Relishing sin and scandal

March 28, 2018

Cricket fans make fun of football's divers, but after the ball tampering fiasco maybe they should worry about their own backyard. Picture: AAP

Cameron Bancroft and his blatant breaking of the rules highlight every sport has its problems. Picture: AAP

Fear not — this isn’t another sanctimonious take about how badly Steve Smith and his band of Aussie ‘‘cheaters’’ let down the Australian public and cricket fans across the world.

Every possible position has been taken on one of the biggest sporting controversies of our lifetime — just how bad the actions of those involved were is up to you.

But what was intriguing was the glee with which football fans received the news, and revelled on cricket’s darkest day.

My Twitter timeline — heavily slanted towards local fans of the world game — was up and about, taking pot shot after pot shot at the incident.

It struck as symptomatic of how inferior football fans feel in Australia; constantly told their sport has problems and is comparatively unimportant to society, to see the crown jewel of a national team in such hot water was a boost.

But why take such pleasure in another sport’s failings?

It’s understandable to find the lighter side of the situation and discuss the ramifications, but the leap to use the ball tampering saga to try and prop up football felt petty.

How damaging the actions of Smith, his leadership crew and Cameron Bancroft were really has no impact on football.

The positives or shortcomings of football seemingly aren’t altered by the incident, so why did some of the sport’s biggest fans get so much out of it?

But reflecting on what cricket and football means to our country and the values associated with the respective sports, perhaps there is more of a link than initially meets the eye.

Guido Tresoldi, who blogs about football and how it can highlight Australia’s relationship to cultural differences, opened my eyes to the triumphant reaction with an explanatory blog.

Simply put, cricket represents being Australian — and cheating is its antithesis.

Plenty of parallels can be drawn between this and diving in football; one of the main knocks of the world game is this element of deception as not the way things should be done, in Australia especially as well as sport globally.

The sporting mainstream is quick to point to this as one of football’s downfalls — so how will cricket fans respond to a more damaging cheating controversy right on their doorstep?

Football fans in Australia might carry themselves as somewhat inferior, but think about the prevailing perceptions of the respective sports.

The Australian cricket team — representing the nation, unifying as the team the whole country gets behind.

It plays in the spirit of the game — humble in victory and gallant in defeat.

The current bunch might have ventured away from these idealistic principles, but the overwhelming view of cricket remains it being the gentleman’s game.

Football on the other hand?

Divers, constantly trying to deceive the referee.

At best a third-tier sport, which is only truly nationally relevant maybe twice every four years — once when the Socceroos qualify for the World Cup and, again, when they square off in the world’s biggest sporting tournament.

Media takes far more of an interest in crowd trouble than the A-League or even the national team. And while football fans know their sport’s reputation of constant fan violence is a misconception, it hurts to constantly be told your passion is not fit for the sporting landscape due to this off-field trouble and, on the whole, isn’t worthy of following.

So while reacting with such pleasure at another sport’s reputation taking such a massive hit might seem like a low blow, perhaps it represents the sporting public realising every sport has its impurities.

If cricket is held to account the same way football players are for far less serious crimes, you can see how cricket’s dark day was a bit brighter for some.

●What a night of drama it was at McEwen Reserve in Shepparton on Saturday.

From the start the Goulburn Valley Suns played some creative and entertaining football, but were struck down late in the piece to lose 4-3 after leading 3-1.

It turned from a fun evening of impressive attacking football to an angry, emotionally charged night as a string of dubious refereeing decisions went against the Suns.

Credit has to go to Box Hill United for lifting and taking the game to its opponent in the late stages, but replays of both penalty decisions that took United from 3-1 down to 3-3 suggest the Suns were desperately unlucky to concede either spot-kick.

After United found a winner with the last kick of the game, emotions were high and GV officials had to clear the fired-up spectators from the referee’s path to the sheds post-match.

Coach Craig Carley and captain Adam Gatcum were straight in the referee’s room after the final whistle seeking clarifications — but the coach said the explanations didn’t leave his troops feeling any better.

‘‘The boys were very, very angry in terms of the decisions; it’s not just that referee, the standard of refereeing at this level needs to be better,’’ he said.

‘‘Things like being offside from a goal kick, the referees at the local level need to know you can’t be called for that, let alone at what is supposedly the second tier of football in the state.

‘‘We were obviously disappointed and angry not to win.’’

Referees don’t win and lose matches and teams that think they do often aren’t in the best shape.

But Carley makes a more fundamental point about the refereeing system — if they don’t know or can’t actively apply simple rules junior footballers are brought up to know, how can you really trust them to make the big calls with the game on the line?

The Suns know they have plenty of work to do, but they’d be in a far better position than they are with even an average rub of the green.

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