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The Case of the 2018 Copa Libertadores Final: A Great Example of the Colonialism of Globalism

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All Those Who Call Themselves “Fans” Should Be Worried About the Decision to Move the Copa Libertadores Final to Spain As it is Proof that Globalism Just Represents a New Form of Colonialism. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.theringer.com/soccer/2018/11/28/18115215/boca-juniors-river-plate-copa-libertadores-postponement-violence

 

The 9 December 2018 Copa Libertadores final should never have been played outside of Argentina. It was, as Argentina’s 1978 World Cup winning coach Luis Cesar Menotti said, “an aberration”. Even though almost a month has passed since the Copa Libertadores final was moved from South America to Europe, the ridiculous nature of this odd event endures, especially as it comes in the midst of the current struggle between nationalism and globalism which is slowly developing all over the world.

 

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The Caption Shows Just How Much the LameStream Media Distorts the Reporting About Football Fans. The Picture Hardly Shows “Chaos”. Image Courtesy of: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-6426427/Boca-Juniors-v-River-Plate-rivalry-explained-Copa-Libertadores-final-ruined-violence.html

 

Indeed, the idea of moving the cup final was a typical globalist ploy: It aimed to earn more money for a small minority at the expense of the enjoyment of a large majority. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that although Spanish police had to organize the biggest security operation for a football match in the nation’s history, “the security costs were countered by a considerable windfall for the city, which local government officials put at an estimated minimum 55 million euros”. And yet, while Spain was busy making money off of the event, it was justified by Western media in the terms of the proverbial “White Man’s Burden” since the Argentinians were—according to the lamestream media—too “emotional”, “violent”, and—ultimately—“uncivilized” to host the cup final themselves.

 

One of the biggest culprits perpetuating this kind of orientalist discourse was the progressive news outlet The Washington Post, who boldly wrote that “The Madrid final capped one of the most embarrassing chapters in South American soccer, which saw its leaders unable to stage the historic match on the continent. The second leg had to be played in the Spanish capital after it was marred by fan violence in Buenos Aires two weeks ago . . . “. In a similar vein, The Guardian’s David Rieff extended the criticism of Argentine football to a wholesale criticism of Argentine society by writing that “The problem is that for all the greatness of its individual players, Argentinian football has increasingly become a metaphor for everything that is dysfunctional about Argentina”.

 

Going even further, Jonathan Wilson (also, unsurprisingly, of The Guardian) wrote a piece with the odd headline “How Argentinian football had the chance to prove it had changed – and blew it”. Wilson’s piece seems to suggest that violence is “in the DNA” of Argentina’s football, and the president of CONMEBOL [the governing body of South American football] Alejandro Dominguez is quoted as rhetorically asking “how do we not lose our DNA?” when faced with the question of how to reduce stadium violence. Of course, Mr. Wilson already indirectly claims that violence is inextricably linked to Argentinian football by saying—in the preceding paragraph—“It is easy to be seduced by the colour, the passion. The problem is that in Argentina, that tends to come with violence. The reasons are manifold and extend far beyond football”. In short, the reasons that are “manifold” and which “extend far beyond football” are those which, for Mr. Wilson, are primordial elements of Argentinian football. In a sociology classroom Mr. Wilson would be laughed at for being an essentialist—the racist and orientalist thinking which underpin Mr. Wilson’s writing are all too apparent, yet—unfortunately—the globalist media seem to turn a blind eye to the kind of journalism which cheaply feeds on outdated stereotypes when it serves their narrative; in this case, the narrative is one which supports Europe (and the wider global north) profiting from a South American club competition (set in the global south).

 

It is clear that the globalist media do not appreciate the irrationality of true fandom. Byron Stuardo Alquijay, a River Plate fan from Guatemala, told the Daily Mail that  “River Plate for me is my life, my passion. I had to sell my car to come here. I might buy another car in the future but this match will never be repeated”. Unfortunately for Mr. Alquijay, he sold his car for nothing because the match did not actually take place in Argentina. And the fact that the globalist media support the relocation of a match of this magnitude goes very far in showing just how little they actually care about the “average” football fan: the irrational, passionate, and emotional football fan.

