I’ve been an Australian citizen for 30 years, and I’m proud of it. Australia is without a doubt the best country in the world, and even though the UK, where I originate from, is pretty good too, that’s a place I wouldn’t want to live in permanently, although it’s still nice to visit occasionally.
And one of the great things about Australia, in my opinion, is AFL (Australian Football League, for the two people living here who don’t recognise the letters!).
It’s a fantastic game, played with speed and great skill on a large oval ground, and a time scale long enough to require four quarters to complete a game, rather than the two halves of most other field sports. Another unique difference from the others is that the game doesn’t stop when minor injuries occur; the support staff simply runs onto the field and looks after the injured party while the game swirls on all around them.
The only time the game actually stops is if a player is, or appears to be, quite seriously injured. There are none of the long spells of standing still like in American football, no scrums like in rugby union, and no incessant back-heeling like in rugby league, so the game keeps going, at speed, all the time.
I suppose if I had one small gripe about Aussie Rules, it’s more about the players than the game itself. There is a tendency towards bad sportsmanship in main games, especially the professional ones, where players slyly punch opposition people, or trip them, or employ numerous other tricks; things they are less able to get away with today, with the large number of cameras watching each game. I think it’s little bit sad though, that it has to happen at all!
Soccer is another fine game, not played as much here as Aussie Rules but an important contributor to the world of sport, nonetheless. Australians tend to deride soccer, saying it’s a sissy game and boring, mainly because you may get a whole match with only one, or two goals scored, whereas in the Australian game it’s not unusual to see over a hundred points on the scoreboard.
But it needs to be remembered that a goal in soccer has a much higher value than in AFL, so they are much harder to come by! In AFL, although the goal is much the same width as the soccer one, the height of the goal is infinite, but in soccer it is only eight feet high.
In AFL there is no goal keeper to stop the ball, as there is in soccer, and in the AFL a goal can be scored from anywhere but in the other game there is the offside rule to help protect the goal. Finally, you are awarded six points for every goal scored in AFL, but you only get one point per goal in soccer, giving the much higher points total to the Australian game for the same amount of effort!
So, although the Australian game is the one I have come to love the most, I still have respect for soccer, which is undoubtedly a very skilful game in its own way, though very different from AFL. The fact that soccer is now classed as a “world game” says something about its popularity all over the world, and of course that also means big money for promoters!
One of the drawbacks of Aussie Rules is that a very large, oval ground is required, much the same as is required by cricket (where AFL originated), but in many parts of the world, land is too valuable to be used for our game, when soccer can be squeezed into a much smaller space.
But even if our game is unable to go worldwide I’m quite happy to think of it as our own, unique form of sport, something other countries can only enjoy from afar, but something to give US pleasure on every weekend of the winter (Go the Saints!).