Friday , September 22 2017

In this time of darkness

one man armyIn my last piece, a few weeks ago, I had written generally about how highly priced football is. Hardcore ultras around the world have been persecuted and prosecuted under the pretence of violence in football stadiums. This has been connected with the professionalism that has been characterising football in recent years. The amounts of money being thrown into football by some of the biggest capitalists of the planet has made everything so different than what it used to be. Football began as the people’s sport, driving one of the “most complete human beings of our age”, Ernesto Che Guevara, according to Jean Paul Sartre, to comment that football “is not just a simple game, it is a weapon of the revolution”. Indeed, this was most vividly depicted in the Port Said massacre of Ultras Ahlawy during the Egyptian protests in 2012.

Today, big petroleum company owners and large international conglomerates have invested billions of oil dollars in football. Since 2004, Roman Abramovich has spent over a billion pounds sterling to make Chelsea European Champions for example. This has made football so sensitive to outsourced influence from people who have never understood the sport nor our passion for it. Suited people sell ‘culture’ and ‘civilised behaviour’ to us, the lifelong diehard fans of the sport. But they do not realise one thing; players, staff, money and owners, come and go but we will always be there, it is not our money on the line, it is our senses, our hearts, minds and souls given wholeheartedly and without any expectation of any return to our clubs.

All the above seem to be of no interest to the elite who now governs football. It is probably the most surreal development of our time, watching the heads of the two most corrupt institutions of football, FIFA and UEFA, accusing each other of corruption. Both Blatter and Platini have been involved in a number of scandals and have found themselves amidst a number of situations where their institutions have been proved to have at a dodgy involvement to say the least. Is there anyone who could ever forget what ensued in Brazil last year or South Africa 5 years ago for the sake of
hosting a World Cup? Who can forget Pele’s dumbfounding urges to the Brazilian people protesting against the World Cup which has cost their country so much when the people had so little to enjoy in terms of education, health and prosperity? How can people who claim to love football so much be prepared to sacrifice lives for the sake of a tournament whom the people hosting it cannot enjoy? Just have a look at the death toll for the 2022 Qatar World Cup, 7 years before it commences! And who can forget UEFA’s selective appointment of justice? Who can forget the way Dinamo Moscow entered the Europa League Group stage last season or Lech Poznan’s disqualification?

The most recent disgraceful situations are probably the tip of an iceberg we as fans have been seeing on the horizon for a long time now. Us the bums, the drunks, the unemployed, the sociopaths, the brutes, us the ULTRAS. My stimulus for this article is of course the recent FIFA scandal which has even involved UEFA officials and accusations flying from one of the table to the other. We all realise that Michel Platini and Sepp Blatter are of the same category of people; corrupt, profit driven and dictators in terms of their longevity as chairmen of their respective football federations. So this is what has stricken me recently: 10 high officials of FIFA are arrested subject to FBI and Interpol investigations that have been going on for many months. Surprisingly, this happened during the officials’ stay in a hotel in Switzerland hours before FIFA’s elections for a new chairman. The second candidate to Blatter, a rich Middle-Eastern Prince. Following the arrests, no comments are made, besides a statement in favour of their innocence by Marios Lefkaritis, Cypriot vice-chairman of UEFA (!?) and the elections are held as normal and Blatter is once again elected as chairman as a result to his magisterial leadership.

I say magisterial since, who of the high officials of FIFA and their sponsors have any grievances from him? So many have benefitted from his activities as president, everyone but those who are supposed to enjoy the sport; the fans. So following Blatter’s election and ‘Judge’ Lefkaritis’ public declaration to the arrested officials’ innocence, Michel Platini denounces Blatter and announces his plans to separate UEFA from FIFA’s umbrella. As if all this nonsense was not enough, the scandal deepens furthermore and Blatter feels overwhelmed in resigning just 48 hours after his election (!).
This is where I just stopped following the news on the matter. I thought corruption, money-laundering and fraud was the exclusive quality of officials in my home country, Cyprus, but it looks like the disease is all over the world. Football once was what us the fans expected to relieve ourselves from the daily stress and hardships of work, the depressing news the shitbox pounces us with. What football has ended up being is part of the capitalist profit-motivated culture. Instead of football fans being solely interested in the ‘football’, we see scandals, corruption and generally everything we hate politicians, bankers and capitalists for being carried out by people we used to worship because they played the beautiful game.

My final standpoint in this discussion is this: the virus or disease that has defiled football has a name and tag and its called capitalism. Free market ideas allow for the rise of prices for everything that has a high demand. Football is probably the most popular activity the world has ever seen. It has been for decades now. But today, with information travelling so fast across the globe via the internet, it was inevitable that this popularity would reach exceeding high levels. Football sells like nothing else on the planet, and while capitalism runs society, it shall remain this way. No one seems to have the will to change this. Smaller clubs have benefitted from this, TV stations and news outlets, bankers, oil and gas owners, agents, football players. And this is our greatest hurdle towards healing football. The amount and background of people who have benefitted from this system is such that the masses of fans who have been supressed are diminished to obscurity with no significant exposure and thus no voice. Karl Marx was right in this respect; if you have no money, you enjoy no rights.