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A World (Cup) to Win

Thousands of students take part

Protests in Brazil that broke out at the onset of this year’s Confederation’s Cup (FIFA’s dress rehearsal for next year’s World Cup) have grown exponentially. With more than a million people clamoring for social change this has been the largest protest the country has seen since the military dictatorship which ended in 1985. The Brazilian government has been targeted for hosting a World Cup that has cost the people over 9 billion pounds in taxpayers money while social services remain grossly neglected.

What began as a movement against the increase in transport fares has blossomed into a movement angry at both the government’s commercial priorities and belittlement of the country’s immense social inequalities.

In 2007 FIFA and the Brazilian government promised the entire event to be privately funded. That’s why when reports of the public resources being used surfaced, the uproar shook the around 100 cities. Prior to this it had been announced that the two governing bodies decided to build/renovate 12 stadiums instead of the initial 8, some of which have been pegged as white elephants. Coupled with the knowledge that FIFA had also announced record breaking revenues from corporate sponsorship and broadcasting rights only fueled the growth of the movement even more. As in all World Cups the bulk of the revenue goes to FIFA leaving small business owners with a month or so of good business but without any significant improvement their livelihood.

Honestly, part of the reason it took me so long to write this is that I do want to watch the World Cup, among other things (first entry in a year). You can’t help but cringe at the initial thought of the cup being cancelled. This is why we need to take a deeper look in that these actions are for the masses, the backbone of football that nobody can discount. As the Confederation’s Cup semi-final is set to start in a few hours, massive actions are expected to kick-off simultaneously to assert democratic rights and in some ways try to save football.

What the World Cup has done to Brazil

It’s strange to think of Brazil rejecting the WC. Many football fans know that Brazil do not only expect to do well in the competition, they expect to win it; all the time. As early as the 1950 World Cup (also hosted by Brazil) they built the Maracana, which remains the largest football stadium on the planet. It’s not so much a football ground as it is a national monument; similar to what the Eiffel Tower is to France.

They reached the Finals almost unscathed only to face defeat at the hands of Uruguay. This prompted the nation to ponder what caused this defeat as some even turned to racism, blaming the black players as not “Brazilian enough” to win the game. Of course this was decades ago, but the point is that until now, many Brazilians feel almost historically predisposed to win at football. With a mediocre national team, they have found a way to raise the game in another way.

While the people say they are angry at the government’s practice of hosting the WC, the tournament itself is has come into question and has rightly positioned FIFA as the organization that has turned the greatest event of the game into a plundering scheme. It is still hard to imagine the cup in the middle of the issue especially in Brazil, a nation that has more or less elevated the game to the grandeur it has today by bagging the most number of championships and setting the standard upon which future winners would be judged.

This is precisely why it is so important, Brazilians are making an example of the World Cup as something that is so strongly woven into their identity and yet is something they can cast aside if they needed to. The game regarded in Brazil as Jogo Bonito (beautiful game), an art form in itself not only takes a backseat to democratic struggle but needs to conform to the longstanding demands of the people. In a sense they are “taking back” the World Cup off the pitch.

A combination picture shows demonstrators

The message of winning the World Cup and protesting the abuses of the government and FIFA is an important example for developing countries. Winning has provided Brazilians with the mentality that on some stages  they are the better than wealthy nations, they are untouchable. The latter has shown that a demonstration against fare hikes can lead to a re-imagining of an entire chunk of your identity and greater change. Once again the World Cup has indirectly served as a catalyst.

Football fans, enthusiasts, pundits among others need to take notice and not use this as an excuse to simply criticize Sepp Blatter’s reign at FIFA. This resistance has transcended the game, in that for the game to survive it cannot be subject to corporate interests. The fact that this is the largest protest “democratic” Brazil has seen says a lot. It says that Brazil does not differ from the oppression and staggering inequalities felt worldwide. It says that Brazil does not differ from the oppression and staggering inequalities felt worldwide. Fitting that it had to come at this time in a country which, as BBC remarked, is poised to practically parallel its history in terms of how its national team fared in the tournament.

