Australia Must Win The Asian Cup To Save Face

Australia is currently very bad at soccer/football.

According to the recently released FIFA rankings, the Socceroos now sit outside the top 100 nations, in 102nd position – our lowest ranking ever.

We are so bad that countries which didn’t exist five years ago, (like Montenegro – 58th) are now better than us.

On top of this, countries that until recently did not have any discernible form of government and could have been classified as failed states (Rwanda – 90th; Haiti – 68th; Angola – 81st; and Sierra Leone – 84th), are also better than us.

To make matters worse, the best team in our geographical region (Japan) is ranked 53rd. This means if Socceroos win the Asian Cup in 2015 (which is unlikely on current form), we probably won’t even crack the top fifty.

*  *  *  *  *  *

While rankings are largely irrelevant to what happens during the 90 minutes in which a match takes place, they are nonetheless instructive.

In particular, the poor state of Asian football shown in the rankings puts paid to any notion The Asian Century extends to sport.

The Asian Century is a phrase used by Kevin Rudd and any wanker trying to sound like a member of the global intelligentsia, which refers to the projected 21st-century dominance of Asian politics and culture.

So I said to Xi Jinping - "don't touch it if you can't afford it"
So I said to Xi Jinping – “don’t touch it if you can’t afford it”

In simpler terms, it means Asia – and China in particular – is pretty much going to run the show from now on.

This is probably true in an economic sense. Maybe even in a cultural sense, but on current form the Asian Century of dominance will not extend to the major sporting codes. That is, unless table tennis, badminton and weightlifting become globally popular sports within the next nine decades…

*  *  *  *  *  *

The Gillard Government’s Asian Century white paper, released in October 2012, set out 25 objectives for Australia to leverage recent economic growth in Asia.

Perhaps a more important policy document for this current government would involve harnessing recent sporting growth in Asia and applying it to our own national sides.

John Howard’s tenure (1996-2007) coincided with arguably the greatest era of sport in Australian history. Needless to say, since his departure, things have been decidedly shaky.

If Prime Minister Abbott is truly interested in pressing the reset button and turning around his recent dip in popularity, there would be no greater place to start than a Royal Commission into our sporting decline.

*  *  *  *  *  *

Australia is a part of Asia now, apparently, and we must cement our standing within this territory, if we are to thrive in both a sporting and non-sporting context.

Forget everything you learned in Kindergarten
Forget everything you learned in Kindergarten

At the moment, Australia views itself through a 20th Century sporting prism. Cricket, rugby league, rugby union and AFL are our staples – and while soccer is certainly growing thanks to a strengthened domestic league and Foxtel’s long-term strategy to acquire the rights to the English Premier League, it’s still not quite there.

The Asian Cup is of critical importance. We should be doing everything we can to win this competition; to flex our muscles in the region. It’s a wonderful opportunity to exercise soft power over our Asian neighbours.

Embracing Asia means embracing everything Asian; immersing ourselves in the orient – beating Asia at their own game. I’m not talking about eating a salmon & avocado sushi roll during your lunch break, but something bigger and longer term.

We should be looking to invest in not just soccer/football, but all the aforementioned sports that are popular in the region. Indeed, this should certainly be one of the focuses of a proposed Abbott Government white paper into the decline of sport in Australia.

Needed more sport references
Needed more sport references

If Australia wants to have a win-win cooperation with Asia, we must mature our mindset and embrace the bigger picture. We must look past the low-hanging fruit of NRL, rugby union and AFL, and embrace Asia and we must win the Asian Cup if we are going to be respected in the region.

The concept of ‘saving face’ guides daily life in Asia. Unfortunately, Australia’s recent performances have led to a dramatic loss of football face, with Japan now clearly the dominant soccer power in Asia.

We must win the Asian Cup to save face.

By Ben Shine and Dave Edwards

EXCLUSIVE: Season 3 of House of Cards Leaked Scripts

Fans of good television the world over are jumping with joy following the news that Season Three of Netflix’s House of Cards will be available to watch/download/pirate in February 2015.

The announcement was made via twitter: a single post with the words “A special message from the White House”, accompanied by a brief video of President Frank Underwood looking menacingly at the camera – in slow motion – while boarding Air Force One with his wife Claire. The video finishes with the House of Cards logo and the release date “02 27 15” appearing on screen.

