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Football Fans Take Part In Anti-Capitalism Protests in Hamburg Surrounding the G20 Meetings as Absurdities Abound

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U.S. President Donald Trump’s visit to Poland ahead of the G20 summit in Hamburg set the tone for the absurdities which would follow. Chris Cilliza, an employee for CNN (one of the major news networks guilty of publishing polarizing stories recently) tweeted a report that the Polish First Lady, Agata Kornhauser-Duda, snubbed Mr. Trump’s attempt to shake her hand during the latter’s visit to the Eastern European country. Of course, Mr. Cilliza’s poor excuse for journalism soon turned out to be “fake news”; Ms. Kornhauser-Duda did in fact shake Mr. Trump’s hand, it just did not appear in the four second video Mr. Cilliza Tweeted—perhaps it was a case of premature tweeting–and Polish President Andrzej Duda Tweeted a call to “fight fake news”. Regardless of one’s political inclinations, this event should remind everyone that they must carefully interpret what they see on the internet, lest they get sucked into the alternate reality of one-dimensional thought which is being pushed on the entire world.

 

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Tweets Fly With Abandon..Even When They’re Fake. Image Courtesy of: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4675312/Polish-head-blasts-critics-said-wife-SNUBBED-Trump.html

 

Unfortunately, many people bought the “fake news”, despite Mr. Duda setting the record straight. This might be, of course, because Mr. Duda is derided by media outlets (like The Guardian and CNN) for being “rightwing”. Indeed, the rightwing identity is one that the media loves to paint Poland with. Journalist Christian Davies wrote a damning portrait of Polish football fans in March of 2017, seemingly painting the whole of the country’s fans as “xenophobic white-supremacists”. Mr. Davies’ article explains the situation as such:

 

In the run-up to the Uefa European Championship in Poland and Ukraine in 2012, Poland’s then Civic Platform-led government (which was headed by Donald Tusk before he became president of the European Council in 2014) clamped down on organised hooliganism. It was feared that violence or instances of racism could disrupt the tournament and damage the country’s reputation abroad.

That provided an opening for far-right and right-wing politicians to adopt the nationalist fans’ cause, portraying them as ordinary patriots enduring harassment from a liberal government hostile to “traditional” cultural values. Their cause has also been adopted by hardliners within the Polish Catholic Church, who share PiS’s [Author’s Note: the acronym for the ruling Law and Justice Party] view that the country’s values and identity are under sustained attack by decadent, Western cosmopolitanism and the racial diversity imposed from above by Brussels.

 

Clearly, Mr. Davies’ sweeping generalizations are an example of bad journalism, similar to fake news. As a scholar of football fan culture, I am left wondering: How many Polish football fans did Mr. Davies actually speak too? My hunch would be that he did not speak to many; after all, the money in journalism comes from stating what people already believe and pandering to the readership, not from challenging existing beliefs and risking the loss of said readership. Is it true that there are xenophobic and racist football fans? Of course it is! Anyone familiar with football fan culture will know that there are more than a few fans that believe in negative ideologies. But this does not mean that all fans are conned by such violent ideologies.

After all, I would say that anything “imposed from above by Brussels”—such as “racial diversity”, to quote from the above article—is something that the citizens of Poland have a right to be miffed about, especially since Poland was once conned by internationalism and multiculturalism imposed from abroad (does anyone remember the Soviet Union!?). If people would like to defend their own countries and cultures from the meaningless mélange of globalization, then I would say they are right to stand up for nationalism. Of course, we don’t know what the football fans really think because Mr. Davies didn’t talk to them, he merely succumbed to the trend of one dimensional thought.

The same absurdities abound in the form of protests surrounding the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. The protestors say they are fighting “capitalism” and globalization”… yet they are also protesting against leaders like Mr. Trump, who himself espouses an anti-globalism and pro-nationalism point of view! It truly is an absurd situation. To make matters worse, these protestors are actually hurting local businesses. One shopkeeper whose business was destroyed, Cord Wohlke, was quoted by ABC news as saying, “I just don’t know why people would do this … It wasn’t the people who live here. They’ve done about 400,000 euros in damage. This is just criminal, not a protest”. Mr. Wohlke—like so many Hamburg residents—have every right to be upset at the violence, which doesn’t even compute ideologically. If these thugs really wanted to combat globalization they could have supported local businesses, allowing them to benefit from the G20 summit financially. Instead, they chose to destroy the city. It seems to be a dystopia indeed, just not in the manner that Croatian philospher Srecko Horvat thinks it is (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jul/06/hamburg-protest-g20-dystopian-nightmare-security-disunity-politics . Mr. Horvat calls German leader Angela Merkel a “leader of the free world”, ignoring that she is a globalist through and through! Mr. Horvat criticizes the G20 for implementing the Washington Consensus (perpetuating American control over the global economy) while the Guardian seemingly laments America’s “abdication” of its position as a global power (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/06/g20-summit-could-mark-end-of-us-as-global-leader-but-what-is-next at the same time. It truly does not compute, and this is where football comes into play.