Do we want a World Cup?

Without question, billions of people want to see the World Cup. No doubt many of the protesters are also football fans rooting for their respective clubs, they are not against football which they have clarified many times but this is too much. Many of us need to understand: football for them is not only for arenas, it is for the streets and for everybody as it should be – not distant from how Pele and Garrincha started playing. FIFA has already stated that there is no Plan B and they are determined to push through in Brazil.

I, like many other patiently waited for Brazil 2014, simply cannot recreate or even conceive of the dramatic possibilities in a World Cup. I remember watching a nation like Ghana defeat the United States, the superpower on the biggest stage in South Africa last 2010. Holidays are declared in countries that have a game, busy streets look like ghost towns, stereotypes are shattered, political rivalries put to test on the pitch; the world at a standstill in short. However when the cost is too much, we are reminded that football is the most important of unimportant things as the saying goes.

This wave of political consciousness is admirable; it shows support for the struggles of the marginalized and an unraveling of sorts of a more progressive social identity. Once again, Brazil is at the forefront of football, this time on the streets. Yes, we do want a World Cup, now we want one that doesn’t rob the people and tear down their homes in the process. Even if it takes millions more to march on the streets.

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Into the Great Wide Open: Upsurge and Philippine Football

In light of the recent entrance of the Philippine Azkals into the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup and the discussions on how Coach Michael Weiss has taken the team in new directions. Dare we talk about the World Cup? In any case the Challenge Cup represents a benchmark of improved skill but more importantly it necessitates a dissection into how football teams, particularly National Teams, grow to become champions not only of competitions but of relevance. This is not an assessment of Weiss’ tactics, it is an insight into putting the priorities of a national team into perspective. The modernity of international football makes this increasingly problematic yet we can say that in other countries the successes have come at a revolution not only in skill but in the assimilation into the struggles dimensions of domestic life, this is something we have put forward to some extent and must continue to do so.

Getting there?

What makes a great national team? Skills play a part obviously, yet what got me thinking was how culture plays a part in all of this. Many tout the nations of England, Spain, Brazil as usual favorites in many competitions yet in taking a look at their achievements, Brazil is of course superior having the won the most World Cups (5) while England and Spain each have one despite their domestic leagues to be one of the most popular and arguably have the most passionate following. What is different then? Brazil’s superiority does not account for the intensity that is probably on the same level as the other nations mentioned. Supposedly, an immense following creates a bundle of talent and a sub-culture built around it. Though the answer may still be cultural, it is not determined by devotees, rather the integration of playing style in the current and subsequent waves of expression that characterizes a nation. A national identity is a national framework for the game that has dictated success, and it is hence a national struggle as well.

Of course Spain having won the recently concluded World Cup, largely confirmed their belief in the tiki taka (touch –touch system); a system of endless passes, possession and the chances that flow from it, a style that flows from all parts of the pitch that quite frankly no one else can do. Before the WC they had won the Euro 2008, and this has been the first few years in which Manager Del Bosque has implemented this method for the national team. Del Bosque of course knows about all about Spanish football having worked in solely in the domestic scene. An approach only the Spanish can create and maneuver has broken their perennial under achiever stereotype.

Similarly, the “Beautiful Game” of Brazil being the most successful national team combines the probably the best free for all/anything goes method which banks on the creativity that they cherish in the game. The Brazilian football league is about the only non-European football league able to compete at their level. With the intense ethnocentrism that surrounds Euro leagues, albeit with Brazilians playing in them, the domestic league still boasts amazing talent being the only other league to win the Club World Cup (competition between the best clubs of each continent).

Brazil has also been Characterized largely by movements of independence as centre left politicians such as Lula and Dilma Roussef have taken office, while this denotes a strong sense of national pride, especially in football it also implies the framework on which their society and culture has been consolidated. Brazil has come into clash with the US in terms of how to participate in the world economy, similarly for many countries in Latin America, the height of this was when Lula da Silva who came from a guerilla background was elected president.

