After discussing the recent 2017 IAAF World Track and Field Championships held in London with a friend, I was struck just how clearly the sports world shows that globalization is imperialism with a friendlier face. Just as Michel Foucault argues in Discipline and Punish, changing forms of punishment—from violent torture to confinement in modern prison systems—made punishment less barbaric while simultaneously further legitimizing it, globalization makes imperialism more palatable to the “modern” mind. Exploitation of the global south by the global north, and poorer countries by richer countries, continues unabated in the globalist world.

Reviewer David J. Rothman notes that, for Foucault, systems like schools, factories, hospitals, and prisons:

 

expanded the scope of discipline and legitimized it. It turned the individual into a “case,” which simultaneously helped to explain his actions and to control them. The very concept of the individual as a case represented a “thaw” that liberated scientific knowledge (to think of the patient as a case was the beginning of medical innovation), and at the same time expanded institutional means of control (for example, the right of the hospital to confine the mentally ill). Thus, a case approach “at one and the same time constitutes an object for a branch of knowledge and a hold for a branch of power.”

In the instance of the prison, this case orientation encouraged the expansion of knowledge in such disciplines as criminology, psychology and eventually psychiatry. Concomitantly, it legitimized incarceration in the name of treatment. Since the institution could cure, it was proper to confine.

 

With the advent of modern prison systems punishment was refined and, in the process, became more pervasive. This is no different than the evolution of international power structures from those represented by imperialism and colonialism in the past and those created by globalization in the present.

Emin Colasan, a Turkish columnist, wrote an article on 12 August 2017 regarding “Devsirme” Turkish athletes. The term itself is from Ottoman history, once used to refer to the Janissary Corps, but now used to refer to naturalized foreigners, particularly in sports. Mr. Colasan notes that Turkey’s two medalists in the recent IAAF Track and Field Championships were not in fact Turkish at all: Cuban Yasmani Copello won a silver medal in the 400 meter hurdles while Azeri Ramil Guliev won gold in an upset victory in the 200 meter event. While this is of course an unbelievable achievement for these two athletes (as a former track and field athlete myself, I know the hard work the sport requires), it would be wrong to characterize it as an achievement for Turkish sport itself since these athletes were not products of Turkish sporting infrastructure. Mr. Colasan provides another example in the Turkish National Women’s Basketball Team, where Americans like Quanitra Hollingsworth represent Turkey in international competitions. For Hollingsworth it is a “business arrangement” (https://aroundthehorns.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/quanitra-hollingsworth-turkish-citizen-olympian/ that will ultimately help her career—but it won’t help the careers of native Turkish basketball players who may hope to one day represent their country.

 

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The Internationalization of Turkish Sport, from Ramil Guliev to Quanitra Hollingsworth. While this is of course a positive development for these two athletes in particular, it might not be as positive for native athletes. Images Courtesy of: http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/10/world-track-championships-surprise-victory-for-turkeys-ramil-guliyev-in-200/ (TOP) and https://alchetron.com/Quanitra-Hollingsworth-620347-W (BOTTOM).

 

The importing of foreign sports stars is something that Qatar, among other oil rich gulf states, is notorious for. Deutsche Welle, writing about Qatar’s 2015 success in handball, notes that only four of Qatari team was actually from Qatar. The team made up of players from Bosnia, Montenegro, Serbia, France, Spain, and Cuba “had been enticed to play for the Gulf state thanks to six figure winning bonuses. They were also guaranteed a life long pension, if the team reached the semifinals”. Deutsche Welle offers a thinly veiled defense of Qatari actions, calling it true globalization and further justifying it by comparing it to the actions of major European football clubs:

 

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The Newest Qatari, Danijel Saric (Formerly of Serbia). Image Courtesy Of: http://www.dw.com/en/qatar-buying-their-way-to-sporting-success/a-18233576

 

Qatar’s approach in this instance is no different to the way that big European football clubs operate. They search for talent worldwide, then sign them up and then train them. It’s just that Qatar’s sheikhs are doing it at the national team level, not for a club.

Some people might find it immoral, and maybe it is. But in high-level professional sport, where lots of money is involved and success is the most important currency, the approach is pretty common.

 

Again, it is the importance of “money” that drives Qatar’s—and Turkey’s—desire to obtain foreign athletes. Unfortunately, it is the kind of short-sighted policy that defines the actions of globalist leaders the world over. Rather than develop their own sporting cultures and infrastructure countries are trying to buy success; rather than develop indigenous technologies and businesses countries would rather privatize existing state run industries and import from multinational corporations. Such policies do little to encourage long term home-grown economic growth and the profits stream out of developing countries to the home-countries of multinational corporations based in the developed world.

