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Stench of bigotry sours FFA Cup

Opinion

UPDATED: The nostalgia of playing against one of the former NSL clubs quickly soured last night as old hatreds were revived, argues Spiro Karanikos-Mimis.

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The more things change, the more things stay the same. Isn’t that how the saying goes?

The FFA Cup has been a breath of fresh air for football in Australia.

It has allowed clubs in the semi-professional and amateur tiers to potentially compete against A-League teams and showcase their worth.

It’s also re-invigorated former National Soccer League clubs and stoked a fire in them to push for a national second division.

And so on Wednesday, the Melbourne Knights had an opportunity to remind Australians about their relevance.

They played Adelaide United – reigning FFA Cup champions. A big night indeed.

The pre-game reporting on Fox Sports featured heavily on the Knights, their volunteers helping bring their stadium up to scratch and Archie Thompson’s and Andy Harper’s multiple visits to the canteen to buy ćevapi.

All good so far.

Even I, as a former West Adelaide Sharks fan, had a fleeting moment of nostalgia and briefly thought – yep, we can have these teams back.

But this sentiment changed when I heard how the Knights crowd treated Adelaide United’s Nikola Mileusnic.

Nikola has Serbian heritage and was subjected to booing by the Knights fans.

I believe he was being booed because of his ethnicity.

Sound familiar?

I’m not going sit back and pretend that bigotry didn’t show its ugly head last night.

This article should be reflecting on the excellent goal-scoring debut of Alhassan Toure, the energetic cameo of Pacifique Niyongambire, the promising debut of Michael Maria and Adelaide United’s change in game plan. But it won’t.

Because I’m not going to sit back and pretend that bigotry didn’t show its ugly head last night. That’s exactly what it looked like to me.

And, if I am right, I refuse to be a bystander to bigotry and so should you.

If the Melbourne Croatia Soccer Club were serious about a tilt at the national second division, they should immediately issue a statement condemning any of their fans who engaged in ethnic-motivated booing.

The FFA also need to show leadership and investigate the matter. If they agree that this was bigotry, they should come out and slam what happened, fine the Knights, dock them points or whatever needs to be done to ensure that all clubs get the message: Say no to racism.

And those of us lucky to have a voice in the media can’t put our heads in the sand either.

There is no place for bigotry in society and I will call it out.

Any Melbourne Knights fan who booed Nikola Mileusnic simply because he is Serbian is living in a by-gone era.

The football community has grown up. They haven’t.

There is no place for a team whose fans act this way in the A-League or the national second division.

Spiro Karanikos-Mimis is InDaily’s soccer columnist.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Melbourne Knights FC has contacted us to dispute the opinions expressed in this article.

They say that there was no ethnic-motivated booing by their fans and “not a hint of any racism or bigotry”.

They believe that Adelaide United players, officials and fans in attendance at the match were treated with respect and it was a great night for football.

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