 

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Hamburg is Burning and Football Fans Are Taking Part. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-07-09/g20-protesters-bringing-violence-to-hamburg-put-locals-off-side/8691894

 

Fittingly, Hamburg is home to St. Pauli FC, a football club known for its left-wing stance. The club is characterized by its ties to underground punk rock music and a staunchly anti-neo Nazi position; these are of course very positive and they have gained the club a cult status among world football fans. I myself find St. Pauli FC to be one of the more interesting clubs in a football scene that is being homogenized by the forces of globalization and extreme capitalism, in the form of industrial football. Unfortunately, I fear that many of the football fans who were involved in the protests—and even the St. Pauli executives, who opened the stadium doors to protestors and allowed them to camp there–are unaware of just how capitalist even an ostensibly anti-capitalist football team can be. It is a relationship that the media—purveyors of fake news and distorted facts—does not want fans to know about.

In the January 2012 issue of the academic journal Soccer & Society (Volume 13, Number 1), scholar Gerald Grigg wrote an interesting article entitled “’Carlsberg don’t make football teams . . . but if they did’: the utopian reporting of FC St Pauli in British Media”. Mr. Grigg provides a great summary of what St. Pauli FC is, while also pointing out that:

 

the real extent of such a group’s [the FC St. Pauli fans] cultural resistance may remain open to question. After all, as a professional football club, FC St Pauli still plays in a high-level organized league, pays professional players and, as a business venture, mirrors many of the same practices exhibited by other teams (Grigg, 2012: 77).

 

Although the team certainly does represent an admirably anti-racist and anti-homophobic stance, Grigg points out that the media also glosses over the less admirable qualities of the team:

 

Specific realities which may question the strength of the nostalgic and alternative picture portrayed in the reporting can also be found within the published articles, but in the main there is something of a ‘glossing over’ of the potential significance of details such as:

Signs that the modern business of football is catching up.

Sponsors [injecting] around 40 million Euro (34.6 million GBP).

They are now moving to new training facilities in 2012. 

Customers queuing up to buy merchandise … which includes toasters, rugby shirts, baby clothes, and ashtrays—all with the familiar skull-and-crossbones logo.

A rebuilding plan that will eventually see the whole stadium modernized.

Many of these facts may well represent the modernizations that occur or have already occurred across major leagues in western Europe and indicate that FC St Pauli may have more in common with their league counterparts, such as Bayern Munich and neighbors Hamburg, than it would first appear. It is interesting that the reporting which comments on such facts massively plays down their potential implications. The Times reports upon the development of the new stadium, but states that when it is completed, ‘it will never be confused with Hamburg’s UEFA five-star venue”. (Grigg, 2012: 78).

 

Grigg closes his article with a call for more first-hand studies of FC St. Pauli, to provide a fuller examination of the team in the face of the rather utopian rendering of the team by the media. For scholars of football everywhere, it is certainly a call worth heeding. By studying the absurdities of our time (like the G20 protests and the involvement of football fans in them) we can avoid the traps the mainstream media sets for us by independently analyzing situations. To show just how dangerous these traps can be, I will quote from the Guardian (one of the worst culprits of poor reporting) and present a selection from a recently published piece by an African-American writer who claims that the American flag makes him feel “afraid”:

 

As a black man post-election, I felt even less certain of what threats I might face outside my front door. Should I slow my stride so as not to startle the white woman up ahead? Should I give up my space on the sidewalk to the oncoming white man and his dog? Does my outfit identify me clearly enough as a recreational jogger and not a criminal?

 

This kind of poor reporting is, unfortunately, a clear example of racism. Yet, the author is celebrated—rather than criticized—for judging people based on the color of their skin! It is absurd that someone should be able to get away with clear racism in a mainstream news outlet, but that is the state of the world we live in. It is one dominated by the one-dimensional thought that is pushed through the media, presenting just one side of a multi-dimensional story. Is FC St. Pauli a unique football team, with a unique fan base that takes a positive stand on social issues and combats the negative elements within football fandom? Of course it is! But is it—like any football team—also a business (which also commodifies its own “alternative” image)? Again, of course it is! This is why we need to seek out an accountable media that tell us the whole story, not just part of it. Otherwise we end up with “anti-globalization” mobs protesting nationalism while, at the same time, ruining the livelihoods of their fellow citizens–the local shopkeepers–who are far from the corporatized global elites un-affected by violence in the streets.

