apologise to our Trans-Tasman neighbours.
            Last weekend, New Zealand defeated Bahrain 1-0 to make it to the World Cup for the first time in 27 years! What makes this so intriguing, though, is that Australia moved out of the Oceania zone into Asia because the Oceania winner (Australia 90% of the time) had to play a South American team to qualify, as Oceania has only half a berth in the World Cup. So Australia moved to Asia, and qualified that way. However, other rules have changed, and Oceania now plays a low-ranked Asian team… and so New Zealand are also in!
            Okay, now the rest of this is going to be a rant, so if you don’t want to read it, go down to the scores, avoid anything with the word ‘Olympics’ in the title, and we’ll see you next week.
            Australia are fighting to host the World Cup in the future. This means that, if we get it, we will hold the second-largest sporting event in the world. And that’s wonderful… except if you don’t follow soccer. Because it also means that the other, more popular football codes will have to shut down for eight weeks mid-season. FIFA demands that there is no other sport held in any city that hosts World Cup games during the World Cup itself, and a few weeks before. Now, why is this a bad thing?
            Because soccer is proving itself more and more to be a sport that at the highest level is not something you want to be involved with.
            A small thing to start – Adelaide’s soccer coach made some comment about having heads cut off in Saudi Arabia. While it was a little over-the-top, it was just a throwaway line which relates to that country’s policies of execution. But political correctness has gone overboard yet again, and now the powers that be are saying this one little comment could jeopardise our World Cup bid because Saudi Arabia might be offended at having its justice policies mentioned. FIFA, by the way, approve of censuring a club coach for making a comment like this.
            What next? Oh, how about French cheating with FIFA’s approval? When so-called superstar Thierry Henry handballed against Ireland, costing the Irish not only a goal but also a chance to go through to the World Cup, it was not called by the referees (employees of FIFA). They allowed it to stand, forcing Ireland out. FIFA refused to replay the match, allowing the result to stand. Irish newspapers have branded it cheating, and the claim is that FIFA wanted France with all the French money in the World Cup, and Ireland, who are really soccer minnows, don’t amount to much and so they miss out. FIFA talk about integrity of the game, and then let this go unchallenged.
            I’ve already talked about the diving controversies. But, again, FIFA are only paying lip-service to their commitment to stamp it out. There have been some of the most blatant milking of frees this year, and the refs have not only allowed it and awarded dubious penalties, but FIFA has also not seen fit to punish these players after the event when they have been proven to have been cheating.
            And finally we have what has been described as one of the worst ever match-fixing scandals. To quote the Wide World of Sports website: “…investigators said on Friday criminals may have netted 10 million euros ($A16.23 million) rigging 200 games in nine countries. A 200-strong band operating across Europe is suspected of swaying matches in Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Croatia, Slovenia, Turkey, Hungary, Bosnia-Hercegovina and Austria, prosecutors in Germany said. They include three Champions League ties, 12 matches in the Europa League, formerly the UEFA Cup, one qualifying game for the under-21 European championship and four from the German second division. All the games took place this season.”
            This is the integrity that FIFA promotes? Apparently some games were already under investigation as well. By the way, as of this writing, none of the actual games have yet been released.
            So this is the game and these are the people we want to bring to our country and give carte blanche over our sporting grounds? To have calling the shots in our country? Okay, the Olympics are not exactly clean, either, and the IOC operates as a separate country, but at least all countries are represented. And recently cheats have been retrospectively stripped of medals.
            In FIFA, cheats, even proven ones, apparently prosper.
            And what gets me is that soccer (or football, or association football… whatever) is so popular because anyone can play it. All you quite literally need is a ball and an area. Goals can be made out of anything. It is so simple. This means it is a great game for getting any child doing sport, no  matter their gender, beliefs, place where they live or ability. Sure, the offside rule is confusing, and it is clear that FIFA allows handballing (as well as Henry, see Maradona in the 1986 World Cup), but the rules are simple enough for anyone to play anywhere.
            But the kids who grow up playing the sport and seeing their heroes get overpaid by millions of dollars (overpaid? Don’t believe me? Ask the LA Galaxy players what they really think of David Beckham and how much he was really worth) are now being faced with stupidity after stupidity. What Irish kid is going to want to play soccer knowing their team can be beaten because of French cheats and FIFA compliance? What US kid is going to want to play knowing that the money his team has is going to pay for some overhyped Brit? Look, of course, youngsters are going to aim for the glory of the highest levels of the sport, and for the obscene money that comes with it. But surely even they realise that their passage to the top may well be fraught with inconsistencies in the so-called sports code of the whole world.
            There are no answers to what I am going on about here.
            But Australia should just let our prima donna soccer players play the game and not get involved in the politics and insanity of supporting such an allegedly corrupt regime as FIFA by giving them access to our country and our sporting grounds.
A-League – Round Fifteen
Adelaide United 1 drew with Gold Coast United 1
Brisbane Roar 0 def by Melbourne Victory 1
North Queensland Fury 1 hammered by Central Coast Mariners 5
Perth Glory 2 def Sydney 0
Newcastle Jets 0 def by Wellington Phoenix 1
W-League – Round Eight
Sydney 5 def Perth Glory 2
            And yet again the women put on a more entertaining match than any in the men’s competition this round.
Central Coast Mariners 2 def Melbourne Victory 0
Newcastle Jets 1 def by Canberra United 3
Brisbane Roar 2 drew with Adelaide United 2

