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An Outlandish Display Of Warped Masculinity

13/02/2016 6:35 AM AEDT | Updated July 15, 2016 12:51
Scott Barbour via Getty Images
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 06: Wanderers fans in the crowd let off flares as police officers look on during the round 18 A-League match between the Melbourne Victory and Western Sydney Wanderers at Etihad Stadium on February 6, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. The FFA (Football Federation Australia) has fined the Western Sydney Wanderers $50,000 and given a suspended three-point A-League deduction after finding the club guilty of bringing the game into disrepute after 25 flares and detonators were set off during the match. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

Last week's deplorable display from within the RBB (Red and Black Bloc) illustrates a disturbing point -- there will always be those who cannot accept Australian football on its own terms.

In case you missed it, a subset of dickheads from within the Western Sydney Wanderers supporter group ripped 19 flares and set off detonators during last Saturday's clash with the Victory. WSW has subsequently been slapped with a $50,000 fine and a suspended three-point deduction.

It can only be assumed that this was some kind of outlandish display of warped masculinity. While they did this, however, they held up a sign which read: "We are not here to take part, we are here to take over".

A lot has been written about the mob mentality of ultras groups and how their practices in effect have absolutely nothing to do with football, but rather use football as a vehicle to act like troglodytes.

While the issues which run deep within the ultras are most definitely unique and confined to that set, in a lot of ways they present an underlying mentality which runs in the complete opposite direction the game's custodians are trying to pursue. It's the idea that Australian football is somehow not "legitimate" -- whatever that means.

To the ultras, "legitimate" means pyro, detonators, and so many smoke bombs that football can't actually take place. They see their method of support as the only legitimate method of support, and therefore try to impose those methods on the local League.

It is primarily driven by ego, by the steadfast belief (whether consciously or unconsciously) that they know best for the game -- completely disregarding any and all evidence to the contrary.

While the hooligans are not driven by any sort of altruism on their part, there has always been a subsection of Australian football followers who see Europe as the template that the game should follow.

There is, however, a difference between taking elements from other Leagues to improve the local game and viewing anything the local game does differently from Europe as illegitimate. It's an underlying attitude which dismisses the notion that it may be a touch difficult to implement full promotion and relegation between the A-League and National Premier League.

The fact that it doesn't take place is just wrong, to those who view Australian football through a European lens. The fact the League was set up on a franchise basis doesn't sit well with those who are used to clubs with a more organic history.

The concept of finals and a Grand Final just feels contrived, and only serves to paint the league as plastic. You'd never see finals and Grand Finals in Europe, after all. And don't even get them started on the salary cap -- despite the financially precarious position football clubs in the local League find themselves in.

It's also what drives news producers to show highlights of the English Premier League before the A-League in news bulletins.

It all comes from a position that Europe is the default position for what football should be.

Tim Cahill, giving an interview with Foxsports about why he hasn't chosen to come back to the A-League, hit upon some wisdom when discussing whether Australia should be doing more to bring big-name marquees to Australia.

"With the A-League I don't think they need to compete with anyone," he said. "I think you should go at your own pace and understand what you have."

If Australian football is to grow, it needs to tread its own path. It has its own history, complications, and simply cannot try to imitate the European game.

You see flares in Europe, but it is now painfully clear that they are not appropriate in Australia. Ultras with flares and well-intentioned people trying to make the local game better are two totally different things, and that point should be made clear.

Can we, however, have a conversation about what is and what is not appropriate for Australia and start to see the local game on its own terms?

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