 

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Cheers To The FC St. Pauli Fans For Staying Unique. Here Is To Hoping They Can Resist Their Own Commodification! Image Courtesy Of: http://www.footballparadise.com/punk-rockers-of-football-a-story-of-pirate-flags-and-the-anti-nazi-st-pauli/
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RB Leipzig and Zenit St. Petersburg Take Different Approaches to Industrial Football and Extreme Capitalism in the Post-Communist World

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Karlsruhe Fans “Voice” Their Disapproval”. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.goal.com/en/news/1717/editorial/2015/04/07/10495172/the-next-chelsea-or-anzhi-red-bull-gives-leipzig-wings-and-funds-

 

When RB Leipzig went top of the Bundesliga last week, becoming the first newly promoted side to remain undefeated after 11 weeks in the league’s history, one would have thought it would be a cause for celebration. After all, everyone likes an underdog, right? Just think of Leicester City’s fairy tale season last year in the Premier League. Despite love for the underdog, RB Leipzig’s rise to prominence has divided football fans with the Daily Mail calling them “the most hated club in Germany”. The cracks were there in September, when fans of Borussia Dortmund refused to travel to an away match in Leipzig. The leader of the protest, Jan-Henrik Gruszecki, said “Of course Dortmund makes money, but we do it in order to play football. But Leipzig plays football in order to sell a product and a lifestyle. That’s the difference.” This simple response shows why RB Leipzig’s rise is so repulsive to many fans; the team embodies the extreme capitalism that has characterized globalization in the last twenty-plus years, a poster child for the “Industrial Football” that has slowly taken the beautiful game away from fans and put it squarely in the pockets of big business.

RB Leipzig, on paper at least, should be celebrated as the first team from former communist East Germany in seven years to appear in German Football’s top flight. The reality is much different. As the Guardian explains:

Until 2009, RB Leipzig was a fifth-division club called SSV Markranstädt that few had heard of even in its native Saxony. Then the Austrian energy drink manufacturer Red Bull bought the club’s licence, changed its name, crest and kit, and promised a transfer budget of a rumoured €100m (£85m).

 Money was all that mattered, and the team had it. They also had the clout (or cunning) to skirt a rule that prohibits German teams from being named after sponsors so “the new club was christened Rasenballsport Leipzig, meaning lawn ball sports’”. Fans in the USA and Austria are, no doubt, familiar with similar “Red Bull teams” like Red Bull New York (who destroyed the legacy of the young—but proud—New York/New Jersey Metrostars and Red Bull Salzburg. It was not the naming of the club, however, that irked most people.

Rather, it was the fact that the club took control away from the fans in true corporate/extreme capitalist fashion. This was especially irksome in Germany, since the teams tend to value their fans: “The statutes of the German Football Association deter big investors from taking over its clubs. According to the so-called ‘50+1’ rule, clubs must hold a majority of their own voting rights. Only investors who have been involved with a club for more than 20 years can apply for an exception to the 50+1 rule.” It is a good rule that gives fans a say, but RB Leipzig has made being one of those “owners” prohibitively expensive: The Guardian reports that “while membership at Dortmund costs adults €62 per annum, being a ‘gold’ member at Leipzig will set you back €1,000 a year – and that still only makes you a ‘supporting’ or non-voting member,” and, therefore, RB have only 17 members—all of whom are either employees or associates of Red Bull.

There has—predictably—been a backlash to this from other fans. One fan of RB’s local rival Lokomotive Leipzig says “’My club was founded in order to play football, RB Leipzig was founded to make money. To sell an energy drink.” Indeed, in a cup match this season with Dynamo Berlin, opposing fans threw a severed Bull’s head onto the side of the pitch. While it is important to note that it is not all doom and gloom—RB have a great youth setup and tend not to invest in players over 24—there is still something unsettling about the corporate outlook that has overrun the East German side.

 

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Horse Head In Your Bed? Dynamo Dresden Fans Respond to RB Leipzig’s Policies. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.theguardian.com/football/2016/sep/08/why-rb-leipzig-has-become-the-most-hated-club-in-german-football

 

Fortunately, there have been pockets of resistence to this trend. Union Berlin, another of East Germany’s (formerly) famous sides, saved themselves by selling shares to fans—not corporate interests—in 2012. (They also wrote an article about bull farming in their program for the match against RB Leipzig in lieu of writing about their rivals).

