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.
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.
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.
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