Migrants and Footy Excerpts

Phil Dimitriadis

The stories have started to come in for the upcoming book about migrants and footy. Today we feature passages from Peter Zitterschlager and Roy Hay. Peter’s background is a mix of German, Slovenian and Footscratian while Roy hails from Scotland and has ties with soccer royalty in the old country, while supporting Geelong in Australia.

The book is starting to take shape and the stories are reflecting an eclectic mix of cross-cultural humour, multicultural identity and the permutations of engaging with a strange, yet intriguing game in a faraway land. Intergenerational confusion also comes to the fore as writers ponder how to reconcile their passion for footy, their parent’s expectations and their children’s choices.


Why there aren’t delicatessens at the G      

Peter Zitterschlager


Eating cured meat wasn’t exactly what I had in mind the first time I went to the footy. From what I’d heard from other kids, all going well, I’d be eating my own body weight in burgers, chips and pies. That’s what they boasted they did, and as I sat with my family watching Footscray that day, that’s what I imagined I’d be doing. I can recall it being a glorious winter’s one, sometime in the mid 70’s and it feeling good to be alive.


I can particularly recall the sweet smell of chip oil wafting through the EJ Whitten stand, dazzling my senses and serenading me with its allure. It was at that very moment that my Dad handed me what has to be the most objectionable thing I’ve ever seen. It was a rye sandwich, thick cut and packed tight with pickled looking things and small goods. I tell you, it may as well have been a turd. “Salami?” I complained. “You can’t have Salami at the footy, Dad. You’re supposed to have fries!” My Dad didn’t bat a lid. Whilst continuing to funnel out sandwiches, he spat, “Dreck: I’m not paying good money for dreck.Dreck, I thought shrinking: my Dad just used the wog word dreck. Not only was it terribly terribly embarrassing, it was so terribly terribly uncool.


Fearing that he’d use more wog language in front of Australians, I shut up and took the sandwich. I tell you, it actually felt like a turd as it sat in my hand. After regarding it for the longest time, I forlornly nibbled it. I’ll never forget the taste: ethnicity, marinated in shame, lavishly then spiced with disappointment. It was an aftertaste that was to plague me all throughout my youth.


Dreck I’d later learn from my Dad is German for trash. “Not just any trash,” he’d further explain: “Stinking, filthy trash.” And that’s what he thought of Australian food (and especially the overpriced stuff at the football.) Being a father of six, and one with a tight budget, my Dad was always reminding us that he couldn’t afford to be frivolous. Buying pies and hot dogs at football prices was being just as much and as I resentfully chewed my sandwich, I intuitively prepared myself for the grim pieless years awaiting me. “You want a fig,” my Dad offered at that moment. Dreading that he’d say something else woggy, I again saved myself the embarrassment and took it. “And here, vussa unt liverwurst too.” I couldn’t win either way! I wanted to die.


Football was not an option

Roy Hay

I was born within a long torpedo punt of Burns’ Cottage in Ayrshire in Scotland in 1940, the son of a teacher who had won a Scottish Schoolboys Cup medal and the grandson of a miner, who was the first protestant captain of Glasgow Celtic, the catholic football team in Glasgow. He also captained Scotland and Newcastle United and later managed Ayr United. Unfortunately, talent skipped my generation and, though I played amateur football at school and university and in the RAF, a professional career was never on. After Glasgow University and Oxford I taught at the new University of East Anglia and then in Glasgow and for the Open University, until one day I was offered a job at Deakin University, which was just starting in Geelong.

Arriving in Australia from Scotland with my wife and two young children in September 1977, we spent a week in a motel, then six on a farm cottage outside Geelong, before settling near the university where I taught for 25 years. Twenty-two days after landing I watched the drawn grand final between North Melbourne and Collingwood. Draws, even scoreless draws, are quite common in soccer, so it took me time to work out why there was so much angst about the lack of decision in this game. But it was a great introduction to the absolute need to have a team to barrack for, not against, as I quickly learned one of the inversions of meaning essential to conversational survival down under.

Having supported provincial losers all my life, specifically Ayr United, whose trophy drought exceeded that of the local footy team, it did not take me long to find the Cats. Larry Donohue, Gary Malarkey, ‘Jumpin Jack’ Hawkins, the Nankervis brothers quickly became names to set alongside Peter Price, Sam McMillan, Quinton Young, Dandy McLean and Alex (later Sir Alex) Ferguson who played for Ayr over the years. So accompanied by an Englishman, a South African and a Kiwi we would head for seats in the open area in front of the Brownlow Stand at Kardinia Park of a Saturday afternoon. We were in the front row, on the fence, next to Madame Defarge, who knitted as the game passed in front of her. During a game against Hawthorn, one of their thuggish number tackled Terry Bright into her lap, whereupon she belaboured the perpetrator with her umbrella to the rich delight of the crowd and the surprise of the miscreant.

If you have a story you’d like to share we would love to read it. Please contact me on (03) 9470 3004 or 0416 492 454 and at [email protected] if you are keen to participate in the project.











  1. John Harms says


    The Footy Almanac is thrilled to be behind this project and if the quality of observations (and writing) is like Peter’s and Roy’s this is going to be a bonzer book.

    I am certainly happy to write about footy and the German Lutheran experience. I have written elsewhere that sport was not a huge part of the tradition but became so here in Australia. Why Australian Lutherans embraced footy I’m not sure, although I have my theories, which I would love to convey.

  2. Nothing from me I’m afraid Phil… I’m so white I went to the Australian Open Tennis in a Titleist golf cap.

  3. Does enjoying the ‘football’ culture that English migrants have brought to SANFL club Central District count? I’m not from a migrant family but the CDFC would not be the beautifully ebullient beast that it was if not for the English football heritage…

  4. Phil Dimitriadis says

    Thanks JTH, look forward to reading about the Lutheran experience.

    Rob, stories from the English migrant experience are most welcome and indeed essential. The idea is to get a balanced mix where all AFL clubs can be represented and state or local clubs like Centrals also get a run. Would love to publish that story Rob.

    Ideally, we get a rich diversity in cultural backgrounds which fuse into the stories about relationship with footy at every level.

    Suggestions are welcome from all readers.

    Litza, you are almost a wog being a Carlton supporter, but I fear the censor will be working overtime on your story :)

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