Sunday, June 14, 2009

Criticism of Pim Verbeek masks thinly-veiled agenda

Criticism of Pim Verbeek masks thinly-veiled agenda.
"Socceroo cover-up" reads the June 14 headline of Sydney's widely circulated Sunday Telegraph, with the round ball game earning rare front page coverage from the News Limited mouthpiece.

It's not for exploits on the pitch that football is making headlines in Australia, but rather for the allegation that Everton midfielder Tim Cahill was expelled from a Kings Cross nightclub last week for drunk and disorderly behaviour.

In an email circulated to media representatives just hours before newspapers hit the press, Football Federation Australia claims to have investigated the incident and found no cause to sanction Cahill.

The FFA was quoted in rival newspaper The Sydney Morning Herald as suggesting that Cahill and his entourage were requested to leave the premises because the hotel was closing.

That claim was categorically denied by the Telegraph's "Executive Sports Editor" Phil Rothfield, who for the past week has spewed vitriol across the sports pages in the direction of the Socceroos.

His main target has been Australia coach Pim Verbeek, who was blamed by the tabloid daily for the poor ticket sales that saw less than 40,000 turn out to watch the Socceroos beat Bahrain in Sydney last Wednesday.

Yet criticism of Verbeek masks a thinly-veiled media agenda aimed at denigrating a cultural shift in Australian sport.

The Telegraph's parent company News Limited is a major shareholder in the National Rugby League - a competition that dominates headlines in the harbour city, but one that has lurched through a series of high-profile crises this season.

A succession of scandals culminated in a stunning exposé by current affairs program Four Corners in May, blowing the lid off the culture of group sex prevalent in the high-contact sport.

With sponsors turning their back on the game, some clubs are now in danger of going bust.

Meanwhile the A-League continues to make inroads into traditional Rugby League heartland, with expansion clubs Gold Coast United and North Queensland Fury expected to generate their share of media headlines in the Sunshine State this season.

The explosive success of football in Australia has caught many media outlets in Australia off-guard, with fans suddenly professing an interest in a sport that was once widely ridiculed.

Ironically it's News Limited's pay TV arm Fox Sports that broadcasts A-League and Socceroos games, but that hasn't stopped the Telegraph from blasting an Australian side that remains unbeaten in the final round of Asian qualifying.

"Soccer will never make it as a major sport in this country while Pim Verbeek is in charge of our national team," wrote Rothfield in a personal online blog last week.

"Forget about the boring style of soccer - it is Pim’s petulance and disdain for Australian culture which is holding the game back," he claimed.

While the Telegraph was happy to bask in Australia's success at the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany, it remains to be seen what tack the widely read tabloid takes in South Africa.

Many Australians are desperate for a more balanced mainstream media coverage, but the Telegraph's consistent attacks on the game suggest that it could be a long time coming.

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1 comment:

Hendy Hendarto said...

hope the competition will be successfull!!