Friday, 6 June 2014

World Cup Questions. Answers sought.

There's a kind of fever sweeping the nation and I'll give you a clue it's not yellow or dengue. It is, of course: World Cup Fever. I'm talking about the Association Football World Cup that starts in Brazil imminently (sorry to disappoint those of you who are gearing up for the lacrosse World Cup in July but I try to keep it topical). Last week at work, I watched six grown men spend three hours swapping stickers and casual xenophobia in an effort to complete their commemorative sticker albums. 

Naturally, all this has got me thinking: What is it for? Why should we care? I reject the tribalism inherent in supporting a team as I am suspicious that it teaches a kind of jingoistic nationalism, an unquestioning subservience to power at which I instinctively recoil. Do fans support a team because they wear the same colours as them or do they wear the colours because they support the team? Why do fans pin their emotional well-being to the failures and successes of people they have never met and probably wouldn't get on with if they did? 

On the one hand it seems arbitrary: Why are teams divided geographically? Why not by height or hair colour or age? If we are to have geographical teams shouldn't they be drawn from constituencies of equal size? Why all the fuss about this World Cup and not the one played by the other gender? In tennis, equal coverage (and pay) has been granted to both genders (after a long struggle). Why is football so far behind?

On the other hand it seems sinister: The massive corruption at FIFA that their internal investigation process is amazingly unable to investigate because... er... there's a World Cup starting. The billions spent on stadiums in Brazilian cities with barely functioning hospitals and no public transport. The hundreds of migrant workers enslaved in Qatar (due to host the tournament in eight years time) their passports impounded on arrival, forced to work and watch their colleagues fall to their deaths. The beautiful game.

I would quite like a caxirola though.



  1. I wouldn't say always xenophobia. Living in the very divert Stepney Green in East London during the world cups in 98 and 02 there were lots of people wearing the England shirts from lots of different backgrounds. In the less dodgy pubs the atmosphere was brilliant with everyone wanting England to win.

  2. Hi Phil, the 'xenophbia' remark was a specific instance of one of the sticker collectors in the pub having difficulty placing "the Nips" because "they all look the same." Truly, we live in cultured times. Agree with you about atmosphere in pub when everyone is supporting the same team. Even my cynical heart can increase its beat rate at a near miss in extra time!

  3. Orwell though football was 'war without the shooting'. Does this help?

    1. Hi Nigel, I suppose war without shooting is better than war with shooting. But is war without shooting better than no war at all?

    2. Some would argue that war is necessary - a phyicalisation of ideological struggle? Factionalism by way of strong support for, like, bands' first albums, poets, football teams etc. is what? A diluted form of this design? From a moral perspective, I guess no war at all is the ideal, maybe football is a relatively good displacement, if that's what we're discussing.

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