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Why the Australian Cricket team should learn to sing from the Socceroos hymnsheet

The Asia Cup and the current One Day International cricket series afford us an opportunity to reflect on the way we see ourselves in the C21st. The shifting sands of our cultural make up has never been more in evidence than at the sudden death quarter final between South Korea and Uzbekistan at AAMI park. The two Asian teams attracted a crowd that represented the future face of Australian society and it wasn’t Anglo Saxon. This has been repeated around the country where sell out crowds have flocked to games between Asian teams and celebrated our cultural diversity in the process.

These football (soccer) fans have expressed themselves very differently to the crowds that have traditionally filled our stadiums and cricket grounds.

 The chanting of the red shirted South Korean fans, led by the banging of a ceremonial gong, a Jing, seemed to be an appropriate metaphor for what is happening around the country. I couldn’t decipher exactly what they were chanting but the Japanese girl sitting in front of me suggested it was the South Korean version of “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie. Oi! Oi! Oi! ” If so it was considerably more tuneful. Later in the game the chant morphed into song.

 You couldn’t help but enjoy the good natured, carnival atmosphere that engulfed the ground. At the other end the Uzbek fans, decked in blue, were banging away on their own drum. They  represented another face of Asia although the comment from the men behind me that,

“They don’t look Asian”, suggested that we do have a bit to learn about geography.

 The Asian Cup has not only thrilled as a spectacle but it has it has opened our eyes to the world. Teams from the Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been battling it out on our pitches and revealed a very different image of Middle Eastern society than the one we have been exposed to. 

 In the context of the Asia Cup and the current ODI series it is worth comparing the behaviour of the Australian cricket team with the Socceroos. The football games have been hotly contested but there has been none of the aggressive posturing that characterises the way our cricketers carry on. Interestingly both national teams are competing against countries from Asia but the Socceroos attitude to their opponents is miles away from the spiteful belligerence our cricketers display, particularly against India.

 David Warner’s recent outburst to Rohit Sharma speaks volumes about the cultural insularity of our cricketers . Having wrongly accused Rohit of illegally stealing a run, Warner remonstrated with him violently. When Rohit responded in Telgu, a language spoken by some 74 million Indians, Warner’s reply was instructive.

“Speak ***** English!”

 The fact that a good percentage of the world’s population speak languages other than English doesn’t seem to have occurred to David Warner. His comment and some of the comments from the crowd in the recent Test series against India suggest that many Australians are oblivious to where we sit in the world and where our future lies. Whilst football has embraced and celebrated the fact that we are no longer a colonial outpost, cricket has buried its head in the sand, even though we regularly compete with teams from Asia. Barely disguised racist sledging is commonplace in cricket. It would be nonsensical in football.

 Compare David Warner’s behaviour to Tim Cahill’s. Cahill is every bit as competitive as Warner and every bit as talented. The essential difference is that Cahill seems to have some perspective about himself, his game and the world he lives in. After Cahill has clashed with an opposition player he almost always helps him to his feet or gives him a good natured pat on the back. He is a fierce competitor, and a brilliant one, but it is inconceivable that he would sledge his opponents in the way Australian cricketers do.

 After the game against China, when Cahill scored two of the most sublime goals imaginable, he made his way to the Chinese bench and warmly embraced the Chinese Assistant coach. There was nothing manufactured about this moment. Cahill had played with him in the EPL and rather than run around saluting himself he chose to acknowledge his opponent. The gesture spoke volumes for the man and the culture of the game.

 It is why Tim Cahill is not only the poster boy for Australian football but also the poster boy for Australian sport.

 The Asia Cup has been a cracking success in every way. Our team has carried itself with dignity and class and shown an appreciation of the wider implications of Australia hosting an Asian Cup.

 Instead of snarling, sledging and posturing like baddies in a spaghetti western our cricketers should get their heads out of the sand and take a look at the world around them.

 They might get a view of our future.

 And that future lies fairly and squarely in Asia.

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