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Politics and sport

August 24th, 2004

You might have hoped, with the end of the Cold War and all, that we could have an Olympic games free of global politics[1] Not as far as the Oz is concerned, running this turgid piece of triumphalism from Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal. I doubt that many of the athletes he attempts to exploit would go along with him.

The Iraqis in particular have made vigorous protests over attempts by George Bush to score political points from their presence. Here’s what their coach has had to say

My problem is not with the American people. They are with what America has done – destroyed everything … The American army has killed so many people in Iraq. What is freedom when I go to the stadium and there are shootings on the road?

It’s not clear whether Henninger is arrogantly disregarding their protests or whether he wrote the piece earlier and the Oz has failed to keep up with the news.

fn1. Of course, as the troubles of several Australian teams have shown, there’s no way of getting away from the internal politics of sport.

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  1. Michael Burgess
    August 24th, 2004 at 10:33 | #1

    On politics and sport, a letter in Saturdays SMH raised some interesting issues. It argued that, since Apartheid era South African sporting teams were rightly banned from many international competitions because of the racist policies of their government, the same rational should be applied to Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia who won’t allow Women to compete at the Olympics.

    Another country which is a strong candidate for banning is North Korea. The counter argument is that this only encourages further isolation. This might be true in the North Korean case. However, where Muslim countries are concerned, it would, at least, have the virtue of emphasising to their population that such behaviour is unacceptable.

  2. August 24th, 2004 at 10:57 | #2

    It would be better all-round for partisan ideologists to keep politics out of sport.
    But, if the partisan battle is joined, it would be nice to see chronic critcs of the US, just once in a while, acknowledge the critical role the US force-system has played as a promoter of democracy in this century’s struggles against Nazi Prussian, Nipponist Japanese, Maoist Chinese and Soviet Russian opression and aggression.
    The US has been on the Right side of History in most of this century’s Big Fights. Whether its recent ventures in South West Asia have the same effect is an open question.
    One might also mention the handy contributions that US transnational companies that have made to global prosperity. US agribusiness has saved more people from starvation than any number of Aid Concerts or state-run agricultural organisations.
    US triumphalists, by the same token, would do well to look at the shabby record the US has in the treatment of its South American neigbours, not too mention reconsidering wrong-headed entanglements in the imperial administration of South Eastern Asia.

  3. Dave Ricardo
    August 24th, 2004 at 12:14 | #3

    Michael, what is the policy , or the practice, on selecting Israeli arabs in Israeli sporting teams?

    I’m not suggesting that they are discriminated against; I just want to know.

  4. Michael Burgess
    August 24th, 2004 at 13:42 | #4

    As far as I know they are selected. (Although it is worthwhile pointing out for those, who think that racism is mainly an Anglo-Saxon vice, that for many years, non-Croatians had a difficult time getting into the Sydney United/Croatia youth soccer team.) Also, I seem to recall that a mainly or solely Arabic team won the Israeli version of FA cup or something along these lines this year.

    I hope you are not implying by your comments (as many critics of Israel do) that Israel is a similar Apartheid state to that of South Africa or operates in the same type of morally deficient universe Saudi and other extremist Islamic societies operate in.

  5. Geoff Honnor
    August 24th, 2004 at 13:43 | #5

    Dave, no policy against but in practice there aren’t any – at least on this occasion. Half of the 36 person squad are migrants from the former Soviet Union plus two marathoners who are originally from Ethiopia. I’m not sure how Arab partcipation in the Israeli team would be viewed by other Arabs, but I suspect, not favourably. It would probably be the most powerful disincentive to participation.

  6. Dave Ricardo
    August 24th, 2004 at 14:05 | #6

    Michael, why would you think I was implying that Israel was an apartheid state like South Africa when I wrote “I’m not suggesting that they are discriminated against; I just want to know.”?

    Are you paranoid, obtuse, or just unable to read?

    On ethnic soccer teams, I think this has retarded the development of Australian soccer, but I don’t see it as racial discrimination. Australian soccer was set up post war by immigrants who formed their own ethnically based teams – including one with a Jewish base, the Hakoah Club in Sydney. Over the years, some stuck closely with having players from their own communities. Other clubs admitted players from outside their communities, motivated by a desire to win soccer competitions by having the bets players regardless of background and in some cases a lack of suitable community players. (It was hard for the St George Budapest club to fill their team with Hungarians.)

