As a Briton, there is a rather specific pleasure to be had watching any Australian sporting team under-performing. Especially one that has had the temerity to bill itself as “the dream team”.
And at this summer’s Olympic Games the spades of glory enjoyed by Team GB was made all the sweeter by an apparently flummoxed Australian team blundering from one disappointment to the next.
However, Swimming Australia’s report into the failings of Australia’s swim team – who became emblematic of the nation’s wider sporting incompetence at London 2012 – wasn’t something to revel in, rather it made for uncomfortable reading.
It told of a “toxic environment” for Australia’s swimmers, one of harassment, substance abuse and bullying.
“Things were managed quietly rather than brought to a head, and several examples of coaches passing over the responsibility for hard conversations were given,” said the report. “Individual coaches had little interest in policing the culture or counselling swimmers.”
Several swimmers, including Nick D’Arcy, have come out to support the embattled Swimming Australia head coach Leigh Nugent, despite the revelations that male swimmers had been engaging in prank calls, door knocking and a “Stilnox (a prescription hypnotic) hazing ritual” in what the Courier Mail called (presumably without intending the homoerotic undertone) “a wild team bonding night” at a pre-Games camp in Manchester.
Frankly, I’m not sure how much this says about Australian coaching or sporting infrastructure.
What it does is restate a sad well-worn truth. Mollycoddled sportsmen, who are constantly told how awesome they are, will fall into that most solipsistic of traps – they think if they’re winners, they can behave like pricks.
It’s something experience has taught them all their lives. Ultimately that kind of behaviour is unsustainable with continued success.
Hopefully this is an opportunity to instil a new ethos of professionalism and finally banish the oafish ‘tour’ culture so long synonymous with travelling sports teams.
Agree or disagree? Does the ‘dream team’ reflect sporting culture? email@example.com
Blood split in fan attacks is on Fifa
The news last week that Tottenham Hotspur fans had been attacked prior to their last-gasp triumph over a dismally anti-footballing Lyon team felt grimly familiar.
Three Spurs fans were left hospitalised after a reported 20 to 25 men in balaclavas attacked a bar where they’d been drinking.
Reports that the attackers were engaging in Nazi salutes towards fans of a club traditionally linked with North London’s Jewish community makes the whole event doubly depressing.But is it surprising?
FIFA’s stance on racism is pathetically weak.
It’s almost openly tolerated on the pitch.Judging by their fines (£32,000 for monkey chants, £80,000 for Paddy Power underpants), it’s clearly a lower priority for FIFA than unauthorised advertising.
How can we begin to confront violence and racism off the pitch if FIFA steadfastly refuse to do anything on it?