They just don't get it
Aussie Rules missionary work in Africa falls on stony ground...
WELL, I've tried to spread the Australian Rules word in parts of
northern Africa in recent weeks, but to little effect.
Where, you might ask, did this missionary work take place.
In Morocco and Egypt, to be precise. A little earlier - in October -
similar proselytizing work in Portugal had the same outcome.
Looks of incredulity, followed by laughter.
Try explaining to non-believers that our game is played on an oval-shaped
arena - for them, strange enough in itself - and then tell 'em each team
takes to this field with 18 players and the guffaws start.
Don't even bother trying to say that there are four, other togged-up
athletes on the sidelines ready to take the place of an injured or knackered
The mere fact that there are 36 men on the field at any one time beggars
belief among these infidels.
Paul Daffey told me not to lose heart. "What about all those big Moroccan
blokes strutting about wearing their curly-toed shoes," he pointed out.
That's their custom and they're welcome to it. Our game is our heritage so
bugger what other nationalities think, Daff thundered.
Buoyed by this electronic message of support I blundered on. Already a young
Lisbon guide who headed up tours of the Portuguese capital had sapped my
This young man, who spoke three languages as well as his native tongue, had
been educated at the English school at Estoril, a Lisbon suburb. So he'd
played cricket and rugby union but hadn't a clue about Aussie Rules.
When I drew him a diagram with two big sticks at each end of the field, and
two little sticks on either side, Diego asked about the scoring routine.
"Six points when you kick the ball through the big sticks, and one point if
it sneaks through between a big one and a little one," I answered.
"What ? You get a score if you miss,' was his response.
Think on that remark, gentle reader. How many team sports can you think of
where a side actually gains a point when its marksmen actually miss ?
It wasn't all mirth and hilarity, though. A few days ago on the Egyptian Red
Sea resort of Dahab a hotel employee showed flashes of recognition when
confronted with the inevitable oval-shaped diagram and the four sticks each
Turns out he has a cousin based in the United Arab Emirates. I imagine he'd
seen a DVD of a match, possibly this year's Abu Dhabi pre-season kick and
giggle between the Crows and Collingwood.
He'd loved watching the antics of the goalies (although he didn't know who
they were) as they signalled scores from the goal-lines between the big
posts. He gave his Egyptian workmates a passable impression of signalling a
goal - and of course that brought another burst of uncontrollable giggles.
Ah well. Soccer, known as football to everyone bar we Aussies and the Septic
Tanks, is universal so we started talking about Mido and other Egyptian
stars currently playing in England's all-pervasive Premier League.
Not a snigger this time. Soccer is far too important to laugh about.