On any given day if you were to come up to me in the street and ask me if I was a Newcastle Jets fan, I would puff up my chest and answer you with a very proud yes. I may even follow it up with an off-key rendition of “Joely Griffiths Walks On Water”. Unfortunately, today I feel different.
Just the other day I was defending the honour of the supporters of Newcastle’s mighty Jets to my father, an avid Central Coast supporter and purveyor of saucy meats (Marinator…), in an effort to convince him to make the trip up the highway to accompany me to Turton Rd the next time an F3 derby is on Jets turf. I feel like I was starting to make some headway and then this: http://www.theherald.com.au/news/local/sport/football-soccer/ffa-sees-red-over-jets-fans/2393578.aspx
Guys, you’re not helping.
Not only are you killing my arguments against my dad, you’re also forcing Australian football to take a couple of steps back after working so hard to cover the ground that it has since the birth of the A-League.
Though the majority of the Australian sporting world has come around and are accepting of football’s place among the big codes in this country, unfortunately, there are still a few dinosaurs of the old league that will do anything they can to keep the wogball down. The phrase “smell the fear” comes to mind, but that’s another story for another day.
This prehistoric attitude was evidenced in a recent letter to the editor in the Newcastle Herald, a paper which can be very proud of its coverage of the round ball. In this letter, the writer was not subtle at all in voicing his opinion of Hunter Sports Group’s highly praised merge of the governing bodies of both of Newcastle’s premiere sporting teams, the Jets and the Knights. Though the exact wording escapes me, I can recall with very little doubt the terms “ashamed”, “disgrace” and quite possibly even “sissies” were used to describe the action the Knights have taken in support of the Jets.
I know this attitude is now quite clearly that of an ever fading minority, but the fact is it still exists. The FFA and the A-League clubs have made up some tremendous ground in the last 7 years and unfortunately, it’s behavior like this which forces us to take a few steps back.
As I said, I am an avid Jets supporter. The golden scarves hanging on my doorknob are evidence of that, the ticket stubs that litter my desk and table are evidence of that and the brand new blue and red striped jersey that is on the floor next to, but not in, the clothes hamper (Sorry Elese) is evidence of that. But this sort of behavior can’t be condoned. Thankfully, I’m not the only Jets fan of this opinion. In fact I’m one of thousands. And even Squadron leader Tim Verschelden has been very open in his criticism of these actions.
Verschelden was quick to denounce the troublemakers as a few bad apples and not representative of his Squadron, and good on him. The Squadron are making a name for themselves as one of the loudest, proudest and most creative and hard-working supporter groups in the country. It’s heartbreaking to see their efforts become a footnote to the actions of few misbehavers.
The perpetrators will argue that football is a game of passion and this sort of behavior is not uncommon amongst the firms and ultras in the bigger leagues in the world, but they would do well to understand that is not a part of the game in Australia. Football is a game for everyone, especially in Newcastle. And when families of Jets supporters are turning away at the gate out of disgust or even fear, this has to be recognised and the behavior needs to stop before all the great work of the FFA and our beloved clubs is undone and we’re back to square on again.
Thankfully, not all football supporters are there just to sink beers in the sun and start some ruckus. And it’s thanks to the efforts of people like Tim Verschelden and his beloved Squadron that despite a few rough headlines, we’re still all able to wear our colours with pride, without them being blackened by the media’s tar brush.