A Short Analysis of a Grubby Act

Chances are, as an Australian sports fan, you don’t know who Nigel Pearson is.

I follow the English Premier League quite closely and even I didn’t know who he was until last weekend. For those not in the know, he is, or quite possibly now was, the manager of cellar dwellers Leicester City.

He’s been around the traps for a while it seems, this Nigel, as you would expect for someone managing an EPL team, but he only came to my attention on Sunday morning after a particularly unsavoury incident in his team’s 1-0 loss to Crystal Palace.

With his side trailing and not much time left on the clock, Pearson was unceremoniously and completely accidentally cleaned up by Crystal Palace midfielder James McArthur after a tackle from a Leicester player.

Initially Pearson appeared to take it well, smiling at the Scotsman, but things took a bizarre turn when he wrapped his hands around the innocent fellow’s throat just before helping him to his feet. He then held onto his jersey, preventing him from returning to the contest.

It is not so much the jersey holding that bothers me (but I do wonder what would happen in that instance if Leicester had equalised, surely the goal couldn’t stand?), it is the wrapping of the hands around the throat.

No matter how softly or jovially done, seizing someone by the throat is the mark of a true psychopath.

Some chokings are warranted, though
Some chokings are warranted, though

I can understand it if someone has sexually assaulted your girlfriend or loved one, or you’ve caught them selling heroin to your twelve year old kids, but other than in cases of extreme provocation it has absolutely no place – and most definitely not on a sporting field.

Like a tracksuit wearing character straight out of ‘Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,’ Pearson then returned to his post accompanied by the obligatory sniff, as it to say; nothing to it, did what I had to, or perhaps I am so fucking high on cocaine right now I couldn’t give two fucks.

That sniff, more than anything else, summed up the type of character Nigel Pearson must be.

It brings to mind the famous incident of Simon Katich v. Michael Clarke, and as much as people bemoaned the dropping of Katich, I don’t blame Clarke for a second for not wanting him in the team.

In that fateful moment Katich was no doubt fuelled by an anger deep within and probably by more than one or two chips on his shoulder. It is slightly more forgivable than the egotistical, Patrick Bateman-esque act of Pearson, but only just. I don’t imagine Katich sniffed after the incident, but he very well may have.

In the sporting world, there is a fine line between being a loveable loose cannon and just “being a c*nt” and as soon as you grab somebody by the throat, you have crossed it.

By Alasdair McClintock

The A League Needs To Be Bold And Beautiful

On occasions, Australian football can be Beautiful. On Sunday morning in Riyadh, it was Bold. To succeed in the mainstream, it will need to be both. Ben Shine reports.

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On Sunday afternoon 17,000 sun-drenched fans at the SFS watched a uncharacteristically disciplined Sydney FC side methodically dispatch a Central Coast Mariners side short of confidence. Among the crowd was Ronn Moss – otherwise known around the world as Ridge Forrester, a character from the long running Soap Opera the Bold and the Beautiful.

In a week where Australian football reached dizzying heights with the Wanderers Asian Champions League triumph, the presence of this quasi-famous soapie star at an A League game was a sharp reminder of the glaring shortcomings in our local game.

For all its growth, for the A League and soccer football to be accepted in the Australian mainstream, it needs more soap opera.

Just like TPA Chief Executive Dave J. Edwards has argued that Rugby Union needs a good scandal, for the A League to succeed it will need to occupy the back pages, as well as the front pages.

More SCANDAL; not more SKANDO
More SCANDAL; not more SKANDO

Rugby league, and to a lesser extent the AFL, does a fantastic job of this. Despite diminishing entertainment returns on the actual field of play, the NRL has a canny knack of sustaining the public’s interest by forever embroiling itself in a series of off-field scandals.

For years it has seemed the NRL has a monopoly on low-brow, tawdry soap operas. Match-fixing. Assault. Drugs. Pissing in one’s own mouth etc etc.

This soap opera distracts from the game itself – but perversely that works in the NRL’s favour, helping to attract wider media interest to the sport. Like a philandering Karl Kennedy from Neighbours, Rugby League keeps on playing up, and yet like a loyal Susan, we always take him back.

If football wants to mix it with the big boys, it’s time the A League started eating away at the NRL’s lion’s share of the scandal market. It’s unrealistic to think this will happen overnight, but if the A League makes a few small adjustments, and borrows liberally from the script of popular soap operas, they could snaffle a few more column inches in Sydney Confidential.

First, the A League needs characters. Flawed characters, specifically. The next marquee at Sydney FC should not only be great at football, but he should also have well-documented substance abuse problems. Del Piero was too clean. Too family-friendly. Too approachable.

