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Sports Factor -

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A tale of two football teams

The link between sport and propaganda is well established, from Hitler's fury at Jesse Owens'
success at the 1936 Berlin Games, to the the infamous "soccer war" in Central America. So what will
be the outcome when the two Koreas - North and South - clash on the football pitch this week in a
World Cup qualifier?

Transcript

This transcript was typed from a recording of the program. The ABC cannot guarantee its complete
accuracy because of the possibility of mishearing and occasional difficulty in identifying
speakers.

Mick O'Regan: This week we're looking at football's role in foreign policy. So a place to start
might be a very tense stalemate in Korea.

Now some older listeners might think that's got a familiar ring to it, but this time it's not about
war, well not war in the conventional sense, anyway.

I'm interested in the power of sport to create diplomatic openings, to exhibit what the analysts
call 'soft power', a popular ritual in which more serious concerns might be raised. Now as I said,
this week the two Koreas, North and South, met on the football pitch to play a World Cup qualifier,
despite the fact they've yet to sign a peace treaty following the war that divided them.

It was the third time the teams have met, and of course back in 2002, South Korea co-hosted the
tournament finals, and even made the semis.

CROWD CHEERING

Mark Simpkin: It's hard to describe just how excited South Korea is, but imagine this: a city
square with a giant illuminated soccer ball towering above it. More than 1-million people, all
dressed in red, many with plastic horns on their heads, jumping, screaming, dancing, crying, and
hugging the policemen who are trying to keep things under control. Fireworks are exploding,
confetti streaming, a nation delirious.

The government is planning to declare a public holiday. The entire football team has been exempted
from compulsory military service and there's a movement afoot to grant the team's Dutch coach
honorary citizenship.

LANGUAGE

Mark Simpkin: ' don't mind if I die now' this supporter says, 'Korea is the best in the world!
Victory! Korea! I still can't believe that it's true, but it is', this fan adds, 'Hooray the
Republic of Korea'

CHEERS

Mick O'Regan: The ABC's Mark Simpkin reporting from Soul amid the excitement of the 2002 World Cup
Finals.

Now this time round, the Korean game didn't quite stir the emotions in the same way. For one thing,
it was played in neutral territory, Shanghai, in China. And as we said, the result was nil-all.

The neutral venue was imposed by FIFA after the North Koreans refused to let the South's flag be
flown, or anthem to be sung in the stadium, so obviously there's some unresolved tension there.

Dr John Horne, is a reader in sociology at Edinburgh University, who's researched the significance
of football in East Asia.

John Horne: The problem I think with any of these World Cup qualifying matches, especially in the
Asian zone, is the number of qualifying games that have to take place before anybody actually gets
through to the World Cup, and whilst there are a number of qualifying matches played by European
team, such as England, Scotland and so on, the number of games played in the qualifying rounds in
East Asia always seems to be much greater. And I'd be very interested to see if the North did
qualify, and how that then would be used as a promotional tool for the society.

Mick O'Regan: It makes me wonder what sort of a public relations achievement that would be for
Pyong Yang and how they would milk it.

John Horne: Yes. Of course before this World Cup, and I know we're focusing on this football game,
of course this year we have the other small matter of the Beijing Olympics, and just as there was
the joint flag, or the unification flag used as the two Korean teams came into the stadium in
Sydney and in Athens, in 2000 and 2004, there has even been discussion about even developing a
joint team, but the stumbling block seems to be, as often is the case with these sort of ideas,
that the National Olympic Committees for both countries cannot agree on how to choose the athletes
to compete.

They can't agree, especially in team games, which athletes should be selected for the team, And in
that respect I think this is going to be something similar going on in terms of the relationship,
it blows hot, and sometimes it blows cold, and I think we will have to wait and see how this
develops; the new President, the concerns about nuclear developments in the north, the fact that
North Korea is still, I presume, still thought of as a rogue state by America and so on. I think
these things do not help with, if you like the development shall we say of normal relationships,
sporting relationships.

Mick O'Regan: the long-term effects of a successful campaign by the two Koreas to play football, to
be part of the international focus that the World Cup provides, is it likely to be a significant
fillip as far as reunification is concerned? Or should we not see it in those terms, and simply see
it as a football game?

John Horne: Well there's the football game; there are many other sporting connections that may
enhance that prospect. One of them, although given current developments we don't know quite how far
the Olympic flame that was lit yesterday, will manage to go from Seoul to Pyong Yang which is
another aspect of this year's Olympics that is anticipated. Sport does have a small role to play;
people often refer to the 1970s and Ping Pong Olympics between Nixon and the Chinese regime at the
time.

Mick O'Regan: Ping Pong diplomacy.

