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Thoughts on Google’s Manipulation, Nationalism, and Football Part 2: The Tribulations of Croatia’s World Cup Adventure

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Author’s Note: Upon returning to Turkey from a short trip to Greece I was reading the daily news at home and could not help but notice the main(lame)stream media’s obsession with the word “xenophobic” (and its other forms, like “xenophobia”. When I looked it up on Google, just to see how they would define it, I was surprised to see that—as a synonym—Google decided to provide its users with “nationalism”. This is, of course, absurd and only someone with a very weak knowledge of the English language would accept “nationalism” as a synonym of “xenophobia”. Yet, since Google is so keen on brainwashing internet users around the world I thought that I should—in the vein of famous Sociologist C. Wright Mills—stand up to this absurdity. This is part two of a two-part post responding to Google’s unacceptable attempts to mislead the public.

 

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Beware Google’s Manipulations. Image Courtesy of Google.com

 

Like many previous World Cups, Russia 2018 has been presented to fans as a globalist celebration of “one world” and “one game”. Of course, this message has been mainly sent by FIFA’s corporate sponsors, which look to steamroll the world—and football fans—into one homogenous, all-consuming, mass. That Budweiser (France 1998) and Coca-Cola (Brazil 2014) sent the same messages during previous World Cups goes to show the extent of consumerism’s intimate ties to the World Cup experience in the age of extreme capitalism.

 

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Coca-Cola Advert from Brazil 2014. Image Courtesy Of: https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRjm8Vl6uN4zjSqehlv7Hu8GFWIlZZNLh9p2Jk-OMbf4Uf0atBTRA

 

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Budweiser Advert from France 1998. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8uoRvD-FCw

 

Watching this World Cup, it is fascinating to see just how wary the news media—and FIFA—are of any messages which run afoul of the utopic “one world” message espoused by globalism.  Anything that goes against the narrative is liable to be labeled as “nationalistic” or—perhaps, judging by Google’s twisted logic—xenophobic as well! In a World Cup competition—itself a sporting event contested by the representatives of nation-states—there is always going to be a tension between nationalism and globalism. Just like this tension is evident in the wider world, so too is it evident in the World Cup. Despite what the globalists may wish, nationalism is not going away (a fact which the late Anthony D. Smith continually reminded scholars of). Interestingly, it is Croatia—the tournament’s unheralded surprise package—which has brought this tension to the fore time and again during the tournament.

 

Croatia is a small Balkan nation of around 4,000,000. Despite its small population, however, the Croatian team has shocked the world by making it all the way to the World Cup final. Of course, this is not the best outcome for the sponsors; after all, they are all about the markets, and a bigger population means a bigger market which means more money. And this may be why the Croatian team has been criticized time and again for—perhaps unwittingly—going against the globalist narrative. Most recently, following Croatia’s upset of England in the semifinals, the main(lame)stream media outlet Bloomberg published a piece with the sub-headline “The small country wins thanks to a unique combination of professionalism and warlike nationalist fervor”. While the author is correct in asserting that football did indeed play an important role in the break-up of Yugoslavia and subsequent identity formation of an independent Croatian state, the disdain for any type of “nationalism” is evident in the text: one passage reads “While soccer fans remain a political force, with all their nationalist warts and anti-capitalist pathos, the fervor of the 1990s no longer determines the political landscape”. Clearly, to the author, “nationalism” and “anti-capitalism” represent “warts”; they are disfigurements which need to be removed in order for Croatia to fully enter the globalist utopia.