 

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The Irrational, Passionate, and Emotional Football Fan. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.smh.com.au/sport/soccer/pain-for-boca-and-gain-for-river-plate-in-spain-20181210-p50l8k.html

 

Brian Phillips of theringer.com did a good job of summing up the absurdity. Just before the new venue (in Madrid) was announced, Mr. Phillips wrote “If Boca’s and River’s most hardcore fans can’t attend the game, it will probably go by without a replay of Saturday’s mayhem. That will keep the players safe, at least. But taking humans out of the equation is not really a lasting substitute for trying to understand human nature”. Indeed, eliminating human beings is a very poor response to the “problem” at hand.

 

It is clear that globalization and the commodification of football has gone too far; not only is it seeking to take football away from those who make it what it is (the fans), it is also seeking to justify this theft through racist discourse which feeds on orientalist discourses of the “emotional” and “irrational” non-Westerner. Perhaps the ultimate irony of it all—even more ironic seeing as how it comes from the “tolerant” lamestream media in the West (Reuters pointed it out)—is that “a competition named in honour of the liberators of south America was […] played in the home of their former rulers”. Football fans everywhere should be ashamed at the kind of wrangling that led to Argentina’s premier football fixture being moved from Buenos Aires to Madrid. If you wouldn’t be ok with the Manchester derby being played in Japan, the Istanbul derby being played in Sao Paulo, or–**gasp**–the Spanish El Clasico being played in Doha, then I would think you shouldn’t be ok with what happened to the Copa Libertadores Final. In the new year, be sure to stand up for your country and, of course, your local team. It is, after all, one small way to resist the neo-colonialism of globalism.

Football Vs. The Hyperreality: FC Basel and FC Young Boys Bern in Switzerland

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On 2 December 2018 FC Basel faced FC Young Boys Bern in the Swiss Super League, and both sets of fans put on a good display. It was a great example of why football is good in the stadium; sport offers a space for human expression in the real world.

 

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Emotion in Reality. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.ultras-tifo.net/photo-news/5501-basel-young-boys-02-12-2018.html

 

Indeed, the tifo put on by FC Basel’s fans shows just how much importance they put on the match day experience in the space of the stadium. The fact that this needs to be emphasized is, sadly, a sign of the times. This is because the first time these two teams met, on 28 September 2018, the focus was on protest. In the September match, the ultras of Young Boys Bern protested the growth of “eSports” by raining tennis balls and Playstation controllers onto the pitch while unfurling a giant banner of a “pause” button in the stands. While some commentators, like Jack Kenmare of Sportbible.com, could not understand why the Young Boys Ultras were protesting the growth of eSports, other commentators did a little more homework.

 

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Tennis Balls and Playstation Controllers are Emblematic of Protest in the Postmodern Age. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2018-09-24-swiss-football-fans-throw-controllers-on-the-pitch-in-esports-protest

 

Indeed, Forbes.com’s Steve McCaskill’s piece focused on the difficulty of “mixing eSports and sports”. Mr. McCaskill points out that, in this instance, the Young Boys’ Ultras were protesting the increased commercialization of football—a classic case, indeed, of industrial football. Mr. McCaskill goes on to point out that

 

FC Basel supporters have been especially vocal in their opposition to the plans, making their discontent about the club’s eSports operations well known. They believe the club’s resources should be devoted to football rather than the ‘brand’ […]

‘Many clubs in Switzerland’s first division now have an eSports player, but their fans are not protesting as often as Basel fans,’ adds [Oliver] Zesiger [a Swiss football scout]. ‘I think there’s a certain dissatisfaction among Basel-fans with their club being marketed as a product, rather than a football club. This doesn’t necessarily include only the “against modern football” crowd. Basel fans don’t want to be called clients for example’ […]

 

Here we clearly see that the FC Basel fans are making a very real point. Why divert resources from the reality of football—as seen and experienced on the pitch and in the stadium—in favor of the hyperreality of football—neither experienced or, truly, even seen—on a screen? Indeed, this is a valid question (and not to mention one that would have sounded absurd just a decade ago). The entire notion of trading football as it has been traditionally experienced for over a century for a digitized simulacrum of the game itself is, of course, a losing proposition. After all, eSports are—ostensibly—only as good as the players on the pitch, since the ratings of FIFA’s players are based on real-life performance….thus the two are intimately connected….right?