 

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Union Berlin Chose Not To Give Their Rivals Any Press In Their Program. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-3599158/Why-RB-Leipzig-hated-club-Germany-Owned-Red-Bull-crafty-sponsor-s-outpriced-fan-power-aiming-Bayern-Munich.html

 

Elsewhere in Eastern Europe, Russia’s famous Zenit St. Petersburg turned down a lucrative offer from American fast-food chain Burger King to rename the club “Zenit Burger King”. While this is not the “McDonaldsization” of the world but an attempt to “Burger King(ize?)” the world, the response by Zenit fans was amazing—Russia Today found it (predictably) “hilarious”. For my part, I was left wondering which genius at Burger King thought that this attempt at cultural/economic imperialism could have ever been successful but that is beside the point; after all I’m just a marginal sociologist making much less than a big-wig in Burger King’s corporate structure.

 

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The Letter in Question. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/european/zenit-st-petersburg-burger-king-offer-57m-offer-change-name-a7221766.html

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Zenit Embrace The Past. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.rt.com/sport/358140-zenit-st-petersburg-burger-king/

 

Zenit’s social media presence has been a welcome breath of fresh air, resisting the corporate imperialism of globalization. They shared a picture of the team that harkens back to the artistic history of their city—a solid rebuke of the homogenizing trends of globalism—and even engaged in a humorous polemic with the English newspaper The Daily Mail for insulting their logo that I found to be very funny. The attempts of global (extreme) capitalism to steamroll the world into submission are being resisted in pockets of the world such as Berlin and St. Petersburg but are being accepted as a matter of course in Leipzig. The fact that we see the conflict play itself out in football is indicative of the power of the world’s most popular sport to accept—or challenge—global trends that extend way beyond the football pitch.

 

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Zenit’s Social Media Team Working Hard–At Least It Made Me Laugh (Out Loud). Image Courtesy Of: https://tr.sputniknews.com/spor/201609051024704838-zenit-burger-king-cevap-kral/

Germanwings Flight 4U 9525 and the Football World: You Are Not Alone

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The world has been shaken in recent days by the tragic news of Germanwings flight 4U 9525 which crashed into the French Alps on Tuesday March 24 en route from Barcelona to Dusseldorf. For now, much of the news has focused on co-pilot Andreas Lubitz in order to find the answer to an uncomfortable question: What could make a seemingly normal man calmly take 150 people to their deaths?

Currently investigators are looking through the co-pilot’s personal belongings by combing his parent’s home in Montabaur, Rhineland Palatinate, in order to uncover a motive. But, of course, in this digital age personal belongings are not the only things the departed leave behind. The Guardian explains:

 

“A recently deleted Facebook page bearing Lubitz’s name showed him as a smiling man in a brown jacket posing in front of the Golden Gate bridge in California.

The page offered few clues as to why the 28-year-old might have deliberately crashed the plane. It suggested he was an unremarkable young man – interested in flying and gadgets, as befits a pilot, as well as electronic music, discos and tenpin bowling.

His likes included Lufthansa and LFT Bremen, one of five Lufthansa facilities around the world offering pilot training. It also linked to the Airbus A320 technical site and to Beechcraft Bonanza, a page dedicated to an American six-seater light aircraft. There is a mention of Alexander Gerst, the German astronaut who last year blasted off to the International Space Station.

Much of Lubitz’s social life appears to have taken place in the nearby city of Koblenz. There are links to a climbing wall, Kletterwald Sayn, located in a forest, a local bowling alley, Pinup, and one of Koblenz’s nightclub’s, the Agostea Nachtarena. And to a branch of Burger King. His favourite music acts appear to have been Paul Kalkbrenner, a German electronic producer, and David Guetta, a French DJ turned record producer. He also liked Bose speakers.”

 

So here are nine or ten Facebook “likes” that are provided for the living to judge the dead by. While I obviously have no idea what Mr. Lubitz’s motivations were—or what his psychological state in recent weeks has been—there is something disconcerting with judging life by Facebook pages. I suppose God is no longer the only judge in the age of social media. Lives are presented for all to see with all (or, in many cases, none) of their grandeur—human interests reduced to off-hand clicks of a website’s “like” button. Since I am no God my focus in this chilling tragedy is the game that links so many of us together in this all-too-large world: Football. Mr. Lubitz, seemingly, was no football fan. But the tragedy had two very opposite effects on the football world, showing how our human lives are, many times, governed by what can only be termed “luck”.

Two Iranian citizens, Milad Hojjatoleslami and Hossein Javadi, died on flight 4U 9525 after covering Sunday’s El Clasico between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

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Mr. Javani (center right) and Mr. Hojjatoleslami (Center left) covered last summer’s World Cup. Image Courtesy Of: http://news.yahoo.com/photos/picture-taken-june-26-2014-iranian-journalists-hossein-photo-181214718.html

They were on their way to Vienna, where Iran faced Chile in an international friendly on Thursday, March 26. Mr. Hojjatoleslami was working for Tasnim news agency while Mr. Javadi was a sports journalist with Vatan-e-Emrooz newspaper. Iranian president Hassan Rouhani offered his condolences in a tweet, while Mr. Javadi will be remembered by the “haunting” photo he took before take off. Unfortunately these men died following the sport they loved—and any football fan used to traveling on low cost flights in order to affordably attend matches can empathize with these two men. Sadly, their jobs meant they had no other choice—they volunteered to cover the events with their own money since the Iranian media companies they worked for didn’t support them financially. May they rest in peace—mekanları cennet olsun.

