It was without a hint of irony that A-League boss Greg O’Rourke declared the Melbourne Victory marquee signing of Keisuke Honda a great victory for football and its place as Australia’s only true multicultural sport.

“The A-League is only 14 years old, but it has been built on the back of ethnic clubs, people who have come here over decades. Helped to build our unique landscape,” he declared.

“Asia is our neighbour. It’s fantastic were taking this next step to bring Asia to the A-League.”

He has a point.

The AFL might take a Sherrin to China, the game of cricket enjoys great appeal and viewership throughout the Commonwealth, and sports like hockey are long-standing Olympic sports with a worldwide following.

But none of these sports come close to football and its ability to draw an international audience, or act as a medium for exploring and strengthening political ties with other countries, particularly in Asia.

None of these sports have anywhere near the track record of helping whole communities of immigrants settle and ground themselves in Australian life that football does.

None of these sports have provided those same communities such a vehicle for actively giving back to Australian society than football

So it begs the question, why is multiculturalism and ethnicity in Australian football only paraded when it suits the FFA’s agenda?

Just last month, the FFA’s racist National Club Identity Policy forced Avondale FC – a club with Italian roots – to cover up the Italian tricolour on the back of their jersey with black tape for their FFA Cup fixture against Marconi Stallions. 

The following week’s FFA Cup fixture between Rockdale City Suns FC – a club with Macedonian roots – and Sydney FC could have been mistaken for a Balkan food and drink festival judging by the coverage of the game.

It would take a lot more than the 680 words in this column to completely unpack Football Federation Australia’s complicated relationship with the multicultural and ethnic components of the Australian game.

However, the one element of that relationship that continues to frustrate is the incessant need for the FFA to show off the sport’s multicultural elements – but only from a 'safe' distance.

Perhaps O’Rourke would have been more apt if he had of said that the A-League was built on top of and all over ethnic clubs and people who have come here over decades and help build our unique landscape.

It’s a bit like going to the zoo.

Sure, the lion is a majestic creature when viewed from the safety of the barrier, but fall into the pit and it will rip you to shreds.

The FFA has caged the ‘lion’, but it still wants to showcase it. To run with this analogy, the FFA Cup is the zoo.

It is the one constant, acceptable medium through which the FFA can showcase the game’s ethnic and multicultural aspects from a safe, palatable distance.

With the added benefits of running through the A-League pre-season and at the tail end of a long, exhausting National Premier Leagues and community club campaign, the odds are well and truly stacked against the part-timers.

This ensures that the chances of one of these clubs actually winning the competition are slim to none, with only the rigged nature of the draw ensuring that the ethnic sideshow can last until the semi-finals at least.

After all, you would not want to give the lion any wild ideas about escaping the cage.

The FFA Cup remains an integral part of football’s future in Australia and the delivery of the competition is undoubtedly one of the successes of this FFA regime’s tenure over the game.

It is a truly unique competition in Australia’s sporting landscape and it should be treasured by all football supporters, players, volunteers and administrators.

However, football’s true multicultural nature deserves so much more of a platform to express itself.

As long as the FFA continues to censor what is and isn’t appropriate, the sport of football will never be able to completely fulfil its role as Australia’s true sporting champion of multiculturalism in Australian society. 

Categories: Opinion | Football Life

multiculturalism, ffa cup

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