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Anti-football rants out of line and date

Date

Heckler

HECKLER

<em>Illustration: Simon Letch</em>

Illustration: Simon Letch

OF COURSE I realise Michael Carlton is exaggerating for comic effect in his attempt to bait me and others with his anti-football rant in the paper last Saturday.

But I'm going to have a nibble, as there are a couple of points he raises that warrant a considered response because they crop up so often among many of those who are as immune to the charms of football as Carlton - if not as over the top as him.

First, Carlton says 0-0 draws happen ''more often than not''. I've checked the first 11 rounds of the A-League season and counted two 0-0 draws out of 55 games played. I work that out as about 3.5 per cent, way short of ''more often than not'' and far closer to ''hardly ever''. I expect the proportion is similar in other football leagues.

The tiresome 0-0 refrain of the football haters is way past its use-by date, so too is the word ''terraces'', as used by Carlton (and other Australian journalists) to describe the places from which we football fans thrill to the free-scoring spectacle.

There never have been terraces in Australian sports grounds. Even in European countries with big grounds once famous for their terraces, it is 15 years or more since those stadiums have gone all-seater. They are ''stands'', just like the ones we have here at the rugby and the rugby league, both of which, as it happens, share most of the same stadiums with the football crowd. No football fan uses the word ''terraces''. No ''See you on the terraces before kick-off''; no ''Where is everyone? The terraces are empty!''; no ''Let's smash this effing terrace to pieces''. It's a journalist word. And when used by Carlton and certain others it is code for an unsavoury image: think England, think hooligans, think senseless violence.

As someone who lived in England and watched a lot of football from terraces there in the 1980s, it's an image that easily comes to mind. Along with appalling food, public urination and massed herds of mounted coppers. But go to a match there today and it is a much more civilised experience: the food is way better, men wee in toilets and the police presence is far more discreet.

And there are no terraces any more. England has moved on. As have football and other sports, both there and here, and as Carlton should. Or at least he could update his archaic shtick when he goes off on his next anti-football rant.

There is one point, however, on which I am in total agreement with Carlton: Barry O'Farrell spending $3 million to bring that pile of Man Ure from Salford to Sydney is a disgrace. He should have moved heaven and earth to get the champions: City, the only football team to come from Manchester.

Paul Sherry

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