Pele himself often praises those who choose to retain in the domestic league to perform, develop and contribute to the talent of the Brazilian footballing identity. The Brazilian Foreign policy while not the most revolutionary, does possess its good points on being independent, while equally does their domestic league and the culture that promotes it.

Additionally, in Paul Gleeson’s article, I Wanna Be Anarchy , he traces how changes in football are invariably linked with the social movements that arise in response to the adversity and oppression the system (in our context the global one). He cites the Provo movement in the Netherlands which was laced with anti-bourgeois sentiment to the conception of their ‘total football’ popularized by Cruyff in the 1960s.

Roel van Duyn of the Provos Movement

This radicalism shapes a nation, cultivates them and rids their approaches of the orthodox dictates of both capital and football, which are undeniably interconnected.

Culture and following alone do not denote success; culture is simply the means in some ways by which we assert our nationalism, a feat that becomes both more problematic and necessary in the age of global capital. Jose Maria Sison in his article on Cultural Revolution writes that this act, of nationalism as a cultural precondition to collective struggle is a political occurrence. The transformation of thought, expression and articulation in resistance to the prevailing colonial culture is evocative of political manifestations of concrete action and overall approach to social interaction. Meaning that political struggle is a cultural must, including autonomous foreign and domestic policy which in this case also needs to cover football as a progressively nationalist experience and practice.

“We are the creators of their abundance”-Bulosan

Carlos Bulosan

In the Philippines, there is a history of cultural confusion that must be put to bed. It is of colonialism and the fight against it. In our case the cultural discovery of football needs to occur not only in domestic integration but taking that integration into a more distinctive level, one that can only happen when the dominant interest of globalization and western influence is replaced by nationalism, independence and genuine democracy. In short, developing football becomes a daunting task without local support and a local reimagining through the course of the masses awakening to progressive political life. Social critic, István Mészáros describes the importance of political life as a distortion of oneself from the colonial culture and experience:

“Thus the emancipation of the oppressed is inconceivable without breaking and melting down the chains of this reified historical consciousness and without its positive counterpart: the reconstitution of the power of consciousness as a liberating force.”

Carlos Bulosan , a Filipino progressive writer of the 1930s lived in the USA for a long period of time describing the experience of nationalism as rebuilding life, it is up until now a struggle for self-determination, something that is impossible without the combating the vacuum of capital that commodifies culture. Football in many instances will not be exempted from this “vacuum” phenomenon as it is an international sport, yet locally it has the potential to be conceived as an instrument or symbol of national consciousness at the minimum.
On the modernity and adaptation of football into the age of globalization Christopher Mann notes that

“Of course, the game has been regularly played on an international level since the 1930s, but global impacts and ‘radical undercutting of traditional customs’ were not processes associated with the sport’s development for much of that time. Internationalisation was sparse, perhaps even non-existent, in its contemporary sense. Yet with the on-field drama set against the backdrop of the world’s most technologically advanced societies, one could almost physically witness football adapting itself to the age of instant communication and digital monopoly. Football’s journey from pastoral hobby to quasi-cultural symbol of the globalised age seemed to be complete.”

In the Philippines, our Labor Export Policies have exemplified our participation in this as a benchmark of our economy, culture and its influence on the ordinary Filipino household and its aspirations. If football is to follow this trend it will de degraded into the foreseeable failure that many semi-colonial/3rd world nations undertake. Meaning if there is a constant aspiration to detach ourselves from the logical course of Philippine society, football fails in its ability to be internationalized not its ability to be dominated but by virtue of its capacity to be reshaped in accordance with social identity, an identity that has constantly been under attack and fought for.

The connotation that the name “Azkals” brings is somewhat positive, taking grassroots depictions of something that is very ordinarily Filipino, the presence of stray dogs as a metaphor for both our national team (relative to others) and the influx (as opposed to the exodus of workers) of Fil-foreigners reconnecting with their roots. Many of them could’ve taken their careers to more successful national teams but the lure of Philippine football in its infancy and unpredictable character was something else. As social consciousness itself remains to be unpredictably catalyzed by political developments; labor export, rising prices of commodities and dissent are all evident with a level of general uncertainty with the Aquino regime.