Basketball
NBL Round Nine
Cairns 77 def New Zealand 64
Townsville 73 def by New Zealand 85
Gold Coast 84 def Perth 79
Melbourne 83 def by Cairns 86
WNBL Round Seven
Sydney 77 def Adelaide 62
Bulleen 92 slaughtered Perth 58
Canberra 79 def Logan 60
AIS 53 def comprehensively by Logan 93
Dandenong 82 def Perth 71
Townsville 70 def Canberra 56
Bendigo 69 just def by Sydney 70

Rugby Union
Spring Tour
Scotland v Australia
               Scotland 9 def Australia 8
               And Australia could not go through undefeated. It was like the draw to Ireland sapped them of their will after they realised the grand slam was not going to be going their way. Scotland’s first win over Australia since 1982 came as they defended very well. Australia now face Wales next weekend and hope to stop the rot. Their northern hemisphere excursion so far has resulted in one win, one draw and two losses (although one of these was against New Zealand in Japan). And this from a team hoping to complete a grand slam.

Autoracing
V-8 Supercars
The BigPond 5000

               This race is named after a sponsor – a telecommunications internet company that has decided rural Australia means nothing. A recent television show (Hungry Beast) showed that if you wanted to send a movie file from a country town, there were three immediate options – internet, taking it by car or carrier pigeon. Carrier pigeon was the fastest, car next fastest, internet did not work. And this from the company saying they are there for all Australians.
               The next issue is that I had to look up to find where this race was actually held, as the place hosting the event gets nothing, but a large company that ignores its customers gets all the publicity. It’s held at Barbagallo in Western Australia, but this information was almost impossible to find on any official websites. It was only when I sat down to watch the race that I found out what was going on.
               Poor Western Australia – dodded out of any recognition by a corporate sponsor.
Race 23
1st TeamVodafone – Jamie Whincup (Ford Falcon FG)
2nd Jack Daniel’s Racing – Todd Kelly (Holden Commodore VE)
3rd Ford Performance Racing – Mark Winterbottom (Ford Falcon FG)
4th Jim Beam Racing – James Courtney (Ford Falcon FG)
5th Toll Holden Racing Team – Will Davison (Holden Commodore VE)
Race 24
1st TeamVodafone – Craig Lowndes (Ford Falcon FG)
2nd Jim Beam Racing – Steven Johnson (Ford Falcon FG)
3rd Toll Holden Racing Team – Garth Tander (Holden Commodore VE)
4th TeamVodafone – Jamie Whincup (Ford Falcon FG)
5th Supercheap Auto Racing – Russell Ingall (Holden Commodore VE)
               Whincup’s win in race one extended his lead in the championship race, and he is well on his way to his second consecutive championship. He led from the beginning, and with his eleventh win of the year, is showing that the drivers’ championship would be well-deserved this year. But it is not a done deal just yet…

