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Let's talk football Let's talk football
by Thanos Kalamidas
2014-10-18 12:01:58
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Football - soccer for the Americans - is the most popular sport in the world with an unbelievable number of side aspects. To name the biggest one, money. There are football teams this minute that the cost of their players could cover the foreign debt of a few African countries and perhaps feed the poor of this world for months.

It also has influence. Why you think a Greek ship owner or a Russian oligarch buys one day a football team which in the end of day – always according to their accountants and their announcements – it only brings financial damage. They are not fans and if they were, they could limit themselves into buying season tickets. But no, they have to buy the team.

Because teams like Olympiakos, Mr Marinakis bought a few years ago - and he has spent unbelievable money buying players and investing on the team while people literally die in the bankrupt Greece - bring with them hundreds of thousands of voters. And Mr Marinakis and every Mr Marinakis, Greek or Russian oligarch, need what more these votes bring. Politicians, governments, favours, corruption. You name it.

Football is popular and it is followed by millions of fans, literally hundreds of millions all around the world. Huge power for the ones who can manipulate them. Also an unpredictable power which gives alibis the same time. Blame everything on football hooliganism not the ones who often have invest in this hooliganism, manipulate it and in the end profit from it.

Football fans could not be racists by definition. There are players of any colour, religion and ideology playing in every team, all mixed. In theory fans love their team and they want their team successful they shouldn’t mind for the colour or the religion of the participant player for this success. Racism is out of the football’s logic. How can you be racist and adore the Brazilian Pele or been racist and think that the Muslim Zinedine Zidane was perhaps the best football player the last three decades, whishing your son to play like him. And these are only two examples of globally household football player’s names.

But racism does exist in football. In a game in Italy the fans of a team kept throwing bananas at the field while the players were playing, wanting to anger a black player of the opposite team with a reputation of a gaoler. The irony. Their own team had two black African players. When a reporter pointed the fact to them, the answer was “it was fun, it did anger him and he didn’t play well. We won in the end.” Naïve? No. Masses easy to manipulate. They have no conscious of the outcome of their acts.

UEFA of course reacted and in cooperation with the national football federation they punished the team with a penalty that included money and some games without fans. Next week more bananas in the stadium and another penalty for the team. This time the team lost. But the point is not if the team won or lost but that the fans acted as masses and they were obviously manipulated from somebody or some with racist motives. And they acted even though they weren’t necessary racists. They were easy victims and they just followed the drift. Or better they were manipulated by a minority that used them as a mass.

The punishment somehow remained inside the football ground. The team paid the penalty and the players played the next games without their fans to support them. All in the team’s ground. And the owner of the team added the penalties in the general financial damages for the taxes report.

Now what happens if the one with the power to manipulate millions of fans has dark aims? What about if the one who manipulates the millions have geopolitical aims. What if the one who manipulates the millions of fans can start something nobody can control? Let's say a war.

A few days ago, in a game between Serbia and Albania, a game without Albanian fans, just some Albanian VIPs, turned into hell and the consequences went all the way to a beaten man from the Greek minority in Albania and a group of vandals who wanted to put one of the villages where members of the Greek minority in Albania live on fire.

You probably have read everything in the news already. Midway of the game a tele-controled toy helicopter appeared in the stadium carrying a flag of the greater Albania – the dream of the Albanian nationalist and the terrorists of the UCK – that included a map with part of Serbia, part of Greece, part of FYROM and I don’t know what else they want. Serbian players tried to pull the flag down and that caused a fight since the Albanian players decided to support the provocation which insulted the Serbian national pride inside their house and shown aggressive and imperialistic behaviour. As it was natural fans entered the grounds and the fight expanded in all the sides of the stadium.

The same evening and while the game had stopped for good, the Albanian players returned home where they received a heroes welcome from the Albanian PM. Seeing that football fans of the Albanian national team felt justified to attack and burn to the ground villages of the …Greek minority. It doesn’t make sense, does it? This exactly shows the power these people who manipulate football fans have.

You might say that the same applies to every sport and fans in general. Not like it happens with football. Without wanting to generalize, football team fans are loyal to the team not to the sport. And the fanatics of them – unfortunately not a minority as most believe – can become easy victims of manipulation.

The Serbian police suspects that the one who worked the droid that carried the insulting map and based on the fact that it was controlled by two people, one outside the stadium and one inside the stadium, was the brother of the Albanian PM who was watching the game form the VIP seats. The controls were found next to his seat. No comment!

What comment can you do?

I probably could write pages about the subject, the influence and the power of manipulation some have over football fans and the consequences of this uncontrolled power but let’s return to the Greek oligarch so you can get a better picture.

Mr. Marinakis after buying Olympiakos Piraeus and the hundreds of thousands voters that accompany the team, decided to expand his influence into buying a puppet Mayor for the city of Piraeus. And his unstoppable arrogance led him to be candidate and elect in the city of Piraeus as councillor. So the man has political power in the essence of his business. All that while manipulating football fans. Asking them, they will answer that if he can manage so well the team why not the city. A minor ship owner based on what he found from his father, he is building an empire manipulating and corrupting or through a football team.

I suppose this is where you can add, food for thought and perhaps Mr. Platini, UEFA’s president, should expand his jurisdiction beyond the football ground, ask the help of the governments and somehow do something to control or radically limit all this dangerously corrupted power.

 


        
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Emanuel Paparella2014-10-18 15:23:19
Indeed Thanos, those reflections on sports and football stimulate other relevant thoughts on the subject.

Then there is the famous incident of a EU Italian parliamentarian (from Northern Italy) who, while the Neapolitan team entered the stadium, shouted: “here come the Neapolitans, even the dogs are running away from the bad smell.” This was a man who, mind you, was sent to Stratsburgh, supposedly to represent the whole of Italy as one of the EU member states and work for the transcending of narrow-minded xenophobic nationalism.

There is little doubt that we have lost the original love of sports when, in ancient Greece, all that a winner received as remuneration was a laurel wreath and food for the rest of his life. I can just hear the comments of some of today’s fans: those were other times, more simple and naïve times; we are moderns; let’s be realistic for heaven's sake; sports are just another way to compete and get power in life.

However, a working ethical formula can be derived from such Machiavellian myopic consideration: the more money and political power enters the picture of sports, the less love of sport one will find there. Another corellaryl formula is this: when art and sports, which some have proposed as an antidote to war and military struggles, are considered just means to an end rather than ends in themselves, one can be quite sure that the very concepts of art and sports have been thoroughly corrupted with the ultimate nefarious by-product the dividing rather than the uniting of people. What will be then exhibited is mere pseudo-love of art and sports.

What did Cicero write? “O tempora, o mores.” The implication being that perhaps returning to origins is the only way to restore some sanity to our corrupt polities and arrest the spread of a spreading disease in some way worse than ebola: greed and selfishness.


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