"All Night" Dwight was a smart, but the A League has lost its way in recent years.
“All Night” Dwight was a start, but the A League has lost its way in recent years.

The A League also needs conflict. Not confected derbies, but a good old fashioned personal feuds between players, coaches or owners. I’m talking Melbourne City’s John van’t Schip calling Melbourne Victory’s Kevin Muscat a yellow-bellied rat f*cker – to his face – prior to kick-off, and then letting the pair have at it.

Like a good soap opera, there will also need to be some form of sexual infidelity or scandal. Whether it is happening or not, I think the world is ready for a coach-player homosexual relationship that is exposed after a player revolt on team selection.

Finally, a much loved character – who we all had assumed was long gone – should surprise us all by coming back. Like Harold Bishop in Neighbours, imagine the look on the faces of the Ramsay Street locals fans when Mark Viduka pulls on a Newcastle Jets jersey and started posting-up in the box just like in his Dinamo Zagreb days.

A formidable, yet traditional Number 9
A traditional, yet formidable Number 9

Rather than simply feting soap opera stars at a Sunday afternoon fixture, the A League head honchos should be sitting down with the likes of Ronn Moss and picking his brain. After decades working on the Bold and the Beautiful, he knows a thing or two about garnering eyeballs.

Instead, rather foolishly, it seems the A League is intent to walk a lonely road – trying to make it into the mainstream on the merits of the sport alone. Even Ronn Moss knows that good looks don’t get you everywhere. You need a juicy storyline. Preferably one with sexual overtones.

By Ben Shine

The FFA Cup is the Best Thing That Has Ever Happened in Australian Football

Forget John Aloisi’s penalty. Forget making the second round of the World Cup in Germany. Forget just about everything Tim Cahill has ever done.

The FFA Cup is the best thing that has ever happened in Australian football (see headline – not hyperbole) and I will tell you why: South Springvale SC.

A self proclaimed ‘pub team’, South Springvale went on a giant killing run just to qualify for the bloody thing and have just slain another giant, South Cardiff (maybe not a giant in the grand scheme of things, but it’s all relative isn’t it?), to progress to the round of 16.

To sum this team up, their captain didn’t realise the competition they won in order to qualify – the Dockerty Cup – even provided a pathway to doing so. I imagine that must have been a delightful little surprise. Like discovering with a bit of yoga and a sturdy laundry basket, one can actually fellate oneself!

The possibilities...
The possibilities…

The reason this is all so fantastic for the future of Australian football is not just because it provides the romantic theatre of an underdog performing on the big stage, but because these blokes are genuine part-timers. There isn’t a player amongst them who is living off his craft and finally the weekends, supposedly wasted chasing a ball around a bumpy suburban park, have paid off in some tangible sense.

The girlfriends lost; the Friday night booze sessions abandoned early; the absolute lack of sympathy when you come limping into work on a Monday – they have now all been worth it for this one shot at the big show.

I am someone who has never played a competitive fixture of the round-ball game in his life, but am now seriously considering signing on to a club next year. How hard can it be? I’m a tall guy, I can just stand in the box and head-butt anything that comes my way. Sure I might get a red card or two, but fuck it, score enough goals and all is forgiven.

My slightly delusional attitude will no doubt be indicative of every 25-35 year old male in this country who is finally coming to terms with the fact he will never be a professional sportsman. We all have our reasons why we didn’t make it and I assure you very few will admit they just weren’t good enough.

It’s either injuries, bad luck, or a European drug trafficking charge that stand in your way, and in a very real sense this is often the case. How many talented guys do you know who didn’t ‘make it’ because they didn’t really try? And how many less than talented guys are running around in first grade because they had little else to do?

"He could have made it all the way"
“He could have made it all the way”

The FFA creates a whole new opportunity for a generation of frustrated wannabes who didn’t quite cut the mustard. Suddenly there is a chance, however slim, of playing in a game that actually means something once again.

The great tragedy is that football/soccer is the only game in which the concept will actually work. Let’s face it, there are too many grubs running about in the lower levels of rugby union, rugby league and Aussie Rules to let those teams wrangle with upper echelon. They would adopt a I can’t be them, so I’m going to fuck them up mentality that could potentially end careers and I have no doubt is responsible for 90% of (non-sexual) nightclub incidents involving footballers.

So I am wholeheartedly getting behind South Springvale SC. Even thought I have absolutely no idea where in Victoria Springvale is. I will bleed for this club. I will arc up for this club. I will even buy the jersey of this club, because in three years when no one remembers who they are, just think of how fucking niche and hip that will be.

By Alasdair McClintock