    The notion of ethnically based teams is unprofessional and is the major cause, IMO, of the dire current situation of professional Australian soccer. Other football codes have faced the same type of problem. Not all that long ago, you couldn’t get a game for certain Rugby League clubs in Sydney, or Australian football clubs in Melbourne if you weren’t a Catholic, and you couldn’t get a game with other clubs if you were a Catholic. Happily, those days are past.

  7. Homer Paxton
    August 24th, 2004 at 14:12 | #7

    Michael, I believe the arab team won the league as they were in the elimination round for the Champions league.

    I would suggest that Israel is more like the US deep south on their slow but inevitable slide to South Africa pre- De Klerk times however that is another story.

    Dave the game is football as it is known around the world although when I clumsily attempted to play it it was known as wogball.

  8. August 24th, 2004 at 14:49 | #8

    Michael,

    I wouldn’t say that the situation at Sydney United had much to do with a player’s Croatian heritage or not.

    The politics went a hell of a lot deeper than that.

    What it basically came down to is how much money a player’s family “donated” to the club.

    Generally speaking, a Herzegovinan Croat had to donate more than a Dalmatian Croat in order to get a start. Most Herzo’s didn’t care, they just went and played state league for Hurstville Zagreb.

    As the club started going to hell, they gave everyone and anyone a start if they were good enough. Even the odd Serb.

  9. August 24th, 2004 at 14:49 | #9

    Michael,

    I wouldn’t say that the situation at Sydney United had much to do with a player’s Croatian heritage or not.

    The politics went a hell of a lot deeper than that.

    What it basically came down to is how much money a player’s family “donated” to the club.

    Generally speaking, a Herzegovinan Croat had to donate more than a Dalmatian Croat in order to get a start. Most Herzo’s didn’t care, they just went and played state league for Hurstville Zagreb.

    As the club started going to hell, they gave everyone and anyone a start if they were good enough. Even the odd Serb.

  10. Michael Burgess
    August 24th, 2004 at 15:42 | #10

    Dave wrote,

    ‘Michael, why would you think I was implying that Israel was an apartheid state like South Africa when I wrote “I’m not suggesting that they are discriminated against; I just want to know.”?
    Are you paranoid, obtuse, or just unable to read?’

    Dave, I actually said I hope your not implying as is clearly the case with large numbers of people on the left of politics unfortunately. Homers comments on Israel being like the Deep South are a case in point.

    Yes, Arabs might be treated with great suspicion by many Israeli’s, including young newly arrived migrants in the police force etc who have been in the country far less than the people they now have power over. However, these actions are somewhat more understandable than those of white racists in the Deep South or South Africa given the recent appalling violence against Israeli citizens and given the anti-Semitism which is rife in the Arab world.

    On real football, I accept that the politics of it and background to ethnic clubs is complex. However, I supported Sydney Olympic for 22 long years since arriving in Australia and rightly or wrongly (my paranoia maybe coming into play again) I always felt like somewhat of a second class citizen not being Greek.

    Thanks for the background Darp that was interesting.

  11. August 24th, 2004 at 17:31 | #11

    I hear you.

    I’m not Croatian and have always supported Syd Cro/Utd. Played a couple of seasons with a feeder club of theirs, Dalmacija.

    I’ve never in any way felt inferior, different or second class. When I finally visited Croatia a few years back I was practically forced to spend a few days with the rello’s of every former team mate.

    Greeks have a different view on outsiders. Welcoming to a point, but …don’t even think about marrying their daughters.

    And there is that whole chauvanist chip on the shoulder of “we founded western civillisation and invented everything known to man but haven’t managed to sweet FA since”.

    Excluding Euro 2004 of course.

  12. Michael Burgess
    August 24th, 2004 at 17:49 | #12

    Actually as someone from Manchester, I would have to say that it was rels of mine who founded Western Civilisation with the start of the Industrial revolution and the formation of the Manchester Soccer team. And, let us not forget that the series cracker was made in Manchester.

  13. Dave Ricardo
    August 24th, 2004 at 17:54 | #13

    “don’t even think about marrying their daughters.”

    What about doing someting else to their daughters?

  14. wbb
    August 24th, 2004 at 17:58 | #14

    Turgid and also wrong. Haiti is at the olympics.

  15. Smiley More
    September 1st, 2004 at 15:50 | #15

    I think USA has dominated over alot countries and wants in a blunt kind of way to rule the world. Look at what Australia has been pulled into, the free trade agreement. What will the poor people get?

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