Two of their colleagues, Payam Younesipour and Saeed Zahedian, changed their travel plans and elected to stay in Vienna to focus on Iran’s match against Chile. The decision saved their lives. There were others with similar luck. Third tier Swedish side Dalkurd FF, a side formed ten years ago by Kurdish immigrants, was supposed to be on the plane. Ultimately, they chose to fly in three separate groups due to the long layover flight 4U 9525 had in Dusseldorf between Barcelona and Stockholm. The decision to avoid the layover saved the lives of the players and, arguably, the team, as they avoided the fate of the 1958 Manchester United side and the 1993 Zambian National team.

Other Swedish soccer teams immediately expressed their condolences and relief that Dalkurd FF survived.

On Wednesday, March 25 Germany’s national soccer team remembered the victims of the crash by wearing black armbands during their 2-2 draw with Australia in Kaiserslautern.

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.theguardian.com/football/2015/mar/25/germany-australia-match-report-international-friendly

When tragedies like these strike it is refreshing to see the world come together—whether German, Spanish, Swedish, or Iranian—through sport. It is also a time to reflect that even though all of us are individuals on earth with our own struggles, no matter what we do no human being is alone in life . . . or in death.

 

 

In Memory of flight 4U 9525

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/early-lead/wp/2015/03/24/german-national-soccer-team-to-honor-victims-of-french-alps-plane-crash/

Football and Geopolitics: The International Aspects of Domestic European Football

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In the wake of a “Catalan referendum” on November 10, 2014 where 80 percent of the two million voters voted for Catalan independence from Spain in what was a symbolic vote, The Guardian’s Sid Lowe asked a pertinent question for those of us interested in football and politics: Where will Barcelona and Espanyol play if Catalonia gets independence?

This is, of course, a complicated question. Former Barcelona coach and player Pep Guardiola cast his vote, along with Barcelona players Xavi Hernandez, Sergi Roberto, and Martin Montoya. Barcelona’s past and present presidents, Sandro Rosel and Joan Laporta, also did their civic duties. As Mr. Lowe outlines, the situation regarding the two biggest clubs in Catalonia is complicated:

“While Barcelona’s commitment to political Catalanism is more shifting and nuanced than is sometimes imagined, the two clubs’ histories and identities are different. Soon after the civil war, Marca wrote of Español as a club run by people ‘well known for their [Spanish] patriotism’ and of Barcelona as an institution that ‘used sport as a mouthpiece for an insufferable region.’ But Espanyol, whose name, contrary to the usual assumptions, was not chosen as a Spanish rejection of Catalanism or Catalonia, have used the Catalan spelling for almost 20 years and insist that if Barcelona is more than a club, so is Catalonia. Yesterday, their president Joan Collet voted too. During their game against Villarreal there were Catalan flags at the stadium. But there were Spanish flags too, and possibly more of them.

He goes on to explain:

“Barcelona [has been put] in an awkward position, one that forces them to confront uncomfortable issues. So mostly they have chosen not to confront them at all; the difference between the current board and that led by Laporta, whose convictions were far clearer, is striking. There has been silence, a veneer of apoliticism, an implicit wish that the trouble would just go away. It took the club a long time to publicly back the Catalans’ right to have the vote. And a week ago, Barcelona refused to authorise the unfurling of a banner that declared Catalonia Europe’s next state.”

But he points out clearly that “the sponsor on their shirts and all over the stadium reads ‘Qatar’. Their focus is increasingly international; both in terms of signings and supporters.” This is the most important point.

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Image Courtesy of: http://gulfbusiness.com/2013/09/united-arab-bank-signs-three-year-fc-barcelona-deal/#.VNP_r5XRe0s

 

Barcelona are now an international team, attracting supporters from all over the world, like their rivals Real Madrid. Perhaps this explains the odd situation where Spain—a country that arguably experienced the worst of the European Economic crisis—is home to both of Europe’s richest football clubs: Real Madrid is worth 3.44 Billion USD, Barcelona is worth 3.2 Billion USD. Of course this belies Spain’s economic state. Meanwhile the largely uncompetitive nature of the rest of La Liga—even making an exception for Atletico Madrid (who are also internationally sponsored, in this case by Azerbaijan, by the way)—is full of dull matches between the haves and have nots.