Unfortunately, it seems as if the modern world has become all-too accustomed to finding digital “solutions” to the real world. After all, Google seems to believe that if something is offensive, the solution is censorship (It is also something I have written about). I even know from my own experience with this very blog that—sometimes—traffic is actively diverted when the topics discussed diverge from the dominant narrative of progressive thought. This in and of itself is something worth thinking about. Regardless of if we are talking about sports, interpersonal relationships (online dating and Tinder, for instance), or even basic communication (social media), at what point does our reliance on technology start to mean trading reality for a hyperreality? While the social engineers might think that the hyperreality is preferable—since it eliminates the chances for irrational and emotional human behavior deviating from the expected “norms” generated by algorithms—the truth is that this will, inevitably, lead to an “iron cage of rationality” far more pervasive than any that Sociologist Max Weber could have conceived of.

Black Friday: A True Representation of Jean Baudrillard’s “Hyperreality”

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The French sociologist/philosopher Jean Baudrillard’s concept of the hyperreality is—ironically—quite real in 2018. We have, indeed, accepted the symbol as more real than that which it symbolizes. Surrounding the holiday of Thanksgiving—what was once the most wholesome and anti-consumption of American holidays—three news stories caught my eye. All three show quite clearly that Baudrillard was right: We are living in a hyperreality.

On 21 November, USA today chose to report to the American public with the headline “Why women and girls bear the brunt of the romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak”. The absurdity of this headline manifests itself on multiple levels. The most dangerous consequence of irresponsible reporting like this is that it infuses identity politics into a situation which—quite clearly—affects all reaches of American society. Yet, in the hyperreality of modernity, the main (lame) stream media is telling the public that they should see a nationwide problem in terms identity politics; rather than questioning why our lettuce is infected with bacteria we are told to question the sexism of…the lettuce itself. Quite clearly, this is an absurd attempt to reframe the issue at hand and avoid asking the difficult questions.

Yet even this poor reporting might not be as absurd as the consumerist phenomenon that is “Black Friday”. The United States, over the course of the past thirty years (which correspond with the rise of globalism), has become a country where the holiday of Thanksgiving has transformed from one celebrating family and friends to a sideshow consisting of the kind of consumerism that Christmas has devolved into. While, in my childhood at least, Thanksgiving was seen as a holiday just like Christmas, it has now become a glorified pre-game show (to use sports terminology) to the consumerist “show” that Christmas has become. In what other country would we see people celebrating “thankfulness” and “family” before, a few hours later, fighting over television sets at a Wal-Mart? Indeed, this is an absurdity of the hyperreality we live in, and—sadly—it is being exported to other countries. This example alone should show us that Baudrillard was right when he pointed out that globalization does not bring us together in any “real” sense; rather it connects us in the superficial ways which befit the post-modern hyperreality.

 

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Black Friday Comes to…Brazil? If This is the Face of Globalization, Then Who Could Want It? Image Courtesy Of: https://www.standard.co.uk/news/world/black-friday-2018-chaotic-scenes-at-stores-worldwide-as-shoppers-dash-to-snap-up-deals-a3997806.html

 

The most interesting thing to think about is that—amid the hyper consumerism of black Friday—there are a few companies that are not doing so well. One of those is the U.S. lingerie label Victoria’s Secret, whose sales have been declining since 2016. While these figures may just seem like the bottom line of a corporate giant, to me they suggest something deeper. One clue might lie in the fact that the millennial generation is having less sex than any generation in 60 years. As one quote from Melissa Batchelor Warnke’s 2016 article points out:

 

many young people speak disparagingly of the messy emotional state love and lust can engender, referring to it as “catching feelings”.  […] Noah Patterson, 18, has never had sex. “I’d rather be watching YouTube videos and making money.” Sex, he said, is “not going to be something people ask you for on your résumé.”