Olympics Games
The Crawford Report was handed to the government this week, which detailed where these prominent people think Australian sports funding should go, and the government looks like taking it on board. This will be one of the better things this government has done. In a nutshell, the report indicates that future increases in sporting funding should be based more on participation rates.
               What this means is that many Olympic sports would not get increases in funding. And some sports (even non-Olympic ones) would get more. By the way, the report does not suggest that Olympic and elite sports get less, just that they don’t get the huge amounts more they are currently begging for. That is important to note.
               The Australian Olympic Committee are crying poor over this, claiming that this would spell the end of our domination of the world and that we may slip from fifth on the medal tally to twelfth. We have a population of 20 million people; getting in the top twenty on an Olympics medal tally is awesome. We punch well above our weight. But they think that the only way Australia can do any business is through Olympic success. They actually claim that Australia would not get any business and would be looked upon less in the world if we had less Olympic success. They also seem to be claiming that without Olympic heroes, not one of or children would do sport.
               Sorry, John Coates (AOC chairperson), but that’s rubbish. Many kids and parents look at the amount of time, effort and money it takes to be an Olympian and say forget it. On top of that, most Australian kids don’t have Olympians as their sporting heroes, and those Olympians who are looked up to are those in sports which already have high participation rates (like swimming). So the money instead is going to those sports who actually have good grass roots programmes. Programmes that encourage kids to actually do sport. Of course, things would be better if they funded Physical Education in schools, and included Physical Education as part of their national curriculum, but the government is, after all, made up of politicians and so we should be thankful for anything they actually do that is positive.
               If these other Olympic sports want more funding, then the answer is quite simple really – they should get out there and develop their own grass roots levels of the sport. Just taking money to get a gold medal at an Olympic Games, while it may have a feel-good factor, does nothing for Australian sporting participation. Reading the statistics (and it’s hard to do this because there are so many different lots of stats), Australia is either third (behind the USA and UK) or equal second (with the USA, behind the UK) (and both of those could well be wrong, by the way) in obesity rates, especially of our children. Yes, seeing a person win a gold medal may very well encourage a child to do that sport, but if there are not the grass roots support mechanisms to then nurture that child, they are not going to stick with the sport, and may end up so disillusioned that sport is given up all together. I do not know how many kids I have seen be burnt by gymnastics at a competition level, only to do nothing else in their lives.
               So, to the AOC, help do something about the lower levels of sport. If you do, then the higher levels will start to take care of themselves. Yes, there may be some pain as these sports establish themselves at this level, but in the long run everyone will benefit, and the sports themselves may be able to help their elite athletes go off to Olympic Games and World Championships, and not just rely on handouts from the government and their long-suffering parents, family and friends.
               This is the essential problem with the Olympics – they only care about the elite. Winners are grinners and losers… can go somewhere else. Whatever happened to Baron Pierre de Coubertin’s ideals of the competition being the thing? Oh yes, like so much else, the money is now all that matters. And so winners get the sponsors and get the money and those who are not winning gold medals… well, who cares? The media only cares about the winners or vilifying the losers. And only winners at the highest level. Everyone else in the sport might as well get stuffed. Volunteers are not really helped in their attempts to get the sports going, especially where kids are concerned. Who won the fifth division in your local sport? Chances are, if you didn’t know anyone on the team, you wouldn’t know. I don’t. Where’s the recognition for the effort they put in while working and juggling other commitments, whereas the elite athletes are often full-time sports people with all the advantages that confers? The only effort recognised is for the best of the best. No-one else’s hard work is even acknowledged.
               And then we ask why our children are not interested in sport and are getting fatter and participation rates are dropping, especially amongst teenagers.
               Let’s hope the Crawford Report and its outcomes go some small way to helping address this situation.

Other Sport
Cycling – Anna Meares won two gold medals in the Melbourne round of the World Cup, making three for Australia in the event. And Meares broke her neck two years ago! The woman is a machine. Not only that, but recent results seem to indicate that Australian cycling is on an upward swing at the moment.

That’s this view – November 16 through 23.

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