The appearance of a global sporting superstar in Melbourne has sparked a heated cross-code war of words with an AFL photo at the centre of it.
Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford has been caught in the middle of another code-wars tiff in Australia.
The 24-year-old was involved in a promotional appearance in Melbourne on Thursday ahead of United’s Friday night clash against Melbourne Victory at the MCG.
One photo of him posing with a Sherrin in his hands has triggered a furious reaction from members of the Australian football community, including TV presenter Lucy Zelic.
The former SBS star on Thursday night slammed the photo as “f***ing embarrassing”.
The photo of Rashford was first posted on the AFL’s social media channels.
Rashford is far from the only international athlete or Hollywood star to be partnered up with AFL players during their promotional tours, but this one has stirred up the hornets nest again.
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“Can someone tell me what the point of this is,” Zelic wrote on Twitter.
“Is Marcus suddenly going to switch codes and sign for an AFL side? Go and pat a koala, meet with proud members of our Indigenous communities and spend time with grassroots FOOTBALL clubs. This is just f**king embarrassing.”
She responded to one Twitter user: “This is a blatant PR exercise that Marcus was told to do, nothing more, nothing less. Cross-code promotions are a waste of time. They should be appealing to FOOTBALL fans.
“As a code, the AFL and its representatives have done nothing but s*** on football time and time again. Who could forget in 09’ when we bid for the WC and Demetriou refused to give up Etihad for an INTERNATIONAL tournament. Agreeing to be apart of this stupidity is just insulting.”
Former Football Australia communications boss Bonita Mersiades wrote on Twitter the photo was “cringeworthy” and slammed the public relations firm that was responsible for organising the event.
“I find it cringeworthy that Marcus Rashford is rolled-out to do a photo call with a bunch of teams he’s likely never heard of,” she posted on Twitter.
“For what purpose? The benefit of the other teams? Are their supporters going to go to the exhibition match? And, bottom-line, will their supporters attend #ALeague games because they were photographed with Marcus Rashford? I know our football actually gets to play vs Rashford et al, but I wish our game didn’t feel the need to do this.
“There are PR freelancers & companies with genuine football experience who could do a great job, and who understand that context is important.”
There was also more than a fair share of scorn directed in the AFL’s direction on social media.
Rashford spoke to the Aussie media on Thursday and spoke with open positivity about his future under Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag.
United’s squad arrived in Melbourne on Wednesday for a three-match pre-season tour. United also play at the MCG on Tuesday night against Crystal Palace before heading to Perth for a meeting with Aston Villa on Saturday week at Optus Stadium.