 

 Both of these quote point to a closing off of emotion in favor of rational concerns like “making money” and having a good “resume”. Of course, if these are the most important concerns for modern society, then spending money on expensive lingerie would not be a priority; this would explain the drop in sales for Victoria’s Secret. But there is a larger consequence of this eschewing the emotional in favor of the rational: It denies all that which makes humans “human”. As human beings, what distinguishes us from animals is our ability to appreciate aesthetic beauty, whether that be another human being, a piece of art, or a beautiful sunrise. When we start to ignore these things—or seek to commodify them (by turning them into a vehicle for making money)—we start to rationalize the emotional. It is a very good example of what German sociologist Jurgen Habermas called the colonization of the “life world” by the “system”. Sadly, this process can also begin to slowly chip away at our own emotional sense of what it means to be “human”.

Taken together, all three of these news stories show that postmodern life has become a hyperreality, one where the rational supercedes the emotional. It is something which is ultimately very dangerous, since it threatens the very ties which bind us to on another on this earth. When we begin to see the contamination of lettuce in terms of identity politics, and not as something that threatens all of humanity equally, we are falling into a hyperreality. When we celebrate the virtues of “thankfulness” and “family” yet, a few hours later, engage in fistfights with strangers over electronics we are falling into a hyperreality. And when we begin to preference rational concerns over human concerns—and stop appreciating beauty (in all its forms)—we fall into the hyperreality. At least the football fans—as those pictured below at Partizan Belgrade—can provide us with a more real intrpretation of Black Friday.

 

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I’ll Take This Black Friday Over the Commercial One Any Day. Image Courtesy of @Balkanskinavijaci on Instagram.

Football Fandom as Good Citizenship: Besiktas Fans Do the Right Thing

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In an increasingly globalized world characterized by a growing bureaucratic rationalism within the context of extreme capitalism, it is becoming harder and harder to have real—in the sense of meaningful—ties with our fellow humans. Even national identity—and the very concept of citizenship—has come under attack, with people like the globalist Turkish academic Deniz Ulke Aribogan lamenting citizenship itself: “If you are an individual you have rights. If you are a citizen you have duties,” she says, seemingly irritated by what she calls “walled democracies” which have replaced individual “rights” with “duties”. In her mind, it is the borderless globalist world that would be preferable. Yet in my mind, I know that the idea of a “borderless” world is just as fake as the idea that, in the (neo)liberal “modern” world, everyone has become “tolerant”. Of course, it is so clear that the very opposite is true; in fact it is just the political correctness and faux “tolerance” of the modern world that has only served to paint over the ugliness that resides in so many. Even if the “modern” world tries to paint over its blemishes—enacting smoking bans and even trying to phase out alcohol consumption by replacing it with a synthetic alternative—it is clear that the unpleasant and irrational still exist and will continue to.

On 15 January 2018 a disabled youth was savagely beaten on a minibus in the southern Turkish city of Adana. According to reports, the twenty-year old—who is deaf—was approached by a group of four young men who asked him to move out of their way on the minibus. When he did not respond—since he was deaf—they started attacking him. When he tried to respond via sign language, his assailants redoubled their efforts. After their arrest, the savages—one of whom was a kickboxer and another who was a medical student (!)—claimed that they thought the youth was trying to make obscene gestures while he was just trying to communicate. This sad event is absurd on multiple levels: It is absurd that four healthy people should assault an innocent disabled young man is absurd; that one should be a kickboxer and another a medical student only serves to double the absurdity; yet perhaps the biggest absurdity is that passengers on the minibus did nothing as they saw this ugly beating unfold. The fact that the passengers on this minibus did not speak up only serves to show just how alienated we—as citizens of the modern world—have become from our fellow humans. Just like the modern world paints over unpleasantries like smoking and drinking, the modern rational individual paints over their lack of morals with political correctness and blind adherence to “progressive” ideologies. Yet, it is clear, that the rationality of “modern” man—which says “do not intervene in someone else’s fight”, even when it is clear that a disgusting attack is unfolding—has lost all connection to humanity.

