Saturday, June 17, 2006


Bleiberg: Back atcha, Aker

Dear Jason,

After reading your recent article, I would like to invite you to join me for a game of poker one day because you have displayed a tendency to show all your cards!

You quite rightly point out that soccer fever (out of politeness I will use your terminology) is sweeping the nation and perhaps the fact that you are commenting on our beautiful game reflects the fear that you have for our rising sport. As I said, you have shown your cards.

The purpose of this letter is not to knock either your code or any other code. However, I disagree with much of what you wrote.

Now that I am an Aussie, I appreciate and agree that Australians are the smartest race in the world, but the fact is that there are billions of people who follow our game and just a portion of Australians who follow yours.

Your game is at its most popular in Melbourne, and as a fellow resident of the Sunshine State I'm sure you will agree that we can't take Victorians too seriously.

As far as my memory permits, all attempts at spreading AFL to other parts of the world have so far resulted in just a handful of Australian backpackers taking part and even fewer watching from the sidelines.

In regard to the comments you made on low-scoring results in soccer, again I feel I must enlighten you on a few points.

I cannot see that rugby union has more scoring elements than soccer. If you ignore points gained for penalties and just focus on the main method of scoring, tries, then scorelines are very similar to soccer, with often just one, two or three tries being scored by the winning team.

I also recall a recent game of NRL that was 0-0 until the closing stages, but it was still a nail-biting game.

If you cast your mind back again to your match versus Adelaide, I remember that they had not scored a goal before half-time. High scoring in all AFL games?

Lack of scoring (or points) does not mean lack of action or entertainment. I trust you were watching the Socceroos against Japan? And did you see how it captivated the entire nation, with celebrations in the streets and parties all over the country?

You will also find that even though the game was televised live at 11pm and did not finish until 1am, the TV audience comfortably eclipsed that of the AFL grand final.

Jason, the world is now a lot smaller than it used to be.

We live as a global family and our sport is the very essence of multi-culturalism. It offers international and cultural exchange that no other high-profile sport can offer.

It provides its elite athletes with the opportunity to wear the green and gold and represent their country against the best the rest of the world has to offer.

It presents corporate partners with a route into a host of global markets, and furthermore, it is an industry in its own right where the top players, the likes of Harry Kewell, Tim Cahill and Mark Viduka, will earn more in a year than your entire squad put together.

It is not called the World Game for nothing, Jason.

You spoke about courage in your piece, Jason. Well, courage is not just about bashing people on the field in a pub-style brawl.

When John Aloisi stepped up last November to take the penalty against Uruguay, the one that secured qualification for this World Cup in Germany, he had the hopes of the entire nation on his shoulders.

It was unimaginable pressure for one man to bear, but he scored.

That, Jason, is courage personified.

You made many other points in your article that I could challenge, but in the interest of humility I will only comment on one more.

So you think that soccer is not a contact sport? Well, in fact it is; it's just not a collision sport.

If you ever care to test my theory then you are most welcome to join us for training at any time.

There remains an open invitation for you to do so, especially after your soccer-style goal against Adelaide!

Yours in Sport,
Miron Bleiberg
Head coach, Queensland Roar FC

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