The short message doesn’t give away any more than it has to. It whets the appetite for more House of Cards, without hinting what will go down in the upcoming season.

Avid fans of the drama want more. We can’t wait until three months until to find out what will be the fate of Doug Stamper, Rachael Posner, et al.

While our core business is, of course, the production of esoteric/elitist/obscure sports opinion articles, The Public Apology has managed to get its hands on a leaked copy of the Season Three HOC script.

We believe that it is in the public interest for us to share some excerpts with our readers.

Please see below for a sneak peek at some of the key scenes in Episode 1.

*  *  *  *  *  *

Have we seen the last of Stamper, or will he make a surprise return in S3?
Have we seen the last of Stamper, or will he make a surprise return in S3?

House of Cards Season 3 Episode 1 – New beginnings, old friends

Scene One: the Oval Office

Frank Underwood sits at his desk. He is wearing a suit and appears switched on, alert, yet slightly agitated. Around him stands several of his closest advisers.

Seth Grayson, the President’s press secretary, begins to run down this President’s diary for the day. A murmur of phone calls and office noise can be heard in the background.

“At 7:30am we have a phone hook up with the Joint Chiefs of staff on the emerging situation in the Golan Heights, then at 7:50am the National Security Advisers will be in for a briefing. At 8:30am we will be taking official portraits,” he says.

Frank interrupts: “Forget the portraits, we have a country to run. And more importantly, we need to fill our executive positions. How are our choices for Vice President shaping up?”

Christine Gallagher, another adviser to the President, looks down at a clipboard and begins to run through a list of names.

Christine: “We have a shortlist of ten, all of whom are being vetted as we speak. First, there’s Madigan from Delaware…

“Too old and boring,” Frank interjects.

Christine: “Then we have Zieberman from Ohio”

“He has too many skeletons. We don’t need more scandal. We need stability.”

Seth: “What about a woman. Someone who is young and fresh. How about Jacqueline Sharp?

Frank: “We will need her help with Congress. There is no point shifting her out.

A fine Congresswoman, but no VP
A fine Congresswoman, but no VP

Frank, now frustrated: “None of these candidates will do.

Frank turns to the camera:

“This should be an easy decision for me. Get someone into the Vice Presidency who I can manipulate. Someone who will do my bidding. I may be the most powerful man in the free world, but everyone general needs foot soldiers.

Returning to his advisers,

Frank: “We need someone fresh. A real person.”

Seth: What about Walterson from Florida? Successful businesswoman, will help you gain credibility in the south…

Frank: “No good, she tried to double-cross me over education reforms. She can’t be trusted.”

Now exasperated, “If only Doug were here.”

Voice raising, he shouts to his assistant in the next room. “WILL SOMEONE GET A HOLD OF STAMPER. WHERE IN ALL OF CAROLINA’S PALMETTOS IS HE HIDING?”

Frank turns to the camera again.

“I need Doug. I can’t focus without him and don’t have a devil of a clue as to where he is. It just boggles the mind. Why would he go missing at such a critical time?

“At first I thought he had hit the bottle again, but now I am beginning to worry something sinister has happened. There is foul play here, I can smell it.”

Edward Meechum, the President’s security detail, steps forward from his position at the door.

“Sir, we have the FBI tracing his calls, vehicle, bank records for anything suspicious. But still no sign.”

Frank: “I find that hard to believe. Meechum, we need to find him as a matter of urgency, lest the press get a hold of this.

Theme music plays.

Intro credits roll.

*  *  *  *  *  *

Scene Four: At an airport somewhere in China

Xander Feng’s private plane touches down on a foggy runway.

The camera cuts to Feng walking across the tarmac, in a crisp suit and slicked back hair.

Feng, compromised
Feng, compromised

As he approaches a black luxury vehicle, another suited Chinese man approaches him. Behind the suited man is a dozen Chinese police.

Feng: (in Mandarin)  Mr Liang, what a pleasure to see you and the welcoming party. I trust you have made arrangement for my safe passage?

Liang: (in Mandarin) Mr Feng, there is a strong desire within the upper echelons of the Government and a public expectation that will you be tried and executed for treason.

Feng (leaning in close, whispering): Yes, and that is why I have deposited $17 million USD into Governer Chen’s Swiss bank account.