 

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Carsi Stand up For Racism in Football, Even Outside of Turkey. Image Courtesy of: http://www.diken.com.tr/carsidan-sirbistanda-irkci-saldiriya-maruz-kalan-brezilyali-oyuncuya-destek-mesaji-hepimiz-everton-luiziz/

 

Thankfully, not all of us have accepted the doctrine of modern “rationalism”. The fan group of the Besiktas football team, Carsi, has been lauded as “A movement for society and self-improvement” (https://thesefootballtimes.co/2017/04/13/a-movement-for-society-and-self-improvement-besiktas-carsi-ultras/ . Indeed, I have written before on the positive contributions of Carsi to Turkish society whether by standing against authoritarian leadership or supporting earthquake victims. Recently, they stood up for a Brazilian footballer who suffered racist harassment in Serbia. But the team also keeps up with domestic issues in Turkey. In 2015, after learning that Reza Zarrab—the Iranian trader who orchestrated a billion dollar scheme to help the globalist leaders of Turkey skirt sanctions against Iran—had purchased a box seat at Besiktas’s new Vodafone Arena Stadium, Carsi spoke up.

 

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Carsi Stand Up For Their Country. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.diken.com.tr/carsidan-sarraf-tepkisi-besiktas-milletin-a-koyacagiz-diyenlerle-saf-tutanlarin-takimi-degil/

 

Their Tweet read “BESIKTAS will remain the team of the people, not the team of they who stand with those that say ‘we are going to F*** the nation’”. They were harsh words indeed, but they were words that show Carsi’s odd combination of anarcho-leftism, populism, and nationalism. Indeed, it is a potent combination that resonates with many in Turkey, and for good reason. Indeed, the disabled young man who was savagely assaulted in Adana was invited to Besiktas’ Vodafone arena on 18 January 2018 after he revealed that he was a Besiktas fan. Next week it is hoped that the young man, Agit Acun, will attend Besiktas’ match against Kasimpasaspor.

 

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Young Agit Acun Poses at the Vodafone Arena. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.besiktas.com.tr/2018/01/18/spor-agit-vodafone-parki-gezdi/

 

How quickly Agit Acun’s fortunes turned thanks to his connection to football and the sense of community—of humanity—that the football fans have. In an age where humanity is being slowly whittled down into a wholly rationalized shell—and in a world where industrial football threatens to rationalize football as well—it is good to know that there are some of us who still express the most irrational of human emotions: love. Whether it is love for a football team or love for a fellow citizen, some football fans have it. That is something that we should all be grateful for. In a world increasingly driven by hate, true human compassion and true human emotion is truly a beautiful thing to behold.

Cheers to Besiktas and Cheers to Carsi for keeping it real.

 

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Graffiti in Besiktas. Image Courtesy of the Author.

What the Confederate Flag Really Means To Some Football Fans

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On June 22 2015 Adam Taylor of the Washington Post wrote an article entitled “Why do Italian soccer fans and other foreigners fly the Confederate flag?”. In it the author ties the furious debate over the Confederate flag’s role in American society to the wider world by using a topic I am very close too—international soccer. The Confederate flag is, indeed, a complicated issue; to some it represents “a source of Southern pride and heritage, as well as a remembrance of Confederate soldiers who died in battle” while to others it is “a divisive and violent emblem of the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacist groups.” So is it history or is it hate?

Mr. Taylor’s article seems to lean towards the latter and a Canadian high school student who labeled the flag as “racist” is quoted. Why a Canadian is quoted in a piece about US Politics I do not know. When explaining the Confederate flag’s presence in European football stadia Mr. Taylor also notes that:

 

“[M]any can’t claim ignorance when it comes to the flag’s connotations of racism and slavery. In fact, it’s likely that for a few Napoli soccer fans – in particular the hardcore “ultras” often at the center of match-day violence – it is just another reason to fly the flag of the Confederacy. Racist and anti-Semitic chants are alarmingly common all across Europe, and fans from clubs like Spain’s Real Madrid and France’s Olympique de Marseille have also been spotted flying the flag.”

 

Unfortunately this matter deserved more than a passing paragraph labeling the flag’s usage by soccer fans as just racism and hatred given that the article’s title is directly about soccer. Such a simple and superficial look at the subject only serves to mask real cultural and political issues that go beyond American (or European) racism which are being overlooked by many media outlets including—in this case—the Washington Post.

The author would have been better served doing research into the subject in the vein of what he writes in the context of Napoli, a football team from southern Italy:

 

“In southern Italy, for example, it appears some see a historical parallel at work, pointing toward their own absorption into the Kingdom of Italy in 1861 and the perceived economic and political problems since then.