John Horne: Ping Pong diplomacy, excuse me, yes. So there are references to that, and other people
nowadays talk about soft power and sport being part of this soft power that maybe can be a kind of
informal diplomatic avenue that enables things to be done and things to be said that wouldn't be
achieved through the normal avenues. But you have to say as well that it is just sport, and
sometimes sport plays second fiddle to other issues.

Mick O'Regan: In another code, in Rugby, where the South African national Rugby team, the
Springboks, which was a fortress of white supremacy in the 1995 Rugby World Cup held in South
Africa, the sight of Nelson Mandela in a Springbok jersey embracing a black player, the first black
player to play in a national side, sent a political message that seemed to go way beyond the
boundaries of that particular game of football.

John Horne: Yes, and undoubtedly that can happen and does happen, and as we know South Africa will
be hosting the World Cup which these two teams, one of which is hoping to be there. But of course
there's a difference between the symbolism and the reality of what happens after these
developments. The reality is that for example, a recent United Nations survey showed that children
in the north, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, that is North Korea, children at the age
of eight tend to be much shorter and considerably lighter than children in the South, and there are
real serious issues of malnourishment in the North, and whilst we can sort of focus on these epic
games, there are still some sort of real social issues and problems that will need to be dealt
with.

Mick O'Regan: Just in terms of that, would there be any prospect that people who are wanting to
protest against the policies of the North Korean government would take the opportunity provided by
this game to make their protest? Or will the level of control render that impossible?

John Horne: I think given that the game is being played in Shanghai, and to be honest I don't know
about the travelling, the likelihood of many fans being able to travel for support. And given the
issue that stimulated it, which is that as I understand it, the North not allowing the South
Koreans to display their flags and sing their national anthems in Kim il Sung Stadium in Pyong
Yang, I think the likelihood of any real visible protest will be quite small. But it's 'famous last
words' - who would have thought that somebody could turn up in Greece, given the amount of extra
police that were there to demonstrate about the situation in Tibet?

Mick O'Regan: Who would have thought indeed. Sociologist John Horne from Edinburgh University.

The rise of football in Australia, especially our recent inclusion into the Asian Zone for World
Cup qualification, has dovetailed very neatly with our burgeoning commercial relationships with the
region. And as Fran and her panel discussed earlier on the Breakfast program, Prime Minister Kevin
Rudd is currently on a major international tour, which will include a visit to Beijing.

Now according to his media release, the PM will be meeting President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen
Jiabao to explore 'areas for greater bilateral co-operation'. To break the ice, he'll be able to
chat about the Socceroos nail-biting nil-all draw in Kunming on Wednesday, and how much we're all
looking forward to the return clash when the Chinese side come to Australia later in the year.

But what are the broader implications?

Anthony Bubalo is a research Fellow at the Lowy Institute, and the author of a policy brief titled
'Football Diplomacy', and he joins me now from his office in Sydney. Anthony Bubalo, welcome to The
Sports Factor.

Anthony Bubalo: Thanks for having me.

Mick O'Regan: Just broadly, what are the benefits, in your opinion, of Australia becoming part of
the Asian Football Confederation?

Anthony Bubalo: Look, firstly there's some obvious football benefits, and we shouldn't lose sight
of these. I mean the Australian Football Federation joined the Asian Confederation for some very
important reasons.

But if you want to talk about broader impacts, for the first time I think, we'll be playing sport
with Asia in a genuine mass popularity sport, and on a regular basis, and I think this is a really
significant change in our exposure to Asia and also Asia's exposure to us. In the past, our
dealings with Asia tended to be much more transactional, that is, Australians would go to Asia for
an exotic holiday, or Asians would come here for an education. But sport I think, by contrast,
provides a much more common point of conversation between the two societies and at a much more
grassroots level.

Mick O'Regan: Does it rely Anthony on the fact that within parts of East Asia, that there is a
growing affluence, that there's a growing number of people who have the leisure time and the funds
to be able to participate as sports spectators?

Anthony Bubalo: Absolutely. I think the growing popularity of not just Asian football but also
things like the English Premier League in Asia reflects the growth of the middle class. I mean the
gross stereotype of Asia has been of a region with a very high work ethic, and I don't think that
work ethic has necessarily changed, but as people become more affluent, the time they can commit to
leisure activities is obviously increasing. And the fact that they also have more money to spend
should be an important pointer to some of our businesses doing business in Asia.

Mick O'Regan: One of the things that you touch upon in your policy brief for the Lowy Institute
were the values, the attitudes within sport that can facilitate greater cultural understanding. Now
I'm interested in this, is it a double-sided coin? Are there elements, say, to Australians'
fanaticism, our partisanship in sport that will be negatively received in Asia?

