Flat White

Australia’s Woke World Cup

Dom Penava

Getty Images

Dom Penava

20 November 2022

8:00 AM

As the child of proud ethnic immigrants, some of my best memories come from watching my country’s national football team. There is something mysteriously euphoric about seeing your identity represented in the world’s most popular game. Huddling together on cold mornings to watch those encounters was a favourite pastime of my local community. Emotions were spilled, tears were shed, and the cheers would often echo throughout Sydney’s Western suburbs.

That seems like a jubilation that my fellow Australians will never know. Our national football (soccer) team are lifelong minnows of the sport. 2006 was the first time in recent memory that Australia qualified for the World Cup. We’d have been better off wishing we hadn’t… Our team has conceded 20 goals and won a single match at the last three tournaments.

That’s impressively bad for a country of our size and wealth. The sport has been inspired by impoverished nations with less than half the population of Sydney alone. So what exactly are we missing?

It usually takes decades of cultural, social, and financial commitment to improve a national sport. That seems out of reach for Australia given our obsession with cricket and rugby. But at the very least, you’d expect our national team is focused on improving Australia’s presence in the sport.

They’re not.

Days out from the FIFA World Cup, and the Socceroos were too busy flashing their moral righteousness on social media – because it’s not like they have other matters to focus on. Most teams were working on a game plan or bolstering their fitness levels for the rare opportunity to represent their nation; ours was filming Woke political stunts by calling out Qatar’s political views.

The irony of the video seems lost on the players. Among other things, they’re criticising the working conditions in Qatar while wearing sponsored merchandise that comes from a sweatshop. Notably, they forgot to #tag the Indonesian children who work 12-hour days producing their jerseys. It’s as if they believe their gear comes from Twitter’s head office, sewn by employees who enjoy free coffee and breakout spaces.

To be sure, Qatar’s track record on human rights is indefensible, but the players are still choosing to participate at the event. Their protest is one of imaginary proportions.

Perhaps their outrage and activism would be better pointed towards our government’s human rights record. Did they forget Australia’s three-year streak of violently suppressing working rights, travel, and religion in the world’s most hysterical overreaction to a virus? They might feel there were valid reasons for those measures; just as Qatar must feel they have legitimate reasons for their laws. There is little dignity among countries that come up with excuses to dismantle human rights and then take to social media to declare a moral high ground. Australia has no place lecturing other nations on respecting people’s personal choices, as our players call on Qatar to do.

Here is a suggestion for the Socceroos – from someone who has lived, breathed, and played your sport since before social media. Consider spending less time online and more time on the field. If you want to win hearts and inspire the world, start by winning matches for a change. We could all use more of a reason to come together and cheer over the next few weeks without the woke division.

That’s what it takes to succeed in a sport fiercely contested by global superstars. There is no hope for players that would rather use the game as a battering ram for personal politics.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Published by Nelle

I am interested in writing short stories for my pleasure and my family's but although I have published four family books I will not go down that path again but still want what I write out there so I will see how this goes

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