It is still unsure how Philippine football will take shape, Azkals Manager, Dan Palami was quoted as saying it is still in its infancy, as he waits for it to peak. Concretely it is hard to recommend specific measures to illustrate our evolving methods, though it must be clear that its development must be based on the not merely assimilating in the present culture but the inevitable leaps that progressive culture will take in response to social crises. Social upheaval is constantly brewing into bigger and better things, football must not be left behind.

Sources

Gleeson, Paul (2011) I Wanna be Anarchy http://inbedwithmaradona.com/i-wanna-be-anarchy/

Sison, Jose Maria (1967) Struggle for National Democracy: The Need for a Cultural Revolution http://www.scribd.com/doc/35825664/Struggle-for-National-Democracy-by-Jose-Maria-Sison

Viola, Michael (2006) Filipino American Hip-Hop and Class Consciousness: http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2006/viola150406.html

Renewing the Spirit of Carlos Bulosan, http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2006/viola150406.html

ibid

Mann, Christopher, (2011) Football and Modernity http://www.runofplay.com/2011/01/17/football-and-modernity/

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Year of the Boomerang

Too many trends are consistently characterizing the University of the Philippines- Manila student elections, and consequently these trends are giving birth to a spectrum of advocacies and offers to the students. In the context of society’s chronic crisis especially in our basic social services however it seems to serve as a distraction. ASAP-Katipunan (AK), Bigkis and Jamie Balgos as the independent candidate for USC chair paint the picture of a continuing struggle for identity and relevance and the university, an identity that has endured the test of time thanks to ideals that AK still holds. Conversely we must note how both Bigkis and Balgos fit into university politics as an unnecessary product of a certain period.

The Balding of Britney

Like many trends, Bigkis will eventually fade away. Combining the advocacies of environment and misplaced reform they take flight from popular worldwide political fads of trying to find different solutions to the same problems. Foreign monopolies still influence the general economy and politics particularly education, the forced detachment of Bigkis from these truths puts them in a position of attempting at a “change” that is too “multi”-directional that it goes nowhere. In short, they are not out to fight for our rights, they focus on particular things that try to be unconventional when there is no need to be. In effect their choice of action is either extremely localized or non-existent, the latter being the usual.  Like the anti-nuclear movements, luddites, certain advocacies last for only a period of time and never seem to transcend those periods; and as exemplified by the decreasing visibility in the university it’s very probable for Bigkis to follow the same pattern. Besides the general perception of the campus community of the organization of being elitist and exclusive the organization prides itself on having “new” answers for student participation. However, alternative for the sake of alternative fails and is ultimately absorbed into the status quo and the reactionary ideas that follow, unless of course inaction gets a hold of them first. I can’t remember anything they actually did, besides a couple of statements, time is showing that they are running out of ideas to present themselves and are sinking into being irrelevant in the university. Bigkis will not survive history.

If you do not stand for something, you’ll fall for anything

Balgos’ existence hardly strays from the inconsequential doom that surrounds Bigkis. She differs though from Bigkis in the sense that she is trying to adapt to the call of the times. The times have resounded education for all, with the strike almost all candidates and especially Balgos are trying to ride the progressive wave sweeping UPM without actually participating in it. Her independent status may imply sincerity but in truth it makes her fickle and vacillating character more apparent, something she takes full advantage of by adapting to the political tone of the university. This adaptation is somewhat more dangerous, unlike Bigkis, she clings to her relevance whilst her actions are clearly “independent” from the interests of the students. Out of all candidates she is the most akin to a traditional politician, generating credit from what is popular in the content of her campaign yet on the surface having the pretense of not having any ideological disposition. Moreover the excessive emphasis on herself as a complete “energy” and achiever type is analyzed precisely by CONTEND UPM in saying “this excessive fetishism on academic excellence exhibits an egoistic itch for adulation and personal validation.” It’s combining her extreme individual emphasis while gasping for significance in adjusting herself in accordance to perception of progressive politics without action that differentiates her from Bigkis.

