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Wanderers fans challenge sport etiquette in Oz

The Red and Black Bloc (RBB), Western Sydney active supporter group, had their area shut down for a couple of games this year after fans lit flares during the Sydney derby. Photo by Eric Berry

Multicultural

Wanderers fans challenge sport etiquette in Oz

Supporters from Western Sydney Wanderers, recently created in 2012, have once again caught the attention of the media by breaking the Australian cheering etiquette. Their cultural – and sometimes political – manifestations around the world game seem not to fit the authorities “how to support sport” model. As they use swearing words on the stands or light flares, there are renewed claims and actions to ban these individuals or groups from the sports stadiums.

Wanderers fans during A-League game at against Sydney FC at Pirtek Stadium. Photo: Eric Berry

If the way Wanderers fans communicate is causing some contention with the football organisers in Australia, it might be worth mentioning that Western Sydney, the epicentre of Australian migration, gathers some of largest culturally and linguistically diverse communities in Australia. Apart from indigenous languages, Aramaic, Akan, Lao, Arabic, Kurdish, Tongan, Samoan, Hindi, Vietnamese, Filipino, Tamil and Maltese are some of biggest language groups in the area. Nevertheless, what the authorities have been failing to understand, though, is that supporting a team is a cultural construct, and that diverse cultures and diverse people have different ways to enact their passions on the stands.

WSW fans in game against the Mariners at the Central Coast Stadium. Photo: Eric Berry

Photo: Eric Berry

More than an integral part of the sporting culture, cheering is entrenched in a specific socio-historical context. It would be more efficient for the sports industry not to categorise ‘non-traditional’ supporters as trouble-makers and hence repress and ban them, but rather, to see sports fans as what they really are: cultural-makers who want not only to consume but also to be part of the sporting atmosphere and create the show themselves. By chanting and using their corporeality, the fans on the football stands are telling to our society that they have a culture that needs to be listened to.

Sports fans perform their cultures across the world. There are (multi) cultural lessons to be learnt in these performances. People of all ages and cultures are displaying their dreams in a public space: their voices should not be disqualified. Instead, they should be heard and incorporated as a key element of the multiple sporting cultures existing within our communities.

Wanderer fan. Photo by Eric Berry

To learn more:
Imagining a multicultural community in an everyday football carnival: Chants, identity and social resistance on Western Sydney terraces by Dr Jorge Knijinik (free download)

In the media:
ABC: Western Sydney Wanderers Red and Black Bloc fans banned from stand for flares lit in derby 
ESPN: Wanderers close Red and Black Bloc area after another flare incident
FOX: Under threat Red and Black Bloc launch fiery riposte in wake of active area closure by Wanderers

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Jorge Knijnik

Jorge Knijnik is an Associate Professor in the School of Education and a researcher in the Institute for Culture & Society at Western Sydney University. You can follow him @JorgeKni and also access all his research on https://westernsydney.academia.edu/JorgeKnijnik

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