Thursday, June 19, 2008

Political Football

I came across this a little while ago:
Nothing unites Europeans like football, and this year’s Euro 2008 tournament is turning out to be one of the best in a long time, maybe ever. What else could have us feeling sorry for Switzerland and cheering for Austria? Isn’t Europe a more harmonious entity without the English? Would Brussels be paralysed by protests today if Belgium had qualified? And would Ireland have voted No if they were in the tournament?

Part of the fun of football is the way in which it overturns the international order of power politics.

The US, Russia and China can be expected to top the medal charts in the Olympics, as usual, but Croatia had already triumphed over two of the Great Powers – England and Russia – in qualifying before beating Austria and Germany last week. Up next: Turkey, the former Ottoman Empire.

Most of Europe got a, er, kick out of Croatia’s victory over Germany last week, in what everyone was too polite to call the Group of the Third Reich. We could all feel sorry for Poland once again as Germany beat them with two goals from a player born in Poland, Lukas Podolski.
This is one of the things I love about football. Because pretty much the entire world plays it (i.e. it's not rugby), and games are always well-attended (i.e. it's not cricket), and fans are almost always vociferous (i.e. it's not golf), the possibilities of sport highlighting historical and political rivalries are immense. I mean, in what other sport could we get Iran vs. the U.S.?

Anyway, I was watching Germany-Austria the other day. As I told AKS, I'm well aware that it plays into stereotypes and all of that, but there's just something disturbing about 20,000 Germans belting out their national anthem with all that pride followed by 20,000 Austrians belting out their national anthem with all that pride. I mean, of all the countries in the world, doesn't intense nationalism from Germany and Austria give the heart cause for concern? I'm not saying they're going to start another World War or anything, but I am saying history matters. As I told AKS, they messed around one too many times last century. Watching them sing their national anthem in unison with their chests puffed out and hands on their hearts, I kept thinking of words like Schlieffen, Eizengruppen, and Barbarossa. I know it's terrible, but there you go.

1 comment:

NB said...

That is terrible vaisay. Quite unfair that the poor chaps cant sing their national anthem without giving everyone a heart attack.