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Former state governor derides Good Friday football


Luke Walladge's article 'Embracing Good Friday Football' (17 March) invites 'the Church' to emulate the Anzac Day Match at the MCG and claims that the Anzac Day message is enhanced by the Match. It says 'the Church' could use such a match to project the Easter message.

There would be many RSL leaders and veterans who would doubt that the Anzac Day message has been successfully conveyed through into the Last Post being played to a packed stadium impatient for the centre bounce and the crunch of clashing bodies. Far, far more effective has been the Dawn Service with its long hushed silences and deep reflections.

The proposal that a match at the MCG could project an Easter message is ludicrous. The Easter message calls for time and prayerful reflection.

Good Friday is, with Christmas Day, the only day when Australia respects the tradition of a majority of its people that an event of epoch-making importance — critical in Western civilisation — is remembered in a special fashion.

As to the writer's reference to 'the church', the concern for Good Friday is wider than that of any one church. It extends to the millions (over 60 per cent) of Australians who still say they are Christians. Moreover, the leaders of other great faiths such as Islam and Judaism have repeatedly supported the special status of Good Friday.

The suggestion that Good Friday football could be good for religion is a specious one. Only the most naive — or PR agents — would fail to see that the regular attempts to sell Good Friday football are driven solely by money.

By able and sensitive leadership the AFL has made a great success of spreading Aussie Rules over Australia. I say sensitive because it has for example made a strong point of linking AFL to the success of Australia's multicultural communities and policies.

There are few better indicators of successful social cohesion than involvement in sport, especially Australian Rules, by new communities both as players and as supporters.

The well informed and the sensitive — and so far the AFL has been both — would know that culture and religion are inextricably entwined and that every new settler brings a religion with him or her. These religions are a precious part of their culture and a valuable aid in the settlement process.

Christians and adherents of other faiths would be appalled by a Mega Match at Australia's largest stadium and millions-plus TV coverage of a game on Good Friday. They would be even more appalled by the pathetic charade of a quick 'prayer' purporting to convey the enormous significance of what took place on Calvary nearly 2000 years ago.

James GobboSir James Gobbo is
Chairman of the Australian Multicultural Foundation. He is a former Governor of Victoria.

Topic tags: James Gobbo, Luke Walladge, Good Friday, football, Anzac Day match, Easter, Christianity



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Existing comments

While I was quite ambivalent about football on Good Friday - there for those who want it; not appropriate for those who wish to pray and reflect - Sir James Gobbo's letter causes me to re-consider.

Many years ago, a Muslim colleague who had migrated from Egypt told me how he and his Coptic neighbour, who had also migrated from Egypt, were upset to realise during their initial years as Australians that they had migrated to a secular country. Both had been happy to migrate to a Christian country - but saddened to find that, that Australia had disappeared some years prior to their migration.

For me, Sir James's role as Chairman of the Australian Multicultural Foundation adds more weight to his argument against football on Good Friday - the day that is sacred to so many.

It is increasingly easy (very difficult for my parents' generation) for locally born Australians to acknowledge that Christmas and Easter are just holidays for many of our compatriots. However many Australians born overseas in more traditionalist societies, cannot help but wonder where is the Australian soul.

Ian Fraser | 04 April 2011  

I think we Christians only have ourselves to blame for the loss of meaning associated with Good Friday. We can only expect secular Australia to respect the significance of our most holy days, if WE value and uphold the significance of these days. The reality is that many Catholics barely take a minute to reflect on the Passion of Jesus at Easter time. (and we know that attendance at Holy Week services are not what they used to be.) Many of my students associate Easter with 'going camping'. I think the Australian community will continue to uphold Christian feast days, as long as we do.

Cathy Ransom | 04 April 2011  

The AFL is a large business which is getting massive Government support and tax concessions. Its executives are as well as in any other corporation. I am sure we would not find a single sane person thinking that the AFL has anything to do with “sports” and even less with “religion”. The AFL is a business and wants more money and this the ONLY reason they want Good Friday as their day.

Beat Odermatt | 05 April 2011  

I have to disagree with James. We are a secular society with separation of state and religion. People - whether Christian, Muslims, Jews etc. - should have every right to express their religious beliefs. And equally those who are not religious should have every right to pursue their endeavours. There is no contradiction between the two. Live and let live.

philip mendes | 05 April 2011  

I do not always agree with the submissions of Beat Odermatt, but I think this one is spot on: it is just about money, not sport. Sport is, by definition, something you DO, and watching others take their exercise is only reasonable if it is in the nature of a "masterclass" for less experienced participants.

Peter Downie | 05 April 2011  

While I agree with the thrust of this article, I do not believe that the AFL is sensitive at all. Its intransigence with regard to the failed bid for the Football World Cup is an true indicator of its mettle. I am not saying that we would have won the bid if the AFL had been more supportive.

Erik H | 05 April 2011  

Another angle is for the church(es) to take an unsuspecting Friday, not the present Good Friday, celebrate the memory of Jesus and the cross on that day with the present Good Friday liturgy, and then celebrate Easter on the following Sunday with the present Easter Sunday liturgy. This would also eliminate the complication of school term holidays and travel associated with the present Easter festivities.

Noel McMaster | 05 April 2011  

For about 10 years (I'm taking a break this year) I have worked at AFL and SANFL matches. I've appreciated the effort taken on Anzac Day to have a good ceremony - even having the singing of " I Was Only Nineteen". What has annoyed me has been (1) the cheering and shouting before the ceremony has finished, and (2) people talking and moving around to get to their seats - while the ceremony proceeds.

It's like parents and students leaving a school certificate ceremony once they have eived "their" certificate - the notion of "ceremony' has collapsed. I challenged some parents about this (I knew them) - but their brand of Protestantism had wiped any knowledge of ceremony from their theology.

Frank Bremner | 05 April 2011  

WEll done that man.

John B Gillian ofm | 06 April 2011  

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