In ‘Nations Divided,’ a 2002 book by historian Don Harrison Doyle, the author recalls the explanation given to him by an Italian colleague for the southern Italian embrace of Confederate symbols. ‘We too are a defeated people,’ an unnamed professor of American literature in Naples told Doyle. “Once we were a rich and independent country, and then they came from the North and conquered us and took our wealth and power away to Rome.”

 

This is closer to the truth. While it is true that some right wing fans of European football teams—particularly in eastern Europe where there are many instances of anti-Semitism and racist chants in stadiums—fly the Confederate flag due to its racist connotations; Swastikas are much more prevalent than Confederate flags in terraces where right wing fans are in the majority. Most other fans fly the Confederate flag for more innocuous reasons. In fact, these are the same reasons many Americans in the south fly the Confederate flag: It is a sign of local identity and local pride in the face of perceived domination—both political and economic—from a distant center located in a different geographic (and sometimes economic) region.

Take the Civil War as an example. Many argue that the US Civil War was fought over slavery; that interpretation is just the tip of the iceberg, even if the Washington Post will shame you by labeling you a racist if you might think otherwise. The Civil War can also be seen as a colonial war: The Industrial North, with its superior manufacturing capability and economic base (in 1840 71 percent of the nation’s railroads and 87 percent of the nations banks were in the North) had to control the South as it was the country’s agricultural center. By 1860 90 percent of the United State’s manufacturing output came from the North; the North produced 17 times more cotton than the south, 3,200 firearms were produced in the North for every 100 produced in the South, and just 40 percent of the Northern population were involved in agriculture at a time when 84 percent of the Southern population was. In order to continue receiving raw materials like cotton to support the North’s industrial revolution the South could never be allowed to secede—it would have crippled the United State’s economy. Now the internal colonialism interpretation of the Civil War has also popped up recently in order to explain Ferguson and the racial divide in the US, but such interpretations still fall flat for me in the face of the economic truths of the matter. To explain social issues using the simple term of “racism” ignores real problems and only serves to divide societies further.

 

Mr. Taylor’s article cites France’s Olympique Marseille as one of the teams that fly Confederate flags in the stadium out of hate. But Marseille’s ultras, Commando Ultras, are a left wing group. Alongside the Confederate flag one can also see images of Che Guevara, and their fans have also hung banners that read “Marseille is anti-fascist” and “Love Marseille Hate Racism”. Please note the Che Guevara image on the “South Winners” banner: Being “southern” is a huge part of the Marseille fans’ identity.

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Images Courtesy Of: http://z6.invisionfree.com/UltrasTifosi/index.php?s=03c052ddcebea9d571a0727a1ae09964&showtopic=4518&st=8393

The ultra group Apei Rotan of PAS Giannena, a team from Southern Greece, are leftist as well and they also display the Confederate flag alongside Che Guevara’s image.

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Image Courtesy Of: http://z6.invisionfree.com/UltrasTifosi/index.php?showtopic=4518&st=8382O.

And the fans of Lokomotiv Plovdiv in Bulgaria—a railway worker’s team formed during the communist era—also display the Confederate flag during matches.

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Image Courtesy Of:http://hooliganstv.com/lokomotiv-plovdiv-botev-plovdiv-28-10-2014-pyro-and-fights-in-plovdiv/.

1. FC Nuremburg, from southern Germany, fly a Confederate flag at matches because of their identity as a team hailing from the south of the country; since Nuremburg was the site of the Nazi trials they are especially sensitive to any kind of racist displays in the stadium and their fans are apolitical.

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Image Courtesy Of: http://z6.invisionfree.com/UltrasTifosi/index.php?s=03c052ddcebea9d571a0727a1ae09964&showtopic=4518&st=8393

Despite coming from leftist and apolitical backgrounds some teams display the Confederate flag at matches. It is because, to many fans, the Confederate flag’s image represents things that go far beyond the simple “racist” image that is—unfortunately—underlined. In the United States the populace is sharply divided over what the Confederate Flag means yet mainstream media won’t hesitate to make a hero out of someone who lowers the flag. Blindly championing the removal of a symbol related to a nation’s history is a slippery slope, and it is when the divisions between what is seen as wrong and right get blurred is when societies only get further divided. By labeling one flag simply and solely as a racist symbol cheapens debate and doesn’t do much in the way of unifying people, it just harshens people’s views of one another irreconcilably; maybe five percent of those who support the Confederate flag do it out of hatred, and even that may be a generous estimate.

