Ian Warden confesses his love for an English football team over the Brumbies
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Ian Warden confesses his love for an English football team over the Brumbies

Guilt! Shame! Nightmarish moral dilemmas!

With the Section 44/citizenship imbroglio stirring up all sorts of emotional loyalty issues for those of us who are migrants I feel the need to make a cathartic confession.

This confession is guilt-tinged because we all know how our city's Brumbies are struggling

This confession is guilt-tinged because we all know how our city's Brumbies are struggling

Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

As background I report that I was born and grew up in England near the city of Norwich. I was in my late teens (bright-eyed and attractively flaxen-haired but impressionable, innocent and vulnerable) when seductive Australia lured me to its shores. I have been an Australian citizen for 50 years and a Canberran for 40 character-building winters.

My confession captures something of the confusing tugs that can pull a migrant's mind in all directions. It is that while I care nothing for my city's Brumbies football team (I have never been to a Brumbies match and can scarcely name two Brumbies players) I remain deeply, truly, passionately engaged with an English football team, Norwich City FC 'The Canaries'.

On any given weekend when my city's Brumbies are playing just down the road and when my heart's Canaries are playing 20,000 kilometres away in Cabbageland* I know and care nothing for the Brumbies. Meanwhile, though, I can name every Canary in that weekend's squad and can almost tell you his star sign, how many hairs he has on his legs, etc. The internet has had a magical impact on this kind of distance fandom.

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This confession is guilt-tinged because we all know how our city's Brumbies are struggling. Their inability to attract decent crowds is a continuous, woebegone theme of this paper's sports pages and sometimes front pages. This adds piquancy to this migrant's confession. Perhaps if I was more Australian-Canberran and less lingeringly pommy this dilemma would not arise. The Section 44/Citizenship debate, with its talk of migrants' needs to "renounce" their nation of origin has sensitive migrant's minds tuned to these sorts of emotional shenanigans.

And still on this subject, there was exciting news this week of a fledgling Canberra company's winning of a grand sports merchandise contract with a fabled English football club.

This coincides, uncannily, with the very recent delivery of a fabulous item of English football club merchandise to your columnist. This treasure is a Norwich City FC ('The Canaries') Official Merchandise Garden Gnome.

Garden gnomes may at first seem a trivial subject for this column (famous for its profound treatment of subjects of great social and political import). But be patient, for I am linking Archie, my footie gnome, to the seething Section 44/Citizenship imbroglio.

But first to recap. The story "Canberra's ONTHEGO Sports to kit-out English football team Sheffield Wednesday" reported ONTHEGO Sport's owner Mick Spencer rejoicing that his company is to supply Sheffield Wednesday with "more than 70,000 royal blue and white sports items, including [playing] apparel and merchandise".

"Sheffield Wednesday competes in the Championship, the second tier of the English Football League system," the Times advised.

Yes, and so does my beloved Norwich City. I began attending City matches when I was scarcely knee high to a gnome. Now my fabled team is represented in Canberra by a bright canary-yellow and canary-green gnome in a Garran garden.

It is not clear whether ONTHEGO will be creating Sheffield Wednesday garden gnomes, for ONTHEGO's big items will be footie strips identical to those worn by Wednesday's adored players. But Norwich City FC serves its fanatical fans with a collectible suite of several 'Canaries' gnomes in a variety of poses. There is even (although no actual, human Canaries' player would ever be so deceitful) a 'Canaries' "diving" gnome trying to win a penalty kick by pretending to have been sent sprawling.

I am not saying that a migrant's extreme, franchise-buying devotion to a football team in the land he or she has left is the be-all and end-all test of who and what a migrant is. But it can be a kind of symbol of that tug-of-love, tug-of-loyalty that can go on in migrant bosoms and that is especially bubbly in these Section 44 times. Archie, on my rockery, seems a kind of monument to these tug-of-loyalty troubles.

Sometimes I think that Archie, too, like me a migrant, is unsure of who, what and where he is. Sometimes his sturdy plastic forehead looks furrowed. Only recently purchased, he was whisked by express airmail from summery Norwich to the Siberian depths of a Canberra winter. In the Canberra garden he is posed next to busy bird baths that attract loud, bold, big, Australian native bird species that are quite foreign to him, coming as he does from a land of teensy-weensy finchy-winchy things. He is bewildered. Should he ever want to stand for parliament here in his new land he will face legal and emotional dilemmas galore.

*Cabbageland was medieval Finns' evocative name for England.

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