 

 

After reading Mr. Lowe’s article I decided to do some research on a topic I am familiar with, and the results are worth sharing. What many readers may not know is that Europe is full of clubs playing in leagues outside of their home countries. Some clubs are well known, others are minnows, but the concept of playing domestic matches “internationally” is hardly unprecedented, especially in Western Europe (as Mr. Lowe mentions, there is a provision even in Spain for clubs from Andorra to play in the league system: Sixth tier FC Andorra take advantage of this).

 

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Seen Here Lining up During the 1999-2000 Season in a Striking Umbro Kit. Image Courtesy of: http://www.fotoequipo.com/equipos2.php?Id=736

 

 

Perhaps the most well-known of the European clubs playing in a foreign league is AS Monaco, the “French” Monegasque side that has won seven Ligue 1 titles and were runners up in the 2004 European Champions League. The team hails from the Principality of Monaco, a minute city-state on the French Riviera home to 36,371 residents packed into just 0.78 square miles. As a sovereign state Monaco has been a member of the United Nations since 1993 but there is domestic football league so the team plays in France. The principality has been ruled by the House of Grimaldi since 1297; the family own 33.33 percent of the football team as well (The remainder is owned by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, one of the many examples of the rising internationalism of the football business that frees teams from the constraints of political boundries to some degree).

 

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We’re Serious—We May Play in France But We’re Not French! Image Courtesy Of: http://www.dmarge.com/2014/05/monaco-fc-reveals-201415-home-kit.html#show_image=1

 

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Of Course, We’ll Still Use the French (Monegasque) Riviera as a Backdrop. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.footyheadlines.com/2014/05/new-nike-as-monaco-14-15-kit.html

 

 

The United Kingdom is full of examples as well. The most prominent sides that come to mind are current English Premier League members Swansea City and former members Cardiff City. Swansea City have played in the English League system since 1913 and reached the Premier League in 2011-12—the first Welsh team to reach the top flight since the top flight’s rebranding in 1992, as well as the first Welsh club to represent England in European competition after winning the 2012-13 Football League Cup.

 

SSC Napoli v Swansea City - UEFA Europa League Round of 32

Swansea City Line Up to Represent England in the Europa League With International Finance Company Goldenway’s Backing. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.fiveyearplanfanzine.co.uk/features/5129-eye-on-the-opposition-swansea-city-a-29-11-2014.html

 

Cardiff City from the Welsh capital is currently in the second tier but remain the only club from outside England to have won the FA Cup (the triumph came in 1927)—the entity is named Cardiff City FC Limited, a member of the Football Association of Wales.

 

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Cardiff City and the FA Cup. Image Courtesy of: http://www.historicalkits.co.uk/Cardiff_City/Cardiff_City.htm

 

The third Welsh team playing in England’s top four leagues—therefore under the jurisdiction of the English FA for disciplinary and administration purposes—is Newport County AFC, playing in the Football League Two. See More about their history in this interesting blog, The Beautiful History.

Wrexham, Merthyr Town, and Colwyn Bay are the other three Welsh sides currently playing in the English league system. Since they are currently outside of the top four leagues they are under the jurisdiction of the Welsh FA but are eligible to play in the (English) FA Cup. One little fun fact: Chester FC’s Deva Stadium, the first British stadium to fulfill the Taylor Report’s safety recommendations following the Hillsborough disaster, is located in two countries! The pitch is in Wales, the club offices are in England (and the team plays in the English League system).

 

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Image Courtesy Of: http://stadiums.football.co.uk/NonLeague/Deva-Stadium.htm

 

 

Outside of these well known clubs there are still other examples in Europe. Some stem from geography, others from politics. Liechtenstein is one of the world’s smallest countries and therefore has no domestic league. Teams from Liechtenstein compete for a national (Liechtensteiner) championship by playing in the Liechtenstein National Cup (The winners qualify for European competition), but they play their league football in the Swiss Football League. The most famous of these clubs is FC Vaduz, currently playing in Switzerland’s top flight, the Swiss Super League, but they cannot qualify for European competition via the Swiss League System.

 

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FC Vaduz Lift the 2013 Liechtensteiner Cup. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.uefa.com/memberassociations/association=lie/news/newsid=1947329.html

 

Despite having its own league (The Campionato Sammarinese di Calcio), the small nation of San Marino boasts one representative that plays in the third tier of Italian football, the Lega Pro: San Marino Calcio is the only Sanmarinese club to play in Italy.