Anthony Bubalo: Look, in any kind of relationship whether it's business or sport or politics, there
are opportunities and there are risks, and in this new sporting relationship there will be some
kinds of positive and negative things that emerge out of it. Now if we look back recently to the
Asian Cup, I think one of the things that was judged of our poor performance at the Asian Cup was
that we were a little bit kind of cocky, and a bit arrogant about our new football place in Asia.
And it might also be that Asians see us that way more generally, see Australia that way more
generally. And maybe if we can learn a bit more modesty in our football relationship with Asia,
maybe that will also help change perceptions of Australia more generally in the region as well.

Mick O'Regan: Do you think that idea of modesty, of humility, which is actually a subject we're
going to touch on in a future program, but is that important, do you think, within Asian football
that there is that notion of being humble before the crowd?

Anthony Bubalo: Look I'm not sure. I think it's going to vary from culture to culture and from
place to place in Asia. I mean certainly there's a question of being modest and humble, but most
Asian teams want to win as well, so I think that's going to vary across the region.

Mick O'Regan: Right. Well the other obvious area within sport, particularly as professional sport
has blossomed in the last generation, is the extraordinary money that's now connected to sport,
either through telecast rights or sponsorship. Are there specific implications, do you think, for
Australian business as our sporting relationship with places like China, Korea, Japan develop?

Anthony Bubalo: Look, absolutely, and I think business in Australia is only just starting to cotton
on to the fact that if for example you're sponsoring either an Australian domestic club team, or
sponsoring a national team, that given the games that now regularly played in Asia and in Asian
markets more importantly, the exposure that you'll have through that sponsorship is now massively
increased. And I also think there are areas where we haven't actually leveraged the potential. For
example, Australia does pretty well on sports tourism when it comes to rugby and cricket; there's a
lot left to be done on sports tours in terms of both Asian club matches, the Asian Cup matches, but
also the games between national teams in the region.

Mick O'Regan: So say if we move from football to cricket, the recent tour by the Indian cricket
team to Australia we might see in future really large tour parties of fans from places like India,
China, Japan, coming to Australia when their teams are here?

Anthony Bubalo: That's the hope. But we can't simply rely on the fact that the games are here and
they'll come. Certainly some elements of the infrastructure are there, air links within Asia are
pretty good. But lots of other things will also need to be done, maybe kind of special visa
requirements, maybe package deals put together to encourage people to come, because so far there
isn't a lot of travel associated for example with the Asian Cup. You don't see, as you do see in
Europe, a lot of away fans travelling to watch their teams play in other countries. So there's a
lot more work to be done, but in that there also lie great opportunities.

Mick O'Regan: Indeed, and as someone who's actually been in New Zealand during a Rugby tour when
the British and Irish Lions toured New Zealand, the size of the touring party that followed that
particular team round was quite extraordinary, literally tens of thousands of people just
everywhere on the street, buying coffee, buying beer, buying products, buying souvenirs; you could
almost see the dollars changing hands.

To move from commerce to I suppose the potential for awareness and education, one of the things I
found interesting in your policy brief, was the possibility that the closer ties might provide
opportunities say for raising HIV and AIDS awareness through campaigns promoted by sporting teams.

Anthony Bubalo: Absolutely. And we've already seen for example Rugby League used very successfully
in PNG to promote HIV awareness. And one of the great strengths here is that precisely the types of
people and age groups that you're targeting, young men in their 20s or 30s, also tend to be people
that go to football matches. So again, that's another still to be explored and leveraged
opportunity that this new relationship provides.

Mick O'Regan: Indeed. Just one final quick question: is someone like Prime Minister Kevin Rudd,
with his obvious familiarity with Chinese culture and language, do you think that Kevin Rudd is in
a unique position to exploit any enhanced sporting relationship between Australia and the PRC?

Anthony Bubalo: Yes and no. In a sense the new sporting relationship is less useful to someone like
Mr Rudd because he already knows China pretty well, and one of the things about this new sporting
relationship is it'll open new apertures and vistas on Asian societies for Australians and vice
versa. But it also is useful to him in that he can now use these matches I think as opportunities
for some informal match-side diplomacy with his Chinese counterparts, and I think in fact he missed
an opportunity in that he's about to go to China, or he's one his way to China, if he could have
co-ordinated his trip maybe a little bit better, he could have started his visit to China by
attending the Australia-China match.

Mick O'Regan: What a good idea that would have been. Anthony Bubalo, thank you very much for being
on The Sports Factor.

Anthony Bubalo: Thank you for having me.

Mick O'Regan: Anthony Bubalo, research Fellow from the Lowy Institute and the author of the
Institute's policy brief, 'Football Diplomacy', which was published in 2005.