The eternal forgetting of the gameOne of soccer's great problems in Australia is memory. Soccer forgets; the whole of the broad culture forgets the long repetitive messy history of soccer in Australia.
One interesting phenomenon is what I am calling Short Memory Syndrome (thanks Garry McKenzie and Midnight Oil). The whole First Kicks project forces me to confront this syndrome repeatedly. It's the process whereby soccer is announced as being introduced to a town or region for the first time when, in fact, earlier examples of the game being played there can be found.
Why is this the case?
Our national sporting narrative constructs soccer as an outsider/foreigner/interloper that is always trying to find new places to settle. History is the place where soccer never happened and its every effusion can appear like a brand new one.
But there are several parties who are to blame for this:
- Many soccer insiders who are not interested in looking backward. This might go from the complacent souls at George Cross whose brilliant new website is complete in every regard -- except for Victor Brincat's fabulous history which remains inexplicably absent -- to the mendacious fools at Hakoah who threw the Australia Cup into a skip.
Like when the ancient pharaohs died, when soccer bodies and administrations decline their artefacts, records, memorabilia, history are cast aside. For example, the A League was founded on a smashing of history. In the process some clubs that had built their own empires on the smashed history of earlier clubs were in turn sidelined by history.
- While soccer people are often culpable, this doesn't absolve those outside the game with the broad task of social historical memory who fail to record soccer's presence.
- State Library of Victoria and 1909 photo of St Kilda team. The description of cointent reads "The St Kilda British Football Club. This was the start of soccer in Australia."
- Australian War Memorial in which a ruling assumption seems to be that soccer wasn't very important to the AIF.
- John Lack's history of Footscray, which, had it been more complete, might have changed the contemporary debate over Footscray Park
- Fiddian's history of Brunswick st Oval which is simply embarrassing in its failure to record a soccer presence on the ground. I don't ascribe to him any kind of malevolence though.
- Then there's the nasties: those whose stated goal is to wipe soccer from the map and the record. An element within sporting culture, council decision-making, journalism and history is malevolent in its attitude to soccer and would be happy to see the game disappear from our culture. This very small fraction deliberately erases soccer from its records of history. When this fragment exists in important locations of cultural transmission then ....
So If You Know Your History will have a new segment: Short Memory in which blatant examples of forgetting will be raised and discussed.
Interestingly, I looked at the lyrics of the eponymous Midnight Oil song and saw these lines which Peter Garrett shouts:
If you read the history books you'll see the same things happen again and again
Repeat repeat short memory they've all got it
When are we going to play it again?
Examples of SMS
Blackwood-Warren Sentinel (Bridgetown, WA : 1950 - 1954), Thursday 2 August 1951, page 3
A soccer match will be played at Kirup next Saturday between teams from Kirup and Grimwade. This, I think, will be the first game of soccer played at Kirup, so as it will be a novelty to a lot of people we hope to have a good' roll-up of spectators. A. Cooper has volunteered to be referee and a lot of local lads are keen to play. We would like to take this opportunity to thank the secretary of the Manjimup Soccer Club for sending up a copy of the rules and the promise of a ball. A hockey match will be played prior to the soccer, so roll-up and enjoy some, good clean fun. (Read the match report here)
Nelson Advocate (WA : 1926 - 1938), Friday 2 September 1927, page 2
BRIDGETOWN v EAST KIRUP.
At East Kirup on Sunday last repesentatives of the above clubs met in freindly contest, and although the weather was far from agreeable, the game was well contested. The home team won by one goal. Easts scored through W. Baxter soon after the kick-off while a little after a corner kick was taken by their outside left, and Baxter again suceeded, neatly heading the ball through. In the second half Bridgetown took he offensive, and after some exciting lay at the visitors end D. Adams egistered a goal. -Final scores were East Kirup 2 goals, Bridgetown 1 goal. On Sunday next the same teams will meet at Bridgetown,, when eather permitting it is hoped a good game will be witnessed.
The Vienna boys choir vsited Horsham and played a game of soccer against the Marist rothers' College. Intriguingly, the Border Watch reports that
Marist Brother's' College is accommodating them on Saturday, with what should prove to be an interesting interlude.
At 10.30 they will assemble at the College mid play a soccer match against a team of MBC junior boys, who are quite adept at this game.