 

It is important to note that this is just a journalistic interpretation of Croatia’s unprecedented success. Meanwhile, FIFA has also been swift to reprimand Croatia’s team—and players—for other actions which have gone against the globalist narrative.  Defender Domagoj Vida received a “warning” from FIFA for a Youtube video dedicating Croatia’s quarterfinal victory (over Russia) to Ukraine. Mr. Vida explained that the video, in which he says “Glory to Ukraine”, is a joke dedicated to his Ukrainian friends at Dynamo Kiev (the footballer’s former club). Predictably, the video did not go down well with FIFA, who sent an ‘official warning”. Given that the video was pro-Ukrainian, Russian politicians were—like FIFA—quick to condemn it, with the Russian parliament’s sports committee member Dmitry Svishchyov saying “Political, nationalist and racist slogans are not welcome at the World Cup.”. From this comment, it seems that Mr. Svishchyov has either been reading too much Google, or he is mistaken as to what entails “racist” and “nationalist” speech. Expressing support for one country—in this case Ukraine—does not entail “racist” speech. Unfortunately, however, the global culture industry continues to frame the debate, and anything that goes against the narrative is liable to be labeled “racist”… or worse; Mr. Vida escaped with a fine but the Croatian official also appearing in the video was fined 15,000 Swiss Francs.

 

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Domagoj Vida, a Hero to Many For Resisting the Global Culture Industry. Image Courtesy Of: https://tr.sputniknews.com/spor/201807151034289908-vida-ukrayna-yanlisi-ikinc-video/

 

Yet this was not the only moment of “indiscretion” for the Croatian side. Following the team’s round of 16 victory over Denmark, the Croatian soccer federation was fined over 70,000 USD for “an incident in which members of the Croatian national team were seen drinking ‘non-authorized beverage products’”. The “non-authorized beverage product” in question was one not officially approved by FIFA as an official World Cup beverage, yet by daring to consume such a beverage the Croatian team was fined ten times what Russia was fined for unfurling a neo-Nazi banner against Uruguay earlier in the tournament. Clearly, adhering to the globalist logic of consumption is much more important than being “tolerant”; this fact alone should be enough to show World Cup fans just how hollow the globalist tropes of “tolerance” are.

 

These tropes are so hollow that FIFA continually contradicts itself while attempting to tow the globalist line. Following the semi-finals, broadcasters were ordered to stop “zooming in on ‘hot women’ in the crowd” of World Cup matches. Apparently, such “zooming in” is a result of sexist broadcasters. Of course, one could easily point out that showcasing female fans does quite the opposite; it provides an opportunity to showcase female fans and thus allows football to become less of the male preserve that it has traditionally been. Football is best with fans, and their gender should not matter. Unless, of course, FIFA wants to create a controversy out of nothing.

 

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Apparently, These Fans Should Not Be Shown (According to FIFA). Image Courtesy Of: https://www.bbc.com/sport/football/44800145

 

Similarly, the British Independent claims that France’s “multicultural” team (and the patriotism it elicits) does not “disguise the racism in French society”. What The Independent fails to note is that France’s “multicultural” squad is a direct result of colonialism; the sons of French colonial possessions have come to the metropole to represent the national team in this World Cup, yet there is no mention of this uncomfortable link in The Independent’s piece. Rather, they prefer to focus on the perceived racism that exists in French society. Of course, underlining the team’s connection to the colonial past would have undermined the main(lame) stream media’s case, so it went unmentioned. Yet, for those of us who care not for equality but who strive for justice, this is unacceptable; in order to keep globalism from becoming an extension of imperialism we must not be silent when we see immigrants being exploited (a topic that the Washington Post hints at when noting the issues with calling France an “African team”). Wouldn’t it be nicer if there actually was an African team in the latter stages of the World Cup, rather than a French side advertising the European nation’s neocolonial tendencies? Of course it would be…but don’t expect that kind of analysis from the Washington Post, which prefers divisive race baiting in their “analysis”. And yet, when a former Croatia manager points out the national backgrounds of the French side, he is immediately slammed for being “racist”. Again, it represents yet another attempt to slander Croatia, the side that FIFA’s corporate sponsors did not really want in the final; England would have brought in much more publicity (and, of course, money). This is why it is important to read through the lines of the headlines put out by the main(lame) stream media; most of it is just a cheap way to frame debate and increase the divisions among people based on gender or race.