For so many others—especially football fans—it means much more. For Napoli fans it is a protest against southern Italy’s domination by northern Italy. For Marseille’s fans it is a sign of the “southern” identity of the country’s second city against the richer northern capital city of Paris. For Lokomotiv Plovdiv’s fans it is a representation of the country’s second city, Plovdiv, in the face of economic and political dominance from the country’s capital of Sofia. A kind of provincial pride is in place, perhaps. And for PAS Giannena and 1. FC Nuremburg the flag simply reflects the teams’ identities as representing southern cities.

The global North/South divide between rich and poor is also manifested in countries whose two major cities are often separated by very different economic conditions. Thus the Confederate flag should be seen in some contexts as a sign of respect for local identity in the national periphery and as a form of protest against—and reminder of—the homogenizing, conquering, identity put forth by the national center. The attacks on the Confederate flag by some professors and graduate students labeling it only as a sign of hate not only erase history, but also cover over real economic and social problems that are common to all people—black and white, American and European, football fan and non-football fan—by making those that disagree racist, bigoted, “others”. And that is the kind of simplistic division and fascistic thought process that cannot bring people together in the long term; life—like football—is much more complicated than that.

 

Polish Football Fan Shot by Police: The Rising Tension Between Law Enforcement and Citizens Around the World

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On Saturday May 2 a tragic incident occurred at a fourth tier football match in Poland which only served to underscore the fact that, increasingly, police force is being used the world over to an alarming degree—it is not just happening in the United States. At a match between Concordia Knurów and Ruch Radzionkow a fan was shot and killed by a rubber bullet when a group of Concordia supporters entered the pitch, reportedly to attack the away section housing Ruch fans. Emergency first aid on the side of the field failed to resuscitate the victim. Additionally, rioting broke out around the hospital the victim was taken to resulting in non-life threatening injuries to fourteen policemen and many arrests. One report called it “total chaos in town” with molotov cocktails and tear gas used when ultras from the Slask region came to the small town of Knurow and joined in the rioting.

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Images Courtesy Of: http://www.ultras-tifo.net/news/3460-news-polish-supporter-shot-and-killed-by-police.html

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Images Courtesy Of: http://www.ultras-tifo.net/news/3463-riots-in-knurow-after-police-killed-footballfan.html

Sad events like these show that rising violence in societies will be met by consequent actions by police forces. Although this seems to be an accident stemming from an inadequate number of police at the match (in the videos only a handful are seen), it is still worth analyzing in the context of an alarming growth of tensions between citizens and law enforcement all over the world. It is also worth noting that the event occurred almost one year to the day that a security guard lit a fan on fire at a match between Slask Wroclaw and Zaglebie Lubin on April 28 2014.

 

Polish football is no stranger to controversy. In January of 2014 there was an investigation into rising anti-Semitism at Polish football matches. Polish football writer Michal Zachodny explains that the problem “comes from the fact that most of the ultras groups and hooligans are connecting themselves to far-right movements which they take and explain as patriotic.” Thus these fans might not necesarily be anti-Semitic themselves, it is just that their clubs have had these chants as part of their history.

According to many commentators these nationalist far right movements have risen steadily Europe due to the continent’s ongoing financial crisis. But The Economist adds an important point: “Concerns over national culture, identity and a way of life matter more than material worries.” As many might know, many football teams—whether their roots are Jewish or working class or something else—were founded as representations of ethnic identities, class identities, and many others. When that identity is threatened, their fans—like so much of the general populace—will react. And as long as the potential for violent reactions remain it seems police will be prepared to react in kind.

 

Greece’s Football Issues on the Field Parallel the Economic Issues Off the Field

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“Europe is self-destructing,” said Polyxeni Konstantinou, a 56-year-old public-sector worker voting in central Athens. “I voted for Syriza because I hope that it will help change the tragic circumstances that now govern Europe. Will Syriza be able to achieve everything it says? Probably not. But whatever it does achieve, then that will be good for Europe.”