What Deutsche Welle also misses—by comparing Qatar’s actions to those of “the big European football clubs”—is that the actions of those clubs is also imperialism disguised as globalization; footballers are imported to Europe from poorer countries in Latin America and Africa in a modern day exploitation of the global South in sports. The results have not been great for Latin American clubs, as a courser look at the history of the FIFA World Club Championship (later FIFA Club World Cup) shows: While the competition was roughly equal in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s (South America won 6 championships to Europe’s 4 from 1960-69 while Europe won 7 championships to South America’s 11 from 1970 to 1989) the advent of globalization changed the balance from 1990 onward. From 1990 to 2004 Europe won 10 championships to South America’s 5 and after the start of the FIFA Club World Cup in 2004 South America has won just 3 competitions to Europe’s 9 (the last time a South American participant won was 2012). Because of the globalization of sport poorer countries have no incentive to develop sporting infrastructure. South American and African clubs will sell young players off (the raw materials of world football) at cheap prices for them to be refined at major European clubs; countries like Turkey and Qatar will just buy sporting success in lieu of developing their sporting infrastructure. In this respect human beings become commodified; both processes are similarly short cited and create a vicious cycle in terms of both sporting and economic development.

Perhaps the most obvious manifestation of imperialism and sports can be found by looking at the make up of international football teams. The French national side of the 1980s (immediately following decolonization) was mainly a European team. The team that represented France at the 2016 European Championships was mainly an African team, the results of years of French Colonialism. Belgium is no different, and King Leopold’s horrific actions in the Belgian Congo will not be erased by Vincent Kompany’s success on the pitch representing Belgium any more than French domination of Algeria was erased by Zinedine Zidane’s brilliance. That European countries still reap the benefits of colonialism is shocking; that European neo-colonialism—under the guise of sporting globalization—continues unabated is disappointing.

 

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The French Side at the 1984 European Championships. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.lalsace.fr/sport/2016/06/07/france-des-entrees-en-lice-qui-donnent-le-ton

 

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The French Side at the 2016 European Championships. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/football/2016/06/10/euro-2016-on-friday-kick-off-times-tv-channels-and-team-news-ahe/

 

As I have argued, the current globalized world is one that puts a kinder face on imperialism, masking some real issues. While it is certainly a positive development that Belgium has started to recognize the footballing success of African footballers specifically, I can’t help but wonder what it would be like if these players could represent Congo instead of Belgium. If African football is to develop—and an African team is to win a World Cup—the best players cannot be continually outsourced to Europe. Such policies serve to continually retard the growth of African football.

 

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Image Courtesy Of: https://onedio.com/haber/iyi-birey-iyi-vatandas-ve-iyi-futbolcu-yetistirmek-icin-adanan-fikirlerin-eseri-altinordu-615891

 

I hope that more clubs take a suggestion from the Turkish second division club Altinordu, whose motto is “A good person, a good citizen, a good footballer”. Founded in Izmir in 1923, Altinordu deliberately took a Turkish name (literally “Golden Horde”) so as to represent Turkish nationalism following the founding of the Turkish Republic in the same year. As the team’s motto shows, there is a real nationalist undercurrent that puts citizenship and individual character before being a footballer. Most importantly, the team’s policies are actually positive for Turkish football. The club will not sign non-Turkish players, and puts an emphasis on nurturing homegrown talent instead. The team narrowly missed promotion to the Turkish Super League last season with a roster whose average age was less than 23. The team’s chairman Mehmet Seyit Ozkan made headlines last year when he said “Even if [Argentine star Lionel] Messi wants to play for Altinordu for free, I would definitely reject him”. Mr. Ozkan underlined “I believe in our young Turkish players. I’m giving chances to them”. This kind of policy can only help Turkish football in the long run since one contributing factor in Turkish football’s recent decline has been the rising number of non-Turkish players; clubs have no incentive to develop home grown talent because a 2015 rule change allowed Turkish teams to field an XI made up entirely of foreign players. In 2016 the Turkish Super League was made up of 47.5 percent non-Turkish players; it is a similar situation to what is seen in the English Premier League (and we all know what year it was the last time England won a major football tournament (!).

Whether football fan or not, we should all be concerned about the negative effects of globalization and be prepared to discuss different perspectives. Even if it seems to be more humane, the current system is reminiscent of the bold faced imperialism and colonialism of the past, benefitting the global north at the expense of the global south. In order to encourage long term growth worldwide—both culturally and economically—it is prudent to recognize that globalization is far from an unequivocally positive trend.

 

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Globalization Has In Fact Exacerbated Inequality In The West. Image Courtesy Of: http://marketbusinessnews.com/financial-glossary/economic-globalization/

 

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An Amusing Picture Describes the Thin Line Separating Cultural Imperialism from Globalization. Image Courtesy Of: http://f10cmc100-2.blogspot.com.tr/2010/10/globalization-versus-cultural.html
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