 

Keeping these examples in mind, football fans must wonder: where is the freedom in a world dominated by the logic of extreme capitalism and consumption? When corporate interests decide what drinks a team can and can not consume, it becomes clear that we are living in an age of corporate fascism. When broadcasters are told what images of fans they should focus on—and which types of fans they should ignore—it becomes clear that we are living in an age of corporate fascism. When the news media attempts to divide people based on demographic characteristics, it becomes clear we are living in an age of corporate fascism. It is these types of social control that we all must resist, regardless of the team we support or the nation we are a citizen of. The only way to defeat globalism—and its corporate sponsors—is by standing up for countries and their cultures. Otherwise, we risk becoming anonymous parts of a homogenized global “culture” of consumption. Nationalism and patriotism are not xenophobia, despite what Google might say.

 

Please See Part 1 Here.

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Yugoslavia World Cup 2014: What If Yugoslavia Had Stayed Together?

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What if the South had won the American Civil War? What if Archduke Ferdinand had never been shot in Sarajevo? What if Pearl Harbor was not bombed and the United States hadn’t entered World War Two? What if the Soviet Union had won the Cold War? Alternate histories are an interesting game to play in the study of international history. One could go on forever on these subjects, creating scenarios in one’s mind over scotch in the local pub. Here is one more, a scenario very pertinent to modern history: What if Yugoslavia had not fallen apart in the 1990s?

As a football fan it is hard not to bring this particular alternate history to mind (The Guardian mentioned it 7 years ago), especially during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Half a world away and twenty years removed from the violence in the Balkans, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina proudly represent independent nations on the green fields of Brazil. Both teams had monumental tasks in their first matches but can hold their heads high—Croatia fell victim to some questionable refereeing in their first match against hosts Brazil, while Bosnia put up a good fight before ultimately coming up short against an Argentina backed by Messi’s brilliance.

But the Balkan flavor of the 2014 World Cup does not end with the big names of Luka Modric and Edin Dzeko. They are merely where it begins. Take the unforgettable finish to yesterday’s meeting between Ecuador and Switzerland as an example.

 

 

Ecuador went up early through a headed goal by Enner Valencia and Switzerland were left looking lost through the first forty-five minutes, facing a 1-0 deficit at half-time. Switzerland needed a spark, and it came from the region many have termed the “powder-keg of Europe”—the Balkans. Just two minutes after coming on as a half-time substitute Admir Mehmedi capitalized on some poor Ecuadorian defending to level proceedings at 1-1. Mehmedi himself is an ethnic Albanian, born in Gostivar, Macedonia (in the northwest corner of the country, near the Kosovo border) in 1991, before moving to Switzerland at the age of two.

Then came the best finish to any of the matches so far. Ecuador looked to have a chance in the third minute of stoppage time when Valon Behrami dove in to block the shot, before gaining control of the ball. Behrami then orchestrated the counter attack, taking the ball across the half way line and setting up the play that eventually gave another second half substitute, Haris Seferovic, the chance to net the winner for Switzerland and settle the final score at 2-1.

Valon Behrami is an ethnic Albanian, born in what was then Titova Mitrovica (now just Mitrovica, a city has seen sporadic ethnic clashes between Serbs and Kosovars since Kosovo’s declaration of independence in 2008 and subsequent sovereignty in 2012) in present-day Kosovo before moving to Switzerland at age five. Meanwhile, the goal scorer Seferovic was born in Switzerland in 1992 to Bosnian parents who emigrated in the 1980s. What is especially remarkable is that of Switzerland’s World Cup squad of 23 players, an astounding 8 have some Balkan connection:

 

Granit Xhaka: The Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder was born in Basel in 1992 to Albanian parents.

Valon Behrami: As discussed above, the Napoli midfielder was born in present-day Kosovo in 1985 before emigrating to Switzerland in 1990.

Blerim Dzemaili: The 28 year old Napoli midfielder was born in Tetovo, current day FYR Macedonia to an Albanian family before emigrating to Zurich at age 4.

Xherdan Shaquiri: Bayern Munich’s star winger was born in Gnjilane, Yugoslavia (now present-day Kosovo) in 1991 before emigrating to Switzerland a year later.

Haris Seferovic: As discussed above, the Real Sociedad striker was born to Bosnian Parents in Sursee, Switzerland in 1992.

