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This is the biggest weekend on the world soccer calendar, and what do Australian ‘fans’ of the game do?

Kick an own goal.

I use the term ‘soccer’ with some trepidation, by the way. Last time I committed that cardinal sin in a column my email in-box was filled with messages dripping outrage, spite and vitriol.

Still, it could have been worse. It could have been my letterbox filled with a lit flare.

Aussie soccer was riding high after the World Cup until the violent and shameful pitch invasion in Melbourne on Saturday night (pictured) during the A-League Melbourne derby

Aussie soccer was riding high after the World Cup until the violent and shameful pitch invasion in Melbourne on Saturday night (pictured) during the A-League Melbourne derby

Now the morons at AAMI Park (pictured) have replaced the positive stories with headlines of flares, pitch invasions, assault and match abandonment

Now the morons at AAMI Park (pictured) have replaced the positive stories with headlines of flares, pitch invasions, assault and match abandonment

That’s what one so-called supporter of the ‘World Game’ threatened to do if I ever dared to use the S-word again.

‘It’s called football, you #%*+,’ he said.

Really? Well today it’s called a disgrace.

Seriously, what is it with you people?

The image of the game in this country gets the biggest boost since … well, maybe since ever, and you have to drag it through the mud.

The performances of the Socceroos (don’t blame me, I didn’t name them) put the game on the front pages for all the right reasons. Now, before the World Cup is even finished, the morons at AAMI Park replaced those positive stories with headlines of flares, pitch invasions, assault and match abandonment.

Violent thugs pictured storming the pitch on Saturday night

Violent thugs pictured storming the pitch on Saturday night

Any goodwill engendered by those inspirational two-weeks in Qatar has been blown away by a few minutes of idiocy and violence in Melbourne.

And please, don’t try telling me that it’s wrong to blame the majority of loyal, well-behaved football-loving fans for the stupidity and violence of a minority.

Sorry, but that’s how it works.

Do you think the non-football community looks at the TV coverage of police using tear gas and baton charges to break up riots in Paris and Belgium following World Cup matches and thinks, ‘well, it’s only a minority’?

Do they see a 14-year-old boy killed when hit by a car trying to flee the violence and brush it off as ‘just part of football’?

Do they look at a bleeding France supporter needing medical attention after being hit in the head with a milk crate thrown by an Australian fan at a World Cup live-site and think, ‘Gee, isn’t the passion of the World Game beautiful?’

Of course not. They think, ‘what is it with soccer fans? Why can’t they behave like normal people?’

And it’s a fair question.

How is it that supporters of other sports in this country can go along to watch their teams in action knowing that there is next to no chance that they and their families will be caught up in a riot, but if they go to a soccer game there’s always that doubt in the back of their minds?

Pitch invaders pictured swinging off the crossbar of the goals at AAMI Park

Pitch invaders pictured swinging off the crossbar of the goals at AAMI Park

Now I’ve got to say that I used to take my young children along to watch the A-League quite regularly in its early days and there was never even a hint of trouble.

But by the same token, I have attended games in the UK where visiting supporters are met at the railway station by mounted police and escorted to and from the ground to avoid contact with the home fans.

I also remember the old NSL days when derbies between clubs supported by opposing ethnic groups were little more than an excuse to rekindle centuries-old grievances.

And then there was that front page of the Sydney newspaper in 2015 naming and shaming – complete with photographs – 198 fans who had been banned by the A-League.

Soccer has the worst public image of any sport in the country

Soccer has the worst public image of any sport in the country

Put it all together and you’ve got a game with the worst public image of any sport in the country.

At one stage we used to read how soccer was Australia’s fastest growing game amongst juniors because mothers didn’t want their children getting hurt playing the other football codes.

Those days are gone. We’re now told that the AFL’s well-funded and expertly run Auskick juggernaut is sweeping all before it.

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And why wouldn’t it? Soccer might be a safe game for kids to play, but you wouldn’t want to take them along to watch the A-League. Firstly, there’s a perception that it is not a safe spectator environment, and secondly, the quality of play is so low it’s like watching paint dry.

Soccer might be a safe game for kids, but you wouldn’t want to take them along to watch the A-League with scenes like those on Saturday night

Soccer might be a safe game for kids, but you wouldn’t want to take them along to watch the A-League with scenes like those on Saturday night

It is no wonder that, unlike the mega-rich AFL or rugby league, the game hasn’t got two bob to rub together.

Pay TV viewer numbers and subscription sales are a joke, as reflected by the size of the paltry $40 million-a-year broadcast rights deal.

Which is why when the Socceroos captured the imagination of the country in Qatar, the people tasked with the dubious honour of running the game in Australia looked to the heavens and said a prayer of thanks.

At last, something had finally gone right. People liked them.

For a few days there the good vibes even pushed the A-League’s decision to sell the grand final to Sydney for the next three years into the background.

Pitch invaders pictured running amok at AAMI Park

Pitch invaders pictured running amok at AAMI Park

Ah yes, the infamous grand final deal which sees the code’s biggest game of the year locked into Sydney for the next three years for a reported $12 million fee.

The deal which was the spark that led to Saturday night’s disgraceful scenes in Melbourne.

Now I admit I’m no expert on the inner workings of either the A-League or the minds of its supporters, but it seems to me if someone offers a struggling sporting code a shipping container-load of cash to play one game a year in the most beautiful city in the country, it would be bad business to turn it down.

Sure, it might be tough for the code’s followers in other parts of the country to stomach, but sometimes you just have to suck it up.

Rugby league supporters in Queensland, Victoria, the ACT, Newcastle and New Zealand have done it for decades, knowing that no matter where their team finished on the ladder, the grand final would be played in Sydney.

Still, if you want to protest by walking out of matches after paying to buy your tickets, that’s your right.

What isn’t your right is to throw flares at players, run onto the field, hit a player in the head with a metal bin, assault a referee and a camera operator and force the game to be abandoned.

Nor is it your right to continue fueling the overwhelming public perception of Australian football as a toxic cesspit of idiocy, hooliganism and violence.

Australian football has a public perception as a toxic cesspit of idiocy, hooliganism and violence because of events like the utter chaos of the Melbourne derby

Australian football has a public perception as a toxic cesspit of idiocy, hooliganism and violence because of events like the utter chaos of the Melbourne derby

At some stage you have to put the good of the game you profess to love ahead of your most basic instincts.

Not that I’d hold my breath waiting for that to happen. From my experience it seems that some people just don’t get it – and they probably never will.

About 15 years ago I attended a big Brisbane Roar function in Brisbane. The guest of honour was the Premier of Queensland, Anna Bligh, who got up and pledged her personal support and that of her government to the club and the code.

‘I am a soccer mum,’ she said. ‘My boys love soccer and so do I. Anything I can do to help soccer and the Roar, I will. You only have to ask.’

In a town dominated by the rugby league Broncos and AFL Lions, this was a huge commitment.

Members of Victoria Police pictured on the the pitch after the violent chaos of Saturday night

Members of Victoria Police pictured on the the pitch after the violent chaos of Saturday night

So what did the roomful of the game’s biggest supporters do? Did they give the Premier three cheers or a standing ovation?

No. They booed her for using the word ‘soccer’.

Honestly. Some people deserve what they get.

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