Yesterday, in another moment of procrastination, I found myself searching for a pub showing the AFL Grand Final on Saturday morning.
Just as I was journey planning on the NS website as to how early I was going to have to leave to get to The Hague by 6.30am, I stopped. What was I doing?
I watched the Grand Final in an Aussie pub in Munich last year, where I happened to be whilst tour guiding. It ended up being a horrible, hopefully never to be repeated experience.
Growing up watching Grand Finals on the television, they’d always cross to a Grand Final party somewhere overseas, usually in London. They always looked like great fun, and I decided that if I was somewhere else for a Grand Final (but I was always confident that I wouldn’t be for a Collingwood one) I’d definitely head to a pub.
Of course, it then happened, didn’t it. Collingwood made the big one and I was stuck on the other side of the world, in my last few weeks of tour guiding for the summer. I had a cheeky check of Skyscanner but it was never going to happen. So I went in search for a pub.
I watched a total of two matches in the Ned Kelly Bar during Oktoberfest last year; the Collingwood vs Hawthorn preliminary final, and the Grannie with us up against Geelong. Watching the preliminary final was fun; it was only me and about a dozen others, split pretty evenly between Collingwood, Hawthorn and other ‘serious’ fans. Of course I was going to return a week later.
Which I did. I arrived at about 5.30 with the place absolutely packed and loud as anything. I found my friend Dave in the crowd and he ordered me a beer. I don’t know if it was the fact that it was the second-last day of Oktoberfest or simply the hour, but I turned my nose up at the Paulaner and didn’t even have it finished by the end of the game.
The week previous, we were all footy fans. We all knew the players, the rules and the etiquette. Not this week. Instead of a room full of people excited for the match, hardly anyone watched. In every group of four, you’d find one person desperately trying to crane their neck and view the big screen. The rest were there for one thing; they were Australian, and that’s what Australians were supposed to do. It is almost as if it appears on a list of things to do in Europe; ride a gondola, climb the Eiffel Tower, run with the bulls and get up early and watch the Grand Final in an Aussie pub. Yet another thing to tick off a list.
Not only could I hardly see a thing, I couldn’t even hear the commentary. They’d turned it down (hey, it might mean that people couldn’t continue their conversations!) and the crowd was just too noisy. However, it got worse.
The racist rhetoric I heard escaping from people’s mouths was worse than I’d ever heard in my entire life. It started off with just a few drunks at the back and spread like wildfire; women and men alike saying the most atrocious things whenever an Indigenous player would grace the screen.
I really couldn’t believe it; I didn’t think it was that bad. We Aussies get a bad rap but I couldn’t imagine young people (the majority of people there were in their twenties) these days verbalising such outdated and frankly disturbing notions. But they were, and it was everywhere.
Was it because we were in this ‘safe house’ of Aussies, away from the locals and our home country itself, where such things just aren’t tolerated? And look where we were, Germany. A place with a pretty twisted past when it comes to racism.
I could hardly concentrate on the game and I was furious that these people had ruined the experience for me. When was my team next going to be in a Grand Final? (OK, don’t answer that.) Of course, I could have said something. Apart from the fact that this would have left me coated in beer at best (and I was wearing my lovely drndl), I had already been outed as a Collingwood supporter. When Geelong would score a goal, dozens would come up to me and cheer in my face, beer and spit going everywhere. Even if they were wearing Fremantle scarves.
As soon as the siren sounded, I was out of there. Once the footy had finished I had no reason to associate with those people. I never again wanted to witness such a thing.
Of course, it didn’t help that we lost.
So I’m going to be watching the footy on Saturday from the comfort of home. I doubt the atmosphere in The Hague would be anything like what I found in Munich, but I’m just not willing to take the risk. Once was enough.