Mario Gavranovic: The twenty four year old FC Zurich forward was born in Lugano to Bosnian Croat parents who emigrated from Gradacac (now Bosnia-Herzegovina) in 1988.

Josip Drmic: The young Bayer Leverkusen striker was born in Lachen Switzerland in 1992 to a Croatian family.

Admir Mehmedi: As discussed above, the Freiburg striker was born in Gostivar, Macedonia in 1991 to an Albanian family before emigrating to Switzerland in 1993.

 

Sports Illustrated wrote an enjoyable article on the Bosnian team in the run up to the World Cup and I would argue that the story of Switzerland’s Balkan contingent is equally enthralling. Certainly it begs the question: what if Yugoslavia had not fallen apart and lost such athletic talent? Obviously sport has a nature vs. nurture element to it—would these footballers have been able to work their way up through the less developed youth systems in an intact Yugoslavia? How much of their progress was aided by having access to modern training facilities in Switzerland? Would they have chosen to represent a Yugoslavian team over the team of their adopted homeland (if their families had even emigrated in the first place)? And what about all the other variables that life throws at us, so far out of any individual’s control?

I argue that they would have had a fighting chance—after all, Yugoslavia was a respectable team before the dark days of the 1990s. They were semi-finalists in the World Cup twice and Quarterfinalists once, in 1990. And who can forget that strange twist of history—because of the wars Yugoslavia was disqualified from the 1992 European Championships after qualifying and was replaced by Denmark . . . the team that went on to win the tournament.

Twenty years on the reverberations of the conflict spread beyond just the teams qualified for this World Cup. The current captain of the Serbian national football team (which did not qualify) is Chelsea right back Branislav Ivanovic, one of the best defenders in the world today. Tiny Montenegro, a country of just over 650,000 and the size of the U.S. state of Connecticut, boast two Premier League players on their squad and gave England a run for their money during qualification for the 2014 World Cup after narrowly missing out on a spot in the 2012 European Championships in a playoff to the Czech Republic. And I won’t even count Sweden’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic—the mercurial striker who is currently one of the world’s best—since his Bosniak father (and Croatian mother) emigrated from the former Yugoslavia in the 1970s, long before the collapse. But, if an intact Yugoslavia had fielded a team in 2001 when Zlatan first made his debut for Sweden, might he have opted for the country of his parent’s birth? We will never know, but it’s worth a thought.

This year’s favorites may be Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Holland, and Spain to name a few but—if only for a moment—imagine the possibilities in this World Cup if modern history had taken a different turn.

Top Five World Cup 2014 Shirts and Top Five Classic World Cup Shirts

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Although I am not a huge World Cup fan since the tournament has become the definition of industrial football and mainly a cynical money making machine in recent years, I still can’t ignore the shirts. With the games in full swing I thought I would do what some sites have been doing and rank the top five shirts from World Cup 2014, along with the top five from the past World Cups that I have watched. As with everything on this blog all opinions are my own, so don’t be offended if your favorite shirt—or team—does not make an appearance. Personally, it is always hard to rank the newer shirts because the old ones hold a special place in my heart but here goes nothing.

 

World Cup 2014:

Number 5: Japan (Adidas)

Japan 2014 World Cup Home Kit (1) Japan 2014 World Cup Home Kit (2)

Japan 2014 World CUp Away Kit 4 Japan 2014 World CUp Away Kit 5

Images Courtesy of: http://www.footyheadlines.com/2013/06/exclusive-japan-13-14-2013-2014-2014.html

 

The “electricity” colored away shirt obviously needs no explanation, but the blue home shirt has a few details that make it, in my opinion, one of the best shirts of the 2014 World Cup. The rising sun motif around the badge is special, giving a sort of Japanese authenticity to the shirt. On the back, however, is a pink stripe that gives this jersey a unique detail that—when seen in person—really gets your attention. Adidas did a nice job with the socks as well, carrying that color through the kit instead of leaving it as a one-off detail on the shirt. It also harkens back to the red used in Japan’s 1995-96 kit, manufactured by Asics.