The Wall Street Journal quoted Mr. Konstantinou after the leftist party Syriza won national elections in Greece almost a month ago, sweeping to power behind the promise of ending austerity measures. Now the party is facing one of its first concrete decisions, and it involves…football. The “derby of eternal enemies” between Athens rivals Panathinaikos and Olympiakos on Sunday, February 22nd featured riots and a pitch invasion in addition to flares, fireworks, and chairs being thrown onto the field. Indeed, it gave the image of a Greece self-destructing. In the wake of the violent match (Panathinaikos won 2-1, by the way) a board meeting among the presidents of Super League clubs on Tuesday came to a premature ending, with Olympiakos president Evangelos Marinakis engaging his Panathinaikos counterpart Giannis Alafouzos in a verbal argument before it descended into violence. Apparently, Panathinaikos’ deputy president “Vasilis Konstantinou suffered a cut lip from a blow by one of [Mr.] Marinakis’s bodyguards” according to the Financial Times. Following the unprecedented off the field violence Super League president Giorgos Borovilos announced Wednesday, February 25 that the league would be suspended indefinitely.

That “indefinite” suspension—the third suspension for Greek football this year—did not last long, however. On Thursday 26 February, deputy sports minister Stavros Kontonis met with Syriza Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras for a second time and backed down, announcing just a one week suspension: “Under the current circumstances, it is impossible to have Super League games played this weekend. The decision of the government regarding the combatting of violence is definitive and irrevocable. If the situation remains the same, there will be another suspension”. Of course many—including Greek football journalist Panos Polyzoidis—do not think the suspension will have any effect. As Mr. Polyzoidis said such violence has been common for the last 40 years in Greek football; it is more of an indication that the government has not—and still does not have—any concrete solution in mind. One cursory look at the history of football violence in Greece seems to confirm Mr. Polyzoidis’ opinion. Eight years ago in 2007 the league was suspended for two weeks following the murder of a Panathinaikos fan during an organized brawl with rival Olympiakos supporters in Athens involving 500 supporters. Back then the goal was to separate fan clubs—ultras, in a sense—from the teams. Clearly those security measures that were to be implemented had no real effect, and the onus will now be on the new Syriza government to prove concretely that they are the party with solutions, as was their platform while campaigning in the run up to elections. This won’t be easy when the government has more immediate economic problems to deal with: On the same day that the government backtracked from the indefinite suspension Syriza had to face their first anti government protests when 450 far-left protestors took to the streets and some clashed with police.

Stavros Kontonis, the deputy minister for sports, implied in comments to ANT1 TV that an electronic ticket scheme may be set up to combat violence in the stands. In Turkey this system has come under fire for being a tool to control political minded fans. In Greece, such a system would ostensibly be used to deter fan violence. But since the violence is not only confined to the stands—with even team presidents unable to control themselves—it seems that the problem is more deep-seated; fan groups have not been separated from the teams in the eight years since it was stated as a goal by then Sports Minister Giorgos Orfanos.

Due to Greece’s ongoing economic problems and high unemployment rate (hovering around 25%) it shouldn’t come as a surprise that some men vent their frustrations in (and around) the stands during football matches. But it is important to note that high unemployment rates are not the main thing to blame for increased violence in the stadiums. As Eurostat confirms Greece’s unemployment rate was only 8.4 percent in 2007, the last time the government focused on eliminating stadium violence. This leads me to believe that endemic problems are at the root of Greece’s football violence (and economic issues). When the system is characterized by cronyism and governed by who one knows, it means that—more often than not—a blind eye is turned to the damaging actions of the real culprits. The fan groups are close to the teams who have no incentive to punish them for creating atmospheres that intimidate their opponents, just as many politicians are weary to punish tax-evaders who support them in elections. At the end of the day it comes down to winning at any cost. It will be up to the new government to face this head on but, as they saw Thursday, it may prove to be harder than expected both on and off the field.

 

The Fans Put on a Show Sunday–But How Much Longer Will the Show Go On? Olympiakos Manager Vitor Pereira Seems to be Wondering Himself in the Last Image:

Images Courtesy of: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2964899/Panathinaikos-vs-Olympiacos-overshadowed-riots-fireworks-flares-chairs-thrown-pitch-bitter-Greek-rivalry.html

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