 

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Probably Not a Coincidence That Club and Country Share the Same Colors. Image Courtesy of: http://www.taringa.net/posts/offtopic/18439109/Me-voy-a-San-Marino-y-te-cuento-porque.html

 

In Finland and Sweden there are also a few examples of teams plying their trade in leagues from across their borders—the Finnish side Lemlands IF currently play in the Swedish seventh tier as they are from the Åland Islands—an autonomous region of Finland with an ethnically Swedish population. For more examples from outside of Europe, please see Wikipedia’s page.

 

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Who Knew They Played Football Here? Image Courtesy Of: http://truthfall.com/oceanx-team-new-expedition-to-the-baltic-anomaly-sets-sail/aland-islands-baltic-sea/

 

 

In the Republic of Ireland there is the example of Derry City FC, a team that plays outside of their home country due to domestic political problems; the well-supported team currently play in the Republic of Ireland’s Premier Division but it wasn’t always so. Despite everything the very fact that the team still exists almost one hundred years after their founding in 1928 should give faith to those worried about Barcelona and Espanyol. For more than forty years the team played in the Northern Irish league, even winning a title in 1964-65, before political developments literally tore the team away from the city (Derry or Londonderry?).

 

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There is alot In a Name. Image Courtesy Of: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derry/Londonderry_name_dispute#mediaviewer/File:Signpostinstrabane.JPG

 

At the start of the Troubles the republican areas around Derry City’s Stadium, Brandywell, fell victim to the violence and unionist teams did not want to visit. The Royal Ulster Constubulary, Northern Ireland’s police force, deemed the area around the stadium unsafe meaning that the team had to travel thirty miles away to play home matches in Coleraine. The arrangement lasted a year before dwindling crowds and increasing violence forced the club to apply for a return to Brandywell. The proposal went to a vote among fellow Irish league teams and it fell by a lone vote, forcing the team withdrew from the league on 13 October 1972 since they effectively had no home stadium.

From 1972 to 1985 the club suffered through “the wilderness years” without a senior club or a league to play in as their continuing applications to use Brandywell as a home ground were rejected. Many believe these rejections stem from the club’s identity as a nationalist/Catholic team coming from a nationalist/Catholic neighborhood of a mainly unionist city. With re-admission into the Northern Irish league looking unlikely the team applied for admission to the League of Ireland (the name of the Republic of Ireland’s league) and were accepted as semi-professional members of the first division in1985. Success came quickly and, in 1987, Derry City won promotion to the premier division where they have been ever since. The team has seen some success in the Republic’s football structure, winning the Premier League title in 1988-89 and 1997-97 as well as four FAI Cup titles in 1989, 1995, 2002, and 2006.

During the team’s time in Ireland financial struggles have been ever-present, with the team being expelled from the League of Ireland in 2009 due to large debts. The team has since been reformed as a “new” Derry City, entering the First Division in February 2010 and winning promotion back to the Premier League in October of the same year. Interestingly when the threat of bankruptcy loomed in 2003 it was, among others, FC Barcelona who came to the rescue by arranging a friendly so as to provide much needed cash for the struggling Derry City. Recently, on February 5 2015, the Londonderry Sentinel reported that the former leader of the Ulster Unionist Party Tom Elliot suggested that Derry City return to the Irish League in Northern Ireland. Carál Ní Chuilín, the Minister responsible for sports in Northern Ireland, stated “it is up to Derry City where they play, who they play with and who they play for.” It is certainly a development worth following in terms of the Republic’s relations with Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom.

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The Derry City Faithful in Action. Image Courtesy Of: http://backpagefootball.com/an-aussie-abroad-derry-city-fc-my-new-favourite-club/65121/

An Interesting Derry City Documentary: 

The Most Famous Derry City Song: The Undertones-Teenage Kicks:

 

In the past we have also seen teams play in the leagues of different countries, mainly as a result of international political conflicts. Most famously Germany’s 1938 Anschluß with Austria led to the Austrian league’s incorporation into the German football structure until 1944; Rapid Vienna even won the German title in 1941!

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Rapid Vienna’s 1941 Title Lives on in Sepia After the Fall of the Reich. Image Courtesy Of: http://medienportal.univie.ac.at/presse/aktuelle-pressemeldungen/detailansicht/artikel/tagung-fussball-unterm-hakenkreuz/

For more details on teams from Czechoslovakia, France, Poland, and Luxembourg that joined the German football structure following the territorial irredentism of the German Reich during World War Two please see the RSSF’s stunningly detailed archive here.

Following the installation of a military junta in Greece the concept of enosis gained followers and in a bid to strengthen the union between Greeks in Cyprus with Greeks in Greece the champion of the Cypriot football league was promoted to the Greek first division from 1968 to 1974. Before the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974 ended this practice Olympiakos Nicosia, AEL Limassol, EPA Larnaca, AC Omonia Nicosia, and APOEL Nicosia FC (UEFA Champions League participants in 2014-15) all appeared in the Greek football structure.