Liang: I know Mr Feng, and you will be duly exonerated, but first we must go through the motions.

Mr Liang motions to the police to arrest Xander Feng.

*  *  *  *  *  *

Scene Eleven (closing scene): A forest somewhere in Virginia

Scene opens with panning shot of the forest at dawn. Through the trees the outline of what appears to be a human corpse can be seen.

The shot changes to a close-up of a prone Doug Stamper, lying on his back. His eyes are closed and dried blood is caked on his forehead and cheek.

The camera slowly zooms in on his face, towards his closed eyes.

Suddenly, Stamper’s eyes dart open. His eyeballs are alert and lively.

He looks straight at the camera.

Theme Music plays.

End credits roll.

David Pocock And The Decline of The Activist Athlete

Former Wallabies captain David Pocock was arrested on the weekend. His crime? Protesting a planned coalmine in North West New South Wales.

In an era where athletes are arrested for all kinds of things – alleged rape, drink driving, the distribution of illegal substances, match-fixing, etc – Pocock’s misdemeanour seems refreshingly rare.

However, back in the 1960s and 70s, athlete activists were extremely common. It was a period of great social change and many (mostly American) athletes took the opportunity to highlight a specific cause, ranging from Vietnam to the civil rights movement.

Interestingly, in Australia, the athlete who reveals a flair for political idealism, or an outspoken empathy for marginalised minority groups, often attracts a bemused reaction. Pocock is certainly the exception rather than the rule.

Indeed, idealism is often seen as subversive – and conservative sporting bodies and societies are generally fearful of any form of subversion.

*  *  *  *  *  *

Activism
Activism

Post-career activism works well, in that a respected athlete can leverage their profile and successful career to push an agenda.

We’ve seen plenty of former sports stars go into politics, or lend their name of a specific cause, over the years – most recently and hilariously in the form of Palmer United Party senator Glenn Lazarus.

Former NRL legend Darren Lockyer was hired by the coal seam gas industry in a bid to sway public perception on drilling and show people “the truth” behind CSG. At least Lockyer had the good sense to wait until his career was over before passionately getting behind such a controversial, divisive issue.

However, in 2014, it is somewhat risky to be an activist mid-sporting career. It’s just something you don’t see a lot of here in Australia, where sport is seen as separate from politics and social injustice. It’s a strange separation of powers.

The question, really, is should athletes keep their idealistic thoughts to themselves until retirement? Simply shut their mouths and concentrate on getting the job done on the field?

It’s different with actors, I’d wager. There’s nothing more cliche than an A-lister speaking at a climate change summit on the need to act now, or getting behind Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, etc. This is what they are expected to do in between movies; it also helps establish their personal brand.

Leo: on brand
Leo: on brand

But Pocock was the Wallabies captain, which makes this all even more rare. Rugby union is a conservative sport where rareness is frowned upon, from the schoolboy ranks right up to the elite level.

The ARU has made this abundantly clear this afternoon by issuing a “warning” to Pocock over his involvement in the protest.

“While we appreciate David has personal views on a range of matters, we’ve made it clear that we expect his priority to be ensuring he can fulfil his role as a high-performance athlete,” an ARU statement said.

In other words, shut up and play footy.

*  *  *  *  *  *

Just to be clear, I’m right behind Pocock and everything he stands for.

Pocock’s arrest will presumably invite plenty of punters to say that he “should be focusing on his rehab instead of hugging trees,” but personally I think Pocock’s activism is a good thing for sport, and for society in general.

Trees are important
Trees are important

Clearly he is dedicated to social and environmental change – to the point where he is prepared to head out on a Sunday to a state forest in North West NSW to chain himself to a digger with 20 other non-footy people. He also plays rugby for Australia (when fit), which makes him the ideal Australian, really.

This isn’t a one-off; Pocock has been throwing his support behind several causes ever since he first broke onto the scene. It’s not for show; he’s really into it. He goes on Q and A and holds his own on a range of subjects against both sides of politics. He’s even launched a charity during his career – the eightytwentyvision.org foundation – which aims to improve the lives of those in rural Zimbabwe.

Basically, he’s an educated Gen Y man who genuinely cares about the world.

Pocock is a rare unit if you view the role of athlete through a very narrow prism. In reality, he’s just channeling the likes of Muhammad Ali and Jackie Robinson in years gone past.

By Dave Edwards