Author's Note: “Adam Roy Goodes…is a former professional Australian Rules Footballer…. Goodes holds an elite place in VFL/AFL history as a dual Brownlow Medalist, dual premiership player, four-time All-Australian, [and] member of the Indigenous Team of the Century….Known for his community work and anti-racism advocacy, Goodes was named the Australian of the Year in 2014. From 2013, his outspokenness on racial issues contributed to his being the target of a sustained booing campaign from opposition fans, causing him to take indefinite leave from the AFL and eventually retire from the game. The "booing saga" sparked a national debate about racism in Australia and became the subject of two documentary films, both released in 2019.”Wikipedia.
Booing Adam Goodes
The ball is in the air, high and spinning towards the group of players waiting fifty meters away. Adam Goodes leaps high above them, seems for a moment suspended in air before clutching the ball and taking it cleanly down. Scores of thousands boo in unison. The ball is on the ground. Adam Goodes pirouettes, surges, shrugs off strong men and kicks long and true. Scores of thousands boo in unison. Adam Goodes runs with the ball. Men fleet of foot chase him but Adam Goodes, tall, lithe and strong, is too fast for them. Scores of thousands boo in unison. They are booing Adam Goodes, indigenous footballer, champion of Australian Rules Football, twice winner of the Brownlow Medal, the competition’s coveted Best and Fairest award. He is also a social worker, an author and Australian of the Year. They boo every time he touches the ball, and he touches it a lot. This is what they say. Aw, mate, it’s not that he’s a black fella. It’s just that he’s a bloody wanker. First he points out that thirteen year old girl for calling him an ape. She wuz just havin’ fun. Then he kicks that goal and does a bloody war dance. Geez, I ask ya. Deserves all he gets. Wait, he’s about to get the ball again. Here we go. Ready, boys. This is what Adam Goodes says. That girl, she’s young, uneducated. If she wants to pick up the phone, I’ll talk to her. I don’t think she had any idea of what she was calling me. I don’t want a witch hunt, but it hurt, hurt a lot. The dance? I learnt that from an indigenous kid’s team. I performed it in indigenous round. I was celebrating our culture. I wasn’t trying to offend or intimidate anyone. They booed him right out of the game, these ordinary men and women, mostly good-natured, hardworking, kind to their children, loving their spouses, upright citizens of their country but utterly ignorant of the long history that made Goodes refuse to accept insult and to find a way to celebrate his culture. What did that crowd know of the Stolen Generation, how thousands of indigenous children, were taken from their parents in a cruelly futile attempt at assimilation. But Goodes knew. His own mother was one of the Stolen Generation. What did that crowd know of hidden massacres, of cultural denial, of the cruel barbs of children, of growing up a second-class citizen in the land of your ancestors? But Goodes knew. He knew it from his cultural heritage. He knew it from his experiences at school. What did that crowd know of his desire to instill pride in heritage or his work for the disadvantaged, of his desire to empower the next generation. Surely, if they had, they would have stood and cheered every time he touched the ball. Instead, they booed this champion of his people. Booed him right out of the game. Sometimes, I hang my head in shame. Sometimes, it’s a poor fella, my country.
©2020 Neil Creighton
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