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Dancers from Sydney's Brazilian community led former Australia captain Johnny Warren's funeral cortege on 15 November. (AP)
is a 'wog'?
Merriam-Webster's Dictionary defines the word as "a dark-skinned foreigner," especially "one from the Middle East or Far East." Clearly, though, the term is more freighted on the Aussie landscape. The Oxford English Dictionary characterizes the primary use of the term as "vulgarly offensive" and cites first use of a negative "wog" form in James Joyce's Ulysses: "She may have noticed her wogger people were always going away." According to Chris Zissiadis, editor of Woglife, "Many people believe that the word wog is an acronym, that it stands for 'western oriental gentleman' or 'worker on government service'. These versions of the word are popular but it is highly unlikely that they are the word's true source." Zissiadis continues that the last 20 years have seen "wogs"—viewed now as "migrants and their children who come from non-English-speaking backgrounds"—embrace the term for themselves. There is a sense of "wog pride."
One of the most popular Australian movies of recent years was Wog Boy (2000). And the proprietor of Wog Blog proves the word's adaptability by penning alternate lyrics to Bob Dylan's "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall": "Oh, what did you see, ya red-headed wog? / What did you see, and did you post on your blog? / . . . I saw a long bendy road with no petrol station," and so on.
The sport has its pioneers and heroes, who remain largely anonymous within the world game. We did not want the old year to pass, first of all, without paying tribute to Johnny Warren, who died in November of cancer at age 61. Honored with a state funeral by the government of New South Wales, Warren appeared in Australia's first World Cup finals in 1974 and over the years became the face of the game through his commentary. In recognition of Warren's embrace of the sport's global culture, a Brazilian steel band escorted his casket (D. D. McNicoll, "Footballer Passes from Beautiful Game of Life," The Australian, 16 November).
Fascinating in Warren's biography is his ability to confront negative stereotypes about the sport within Aussie culture and to transcend them. For long periods, those who gravitated toward soccer were "wogs," "sheilas" or "poofters," words that Warren playfully employed in the title of his autobiography. Rugby and "footy," the term for Australian Rules, were the games more reflective of the masculine, frontier ethos, and they squeezed out the more "beautiful game," somewhat like American or gridiron football squeezed out soccer in the United States. Warren objected strongly to this marginalization of the sport and to its association with nonnatives, which he saw as insulting both to soccer and to the Italians, Hungarians, Croats and Greeks responsible for the game's early development. The game's separation from mainstream life earned it the name "wogball." One chronicler of the sport's travails in Perth, Anthony Ferguson, gives a clear sense of his own isolation resulting from his interest in soccer ("Anyone for a Game of Wogball?" OzFootball, 26 January 1998):
Footy . . . was a real man's game. This was obvious from the sleeveless guernseys designed to show off the biceps, the tightness of the shorts to emphasise the muscular, masculine buttock (and also to induce testicular cancer in later years), and by the aggressive and sometimes dangerous tackling allowed within the rules of the game. You didn't see footy players hugging and kissing after scoring a goal either—hardly necessary considering both teams often boot a dozen goals a game—nor did you see footy players rolling around on the floor whinging after a heavy tackle. They got straight up and on with the game, because they were real red-blooded heterosexual testosterone-fuelled Aussie men who never cried or ate quiche. Ever.
Such was Warren's commitment to changing such perceptions that he appeared five days before his death at a luncheon to launch the A-League, Australia's new first-division club competition. Warren's football career began at 5, as a goal-scorer for Botany Methodist's under-12 side; Botany is a Sydney suburb. He made his club and international career as a midfielder. According to friend John Singleton, who spoke at Warren's funeral, Warren had long felt connected to multicultural Australia through soccer. In fact, Warren disliked the word "soccer" and preferred the world's name for it. Another friend, Andy Harper, described in The Australian Warren's "razor-sharp sense of social justice and egalitarianism" ("In Johnny Lay the Embodiment of Soccer's Struggle," 9 November).
He shunned ignorant isolationism and rejoiced in the richness of international culture. He was never afraid of the differences between people, always seeing the potential for growth by mixing and exchanging. But in Australia, Johnny saw a society at odds with its foundations. His life's mission became to offer perspective and an alternative way. The discrimination against migrants and against "their" game, was in his eyes, completely unacceptable. He could never accept why people would be so scared of football, so suspicious of the people who played it and so determined to keep it down. Even more profoundly, this "Aussie, living in this world of wogs", as he put it, suffered the same deeply hurtful indignations.
The timing of the national soccer federation's name change, therefore, seems appropriate. But let's hope that the image makeover—the tampering with "an image inextricably linked with the ethnic divisions of Australian society" (from Lynch's article, cited above)—does not overlook the "wogs" who gave the game life.KIEV, UKRAINE, 26 DECEMBER 2004
One realizes that more is being contested in this
one of my friends thinks
that if we switch to the roman alphabet
our people will steal less
our messy byzantinisms
our obnoxious sovietisms our endless ugro-finnisms
(sorry ugrics, sorry finns)
will disappear and something will snap in our heads
—and "voila!" we are part of europe
The lads from Shakhtar Donetsk accept some huzzahs: "And for you, Shakhtar, the medal of my love / Will always shine on [the] pitch where you are" (full anthem available here). (AP)
Complicating issues is that only a minority of players for Donetsk and for rivals Dynamo Kiev are Ukrainian (5 of 24 on Donetsk, and 12 of 25 for Kiev)—and most of these are not regulars. In fact, as Franklin Foer writes in his recent book, How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization, Ukraine has been especially adept at trolling the world market for footballers, showing fondness for Nigerians—with mixed results (see chap. 6, "How Soccer Explains the Black Carpathians," 141–66). Foer profiles Edward Anyamkyegh of Karpaty Lviv; Julius Aghahowa, also from Nigeria, plays striker for Shakhtar. Neither seems at home. Says journalist Oleg Racz about Aghahowa:
Both Shakhtar (Hryhoriy Surkis) and Kiev (Rinat Akhmetov) are owned by
[Donetsk] is not Kiev or Lviv, which are pretty cosmopolitan now, but a town with coal mine slag heaps and Soviet urban sprawl everywhere. When he first came he couldn't speak the language, couldn't settle. . . .
Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) in Kiev, at 4:44 p.m. local time on election day, 26 December. (1+1)
Dynamo Kyiv, 1942.
Tragically, the Dynamo players who did survive the war were treated as pariahs for having played against and allegedly cooperated with the German occupiers. Some, however—certainly the Jewish goalkeeper, Abram Gorinstein—were killed at Babi Yar, among some 45,000 murdered at the ravine outside Kiev. And Ukrainians as a whole bore the brunt of losses in the European conflict, suffering between 12 million and 15 million fatalities. As historian Vladimir Mayevsky remarks in the DVD collection History of Soccer: The Beautiful Game, "People died, and let the land be soft for them."
Other sources: For regular updates
on the Ukrainian elections, see the English-language Kyiv
Links to Web logs about Ukraine are available at The Guardian website (http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/news/archives/world_news/
2004/11/watch_the_world_watching_ukraine.html). For more on the mighty Dynamo Kiev, see the feature at the Football Culture website (http://www.footballculture.net/teams/ground_kiev.html).