Constructive criticism of destructive passion: some A-League fans should stay banned


Big blue: empty seats usually occupied by The Cove during Sydney FC’s 1-0 win over Newcastle on Friday night. Photo: Getty Images

Let’s step back for a moment.

There is one aspect of this appeal thing that’s seriously bugging me, especially when it is so easy, safe and common to play into the general fans’ loyalties with statements, platitudes even, about standing together, being the heart of the game and so on.

Yes, they are. Yes, you are. That’s obvious, and recognised. Football Federation Australia stuffed up, admitted it and an appeal process will be implemented. I get that.

But there’s a catch. Not every fan has my support. Only those that serve the game well.

And behaving like idiots at a football match makes you my enemy, not my friend.

Populism rules the day at times like these, if you ask me. Especially when we are dealing with such a wonderfully passionate fanbase that is becoming more capable of wielding influence.

It’s very easy to say you stand with them, very beneficial at times for people’s roles inside the game, whether club chief executives, chairmen, players or media personalities.

But every single one of us has one obligation, and one only. And that is to the game.

Example: I am an ex-Socceroo. This is a brotherhood we are immensely proud of and which carries certain responsibilities towards each other, but I’ll smash any ex-player who acts contrary to the game’s wellbeing and long-term benefit. That obligation supersedes any other.

Likewise, in the media, I don’t mention other networks, analysts, shows or personalities because there is a level of professional courtesy. Nevertheless, if anyone acts contrary to the game’s interest, it’s war.

That’s the rule of football. The game comes first. And that’s really the true test of whether you love football, or love more what football can do for you. What it gives you, whether a job, a profile or standing within your community.

There are a lot of people around at the moment who seem to me to be the latter.

Because the banning of anyone that sought to put themselves above the game through their actions at a match is not a simple matter. It is highly complex; any wrong move can damage the game’s image and, aside from the now infamous appeals process, I reckon FFA have done a pretty bloody good job of protecting the game’s image over the past 10 years.

Therefore, let us all acknowledge one fact. One reason the game’s image is so incredibly healthy, is the banning of idiots willing to damage it.

So, I get that David Gallop stuffed up in not standing up for our fans, but I also agree with his hard line on behaviour. If he did anything else, I’d be into him quick smart, so let us not be hypocrites.

Let us neither speak only of love or passion. It is not enough.

There must also be the intention to protect, promote and grow the game. That is a true fan. A genuine football lover. We had plenty of passion in the past, but much was destructive. All we need, and all we will tolerate as a game is constructive passion. To do good, see good and only to allow good.

An uncomfortable truth, then, in case anyone is confused. Some of the banned fans should stay banned.

Whomever among them set out to intentionally cause damage to football, or cared nothing for the outcome of their actions which would inevitably do so, stuff you. You can stay banned. I don’t want you back, nor do I care if you have an appeals process.

This is what disturbs me about banners proclaiming that everyone stands with the 198. I don’t. Nowhere near it.

I stand only with those among them unfairly charged and that have been denied the right to clear their name.

Just wanted to be clear.

Craig Foster

Football columnist


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