Year of the Boomerang

ASAP-Katipunan is permanence. Through the years it has been unwavering in upholding the students and people’s rights. Many political parties have come and go, presented different platforms, following popular trends and advocacies but never equaling what AK has achieved in terms of uniting and mobilizing the broadest number in the university. To be honest whenever the university has shown its best in catering to the interests of the majority, AK was involved, especially in the recent years. AK will always produce student leaders that have these qualities, leaders who believe most importantly that all critical moments of the progressive strength of the university the students and people have been decisive, that is what makes leaders effective. This is a year to repeat everything we have achieved, an endeavor to better define the continuing change and a year to once again prove that permanence has existed precisely because of a struggle that is timeless.

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Happyland: Football and Poverty

A movie review of Jim Libiran’s Happyland

Jim Libiran’s Happyland depicts a group of teenagers from who discover football or Futkal (Football sa kalye/street) through the local youth center in the larger impoverished section of Tondo, Manila. Through Fr. Jose, head of the center hailing from an axis of the football world, Barcelona, football becomes an opportunity, something more than a past time building something “more than just a club.” Fr. Jose’s passion spawns from one of FC Barcelona’s favorite sons Paulino Alcantara who happens to be Filipino. Scoring 357 goals in 357 games, Alcantara shattered records and literally even the net at one point though was denied acclaim on the level of a national team since there was barely a Filipino National team to speak of then. Emerging from a poor background Alcantara’s achievements inspire the kids to play. Coming back to Tondo for the film, Libiran’s Happyland is an attempt to explain poverty and the basic rights that are withheld from this condition as well as the perception of what the impoverished “cannot” have, like football. It features real life Futkaleros and the initiators of the movement playing similar roles to their lives in relation to Futkal.

Larong Mayaman (rich man’s game)

As explained by Brother Pedro who teaches the kids how to play, Futkal may be played on the streets of their community but it is symbolic of bringing football to everyone as they eventually play against teams on the University of Makati grounds.  This is an important point which I think is present in the movie and should be present in our understanding of football as a metaphor for democratic rights. Football is for everyone, throughout the film it is depicted as “larong mayaman” with reluctance from the locals to appreciate it. How has this come to pass? With basic cable you can only watch the English Premiere League and not even all of the matches, and a few Champions League matches, never mind Asian football. I’m sorry I just don’t understand how channels can regularly play table tennis, equestrian sports among others while leaving out the most watched game on the planet. Before the Azkals you probably had to be Angelica and Derek and fly off to South Africa to watch the 2010 World Cup. Of course most glaring is the state of affairs in our domestic league which paradoxically has no money in it. This universality is congruent in how many people view certain privileges as forever being privileges or facets of life that will always be absent from theirs such as education, good health services, business, legal help and fare wage; subsequently football.

Take the power back

Throughout the film there is an ongoing contradiction between the rich and the poor. During games fans of the opposing team (seen as rich kids) would throw loose change on the field as an attempt to distract, insult and “prove” their superiority against the Tondo team who hardly had any shoes or proper uniform. Clad in shirts with numbers painted on them one opponent depicted as the “British team” would not even get off their bus in the Tondo home court, irrationally fearing a  literal beating from the locals.  These economic divisions are demonstrated in cultural animosity towards the poor in what is perceived to be “our” game. If Futkal is an attempt to promote access to football as a metaphor for life, conversely the mentality of many is still the status quo which may support the Azkals but still adheres to the obstacles of the norm.

The players experience real problems of the impoverished Filipino youth, team captain Ishmail is faced with an uncertain future in which he wants to be able to study in college, Ramil is forced into a life of crime, others are tied to providing for what little their families have; even attempting to prevent a cold in the family is a big obstacle for not having enough money to buy simple medicines. Drugs, crime, among others, what is common is the bleak understanding that they do not have a future, the opposing understanding of the status quo through football reinforces this. Football by no means solves their problems, football is no revolution. At some points though it may feel  that way, yet in the end the embrace of football merely teaches them of what can be theirs