 

Numbers 4 and 4.5: Cameroon Home (Puma)

Cameroon 2014 World Cup Home Kit

Image Courtesy of: http://www.footyheadlines.com/2013/10/unique-cameroon-2014-home-and-away-kits.html

Ghana Away (Puma)

Ghana 2014 World Cup Away Kit 1

Images Courtesy of: http://www.footyheadlines.com/2013/11/ghana-2014-world-cup-home-kit-leaked.html

 

This is really a tie, and I chose to include both because each team’s other jersey (Cameroon Away and Ghana Home) are too light colored to see any of the details which make the darker colored shirts so special. Apparently the design on the Cameroon shirt is taken from cave paintings, with “Les Lions Indomptables” written across each line. This comes from the team’s nickname, “The Indomitable Lions”.

Ghana’s away shirt is a similar design, this one with Ghana’s nickname “The Black Stars”. The sleeve details are also good looking—while not being as eye-catching as the Kente design on the home shirt, the dark red is just too nice of a color to be ignored. I might still prefer Ghana’s 2012-13 kit (the fade is something I enjoy in shirts) but this year’s is still a unique piece produced for Ghana, and that is worth something in itself.

 

Number 3: Belgium (Burrda Sports)

Belgium 2014 World Cup Home Kit Belgium 2014 World Cup Away Kit Belgium 2014 World Cup Third Kit

Image Courtesy of: http://www.footyheadlines.com/2014/02/burrda-belgium-2014-world-cup-kits-jerseys.html

 

This is the only shirt in this World Cup manufactured by the Swiss/Qatari company Burrda Sports—perhaps they’re getting ready for 2022? All three of these shirts carry elements of the Belgian flag, with the black away version the best looking in my opinion with the red and yellow sash across the chest. Belgium are being picked by many as a dark horse; while the outcome of their World Cup campaign may be uncertain one thing is certain—they’ll look good, win or lose.

 

Number 2: Germany (Adidas)

Germany 2014 Home kit Adilite 1 Germany 2014 World Cup Away Kit (1)

Image Courtesy of: http://www.footyheadlines.com/2013/05/germany-1314-2013-2014-world-cup-home.html

 

Germany’s white home shirt has a “V” design around the neck, which doesn’t represent too much of a change from their jerseys in previous years. The away shirt, however, represents a completely new move for “Die Nationalmannschaft”. Even if the red and black hoops and collar buttons make this shirt reminiscent of a rugby shirt I still found it extremely attractive when I saw it in person. In 2006 Germany moved to the black and red color scheme for their away shirts before moving to black for the 2010 World Cup. I think this represents the best Germany away shirt since they moved away from their classic emerald green kits (the Irish-looking green of Euro 2012 doesn’t count for me).

 

Number 1: Russia (Adidas)

 

Image Courtesy of: http://www.footyheadlines.com/2013/11/russia-2014-world-cup-home-kit-leaked.html

Russia 2014 World Cup Away Kit (1)

For me, Russia’s away shirt is without a doubt the best jersey in the 2014 World Cup, and I don’t think I’m alone in that sentiment. Just below the collar is a view of the earth from space which then fades into white. Of course, this is in memory of the Soviet space program and Yuri Gagarin—the first human being in space. This shirt, of course, has a political connotation as well considering recent developments in Russia. As Putin looks to re-assert Russia’s strength in the modern era, this shirt advertising the greatness of Russia’s past on the world stage makes a bold nationalist statement. It will be interesting to see if this shirt starts a trend of countries visually representing their histories on football shirts—football shirt nationalism by using elements of The Modern Janus Theory (made famous by Tom Nairn).

 

 

Classic World Cups:

Number 5: Nigeria World Cup 1994 (Adidas)

Nigeria Home and Away Kits World Cup 1994

Image Courtesy of: http://kirefootballkits.blogspot.com.tr/2011/10/nigeria-kits-world-cup-1994.html

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Dancin’ the night away–in pajamas?!

Image Courtesy of: http://www.footballfoundout.com/top-five-worst-world-cup-shirts-ever/

I have no idea what this design is but it is definitely unique. Perhaps this was the beginning of the trend of providing special designs for African teams that we see now, since I have never seen this design used in any other team’s shirt. The white version looks a little pyjama-esque (hence its ranking as the ugliest World Cup shirt in history on one of the above lists) but, for my money, its still an unforgettable shirt. And that is what I look for.

 

Number 4: Croatia World Cup 1998 (Lotto)

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.croatiaweek.com/tag/brazil/page/3/

 

This shirt really needs no introduction as it is a piece of history, one of many legendary designs worn by Croatia since 1996. What makes this shirt special is the fact that just half the shirt is checkered. No one will forget Croatia’s historic run to third place while wearing this shirt, fueled by legends Davor Suker, Robert Prosinecki, and Zvonimir Boban (whose kick, some say, started a war). I’m counting on Bosnia-Herzegovina to make a similar run in this World Cup, even if their shirts aren’t quite as special.

 

Number 3: Mexico World Cup 1998 (Aba Sport)

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Luis Hernandez makes another World Cup disappointent look good

Image Courtesy Of: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1936489-mexicos-best-and-worst-world-cup-jerseys/page/4

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.oldfootballshirts.com/en/teams/m/mexico/old-mexico-football-shirt-s3660.html

 

A few lists, including the one at the link above, have cited this shirt as one of the best World Cup shirts of all time and for good reason. This shirt is in Mexico’s classic shade of green with an interesting detail unique to Mexico: printed into the fabric is a design of the Aztec calendar. While this year’s Mexico design by Adidas is among the better designs on display this summer, I still think that nothing can come close to the France ’98 kit.

 

Number 2: USA World Cup 1994 (Adidas):

US national team defender Alexi Lalas jumps in the Roy Wegerle

Alexei Lalas jumps for joy at World Cup ’94, Roy Wegerle isn’t sure what to make of his kits

Images Courtesy Of: http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_spot/2014/05/19/u_s_soccer_denim_kit_the_horrifying_true_story_of_the_ugliest_jerseys_in.html

 

This shirt has been derided by so many that it feels funny posting it as the number two best shirt—please see articles at Mashable.com and Slate.com for more on this shirt (albeit from a negative angle). Personally, I do not see why this shirt has so many critics–as you can see above, Alexi Lalas seems more than enthused to be wearing the shirt (!) even if Roy Wegerle gives us a more bemused expression.

The point of a football shirt, in my opinion, is to represent a country in a unique and instantly recognizable way. For me, that is exactly what the United State’s 1994 kit did. The denim look was certainly unprecedented, and it is true that it bore no relation to anything Adidas had—or has since—produced. But it was unique. In fact, it was uniquely American. As a kid watching the 1994 World Cup in I didn’t even notice the denim factor—I just thought it was a blue background with white stars, a representation of the national flag, which is fine. And for those critics of this shirt, I’d like to point out that if a USA shirt need be criticized the USA away shirt for the 2014 World Cup (a shirt I myself own) looks more French than it does American.

I would like to think that like a fine wine, football shirts also get better as the years go by. That sentiment is confirmed for me by the number one shirt on this list . . .

 

Number 1: Germany World Cup 1998 (Adidas)

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Image Courtesy of: http://37.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lwcb1unOX11r6mwuno1_1280.jpg

article-1281298-09A81DE2000005DC-465_634x517-1

 

Klinsmann et al make bracing for impact look good . . . or at least half-way decent

Image Courtesy Of: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/worldcup2010/article-1282545/John-Motson-Ten-greatest-World-Cup-games.html

And now we come to the shirt that—I think—is hands down the best shirt in World Cup history. If Helen of Troy’s face is the one that launched a thousand ships, then this is—undoubtedly—the design that launched a thousand kits. After Germany made this Adidas “basket weave” pattern famous the design became a staple for Adidas kits around the world between 1995 and 1996. The reason this kit in particular is so stunning is that the bold colors of the German flag really jump off the shirt’s white background and right into the viewer’s eyes. Adidas really did their country justice with this well designed shirt, a shirt that hasn’t lost any of its luster twenty years on.