FROM OLYMPICS TO FOOTBALL AMATEURISM PREVAILS Over the past month there has been a feast of sport in Europe, with many employers conscious of their tired employees whilst trying to mask their own fatigue; Wimbledon, the Tour de France, major championship golf and even Casey Stoner and Mark Webber have many of us burning the candle at both ends. With the London 2012 Olympic Games commencing this weekend the tired and glazed over look on people’s faces are set to continue for another fortnight. The original Olympic ideals of amateurism have been replicated in amateur sport around the globe and in our competition prevail today. Many educators believe that sport forms an important part of education, the inference being that a sound mind needs a sound body. The belief was that man needed to exude all-round skills and attributes and not just be best at one thing in order to be successful in life. This is one of the reasons professionals were excluded from the Olympics until the 1980’s. The amateur ethos has survived at the VAFA where the same principles of the all-rounder survive. Amateur status was valued and thought to be the way to determine a true sportsman. Examples of how important amateur status was to an athlete or footballer and the officials running a competition are scattered through the past. Most notable was American Jim Thorpe whose 1912 Stockholm Olympic Gold medals for decathlon and pentathlon were stripped from him as evidence was submitted that Thorpe received money from participating in professional sports. Thorpe’s honours from 1912 were finally restored in 1982, thirty years after his death. Amateur football was no different, as many players who left their amateur club to play at VFL level continued to play for no money in order to retain their amateur status so that one day they could return to play in the VAFA. Indeed amateurism was so scrutinised that if you were a physical education teacher, you were deemed ineligible to play in the VAFA as you were receiving a salary derived from sport. These restrictions were not changed until similar changes to rulings were made
for the Olympics. This mentality was mirrored in the Olympics when for the 1936 Garmisch-Partenkirchen Games in Germany, the International Ski Federation (FIS) decided that ski instructors could not compete because they were professionals, and the Olympics were meant for amateur athletes only. The VAFA is proud of our amateur link to the Olympic Games and we are incredibly proud of our players who have represented Australia at the games. On the website we have been running stories this week on some of these athletes. We have one current player, Christian Ryan, who has made a comeback to football with North Old Boys / St Pats after a brilliant rowing career. Christian won a sliver medal in the bow seat in the Men’s Eight at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000. In that crew was Mike Mackay who played with Old Xaverians in the late eighties before becoming a member of the gold winning Oarsome Foursome in the 1992 Barcelona and 1996 Atlanta Games in the coxless four. At these two Olympic Games, the crew had five representatives and incredibly three of these played football in the VAFA. Along with Mackay, James Tomkins played for Old Carey and Old Brighton and Andrew Cooper played with Old Brighton. The biggest story of the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico was the gesture by 200 metre gold medallist Tommie Smith and bronze medallist John Carlos showing their black power salute. The silver medallist from that race was dashing West Brunswick wingman Peter Norman and he supported the two Americans by wearing an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge on his tracksuit. Of course the VAFA had a major presence at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics when the VAFA played an exhibition football match on the MCG against amateur players from the VFL and VFA. Surprising many but not the VAFA supporters, we won the match 12.9.81 to 8.7.55. The VAFA was captained by Geoff Hibbins of Collegians and the VFL by Denis Cordner from Melbourne and formerly Old Melburnians. For more information regarding the VAFA and our links to the Olympics click onto vafa.com.au.
The Amateur Footballer
THE JOURNAL OF THE VICTORIAN AMATEUR FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION July 28, 2012 THE AMATEUR FOOTBALLER 2012
Vol. 12 No. 14 1