As a Canadian having moved to Australia, I quickly came across the sport of footy. I didn’t realize just how seriously Aussies take their sport, however, until a short while later. When I finally came to this awareness, it was evident to me that nothing was to come in between Australians and their beloved sport.
Whether it be rugby, cricket, or footy, it seems that Aussies live and breath sports. What is it that makes Australians so passionate about their games? Having spent some time in this Southern continent, I have learnt a thing or two about these people and their sports. This article is an attempt to enlighten other immigrants of the importance of sports when it comes to culturally interacting with Australians.
The Australian Football League (AFL) grew out of a Victorian domestic club in 1982 with the South Melbourne Swans relocating, then becoming the Sydney Swans. Since that time the AFL has continued to expand and has become the national governing body of Aussie Rules Football. Melbourne has been named the sporting capital of the world, and no wonder, with its major role played in the formation of the AFL, along with its involvement in each of the other major sporting events. Melbourne sports (excuse the pun!) top quality sporting facilities and hosts major sporting events including the Australian Tennis Open, the AFL Grand Finals, and international cricket matches. Etihad Stadium, AAMI Park, and the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) are just some of the stadiums that make Victorians proud.
A national survey a few years back showed that 11 million Australians aged 15 and over participated at least once a week in physical exercise – including Aussie rules footy. Footy is not only a participation game, it is also a spectators game – being the most watched Australian sport – and it is well known that Aussies will frequently make a trip down to the MCG in the city for a Saturday afternoon footy match with a beer and meat pie in hand. Radios all around Melbourne tune into the current footy broadcast, and during Grand Final season conversation centres not around the weather, but around which team you predict will win. It goes without saying that every Victorian, if not every Australian, is expected to barrack for a particular team – and if you don’t, you will soon be converted!
Holding true to the Australian stereotype that Aussies go for the underdog, many die-hard footy supporters choose to go for the teams with the poor prognosis – when they do finally win the Grand Final, there is much rejoicing.
Sports in general has been argued to have had a major impact on the culture of Australia. Whether it helps to promote various symbols and colours based on the flora and fauna of Australia, or whether it brings communities together in a bond of loyalty created by team atmosphere, or an excuse for fun and celebration, when asked to give a description of Australian culture, sports will naturally rank high on the list.
Since coming to Australia I have learnt a thing or two about Australians and their love for sport. When considering the impact of sport on culture, I tend to think that it works both ways – that culture has also had an impact on the sport. Cultural characteristics such as sticking up for ones’ mate along with loyalty are in so many ways demonstrated excellently through sport.
So, if you’re planning a trip to Australia, you may want to have a look at the AFL teams, decide who you’ll barrack for, and come along to a footy game…just make sure to buy a meat pie while you’re at it!
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