 

Most recently we have seen the effect of geopolitical conflict on football in Ukraine. Two top flight Ukrainian clubs from the Crimea—the territory recently annexed by Russia—SC Tavriya Simferopol and FC Sevastopol (the latter whose Ukrainian League match with Dynamo Kiev I watched in Kiev two summers ago) have been admitted into the Russian football structure’s third tier with different names (FC TSK Simferopol and FC SKChF Sevastopol, respectively) so as to, at least nominally, be different teams. A third team from the Crimea, FC Zhemchuzhina Yalta, formerly of the Ukrainian Second Division, was also admitted into the Russian third tier for the 2014-2015 season. On 22 August 2014 UEFA stated that “any football matches played by Crimean clubs organised under the auspices of the Russian Football Union (RFS) will not be recognised by UEFA until further notice.” It seems like football in the Crimea will stay in limbo for some time to come.

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Tavriya Simferopol Ultras Voice Their Opinion. Image Courtesy Of: http://z6.invisionfree.com/UltrasTifosi/ar/t28786.htm

The situation regarding Barcelona and Espanyol in Catalonia should solidify in the future, but—as can be seen—there are many other interesting cases throughout Europe that are worth keeping an eye on as well, even if they do not involve such famous clubs.

 

 

The Globalism of Politics and Sports From Istanbul to Germany

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Germany and Turkey are two countries that have an oddly intimate relationship despite their very different backgrounds. During World War One the ailing Ottoman Empire chose to side with the Central powers and the German Reich. In the 1960s the history of these two countries again merged when Gastarbeiter—foreign “guest workers”—migrated en masse to Germany in order to work low skilled jobs in the industrial sector and make up for the lack of labor following the division of Germany. Although these workers came from a variety of countries including Italy, Greece, Morocco, Tunisia, and Yugoslavia the majority came from Turkey. To this day there are more than four million people of Turkish descent living in Germany, a topic so multi-faceted that it has to be left for another article.

This article is about another link between these two countries—that of football and ideology. Every country in the world, no matter how big or small, how rich or poor, undoubtedly shares various qualities: They all have political squabbles—some bigger than others, they all play football—some more successfully than others, and their citizens also follow the news and—as human beings—have their own views on right and wrong and the perceived injustices going on in the world around them. At a time that blood is being shed in the name of varying views of right and wrong from Missouri to Ukraine and on to the Levant it is refreshing to see humans come together; this weekend Bayern Munich’s fans showed that sentiment in the stands during a match against Bayer Leverkusen at the Allianz Arena.

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Image Courtesy of: http://www.fanatik.com.tr/2014/12/06/bayern-munih-taraftarindan-carsiya-turkce-destek-402402

The banner unfurled by Bayern Munich fans reads “Adaletsizlik yaparsan Çarşına, tüm Ultralar geçer karşına”—“If you do injustice to your Çarşı, all the Ultras will stand against you”. This refers to the upcoming December 16 trial against the members of Beşiktaş’s fan group Çarşı who are accused of attempting to bring down the government due to their role in the Gezi protests of June 2013. But this is not the first time that German football teams have supported Çarşı, it has become a recurring theme in recent months. Immediately after the announcement of the aforementioned legal case during a match between Borussia Dortmund and Freiburg on September 13, Dortmund fans unleashed a three level banner reading:

“Çarşı ultras, yolunuz için savaşın”

“Asla pes etmeyin!”

“Ultras için özgürlük, Türkiye de dahil!”

 

“Çarşı Ultras, fight for your path”

“Never give up!”

“Freedom for Ultras, including in Turkey!”

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.posta.com.tr/spor/HaberDetay/Carsi-ya-Almanya-dan-dev-destek-.htm?ArticleID=244857

 

On May 18 2014, during the German Cup Final, Bayern Munich fans unfurled two banners reading:

“Çarşı için adalet, Ultralar omuz omuza!”

“Her yer Taksim, her yer direniş”

 

“Justice for Çarşı, Ultras shoulder to shoulder!”

“Everywhere is Taksim, everywhere is resistance”

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Image Courtesy Of: http://spor.internethaber.com/spor/dunyadan-futbol/bayern-munih-taraftarindan-carsiya-destek-192570.html#

Despite all the discussions surrounding Turkey and its identity (is it European or Asian, Western or Eastern) in football terms it seems that Turkey has its place squarely in Europe. These recent displays of support from Germany show that as the world globalizes local political and ideological struggles—those stemming from football fans defending a park, for instance—can be elevated into international events. Perhaps that is one reason that the Turkish government has pushed so fiercely for the Passolig Card system, keeping fans from the stadium and thereby silencing voices that clearly resonate far beyond the stands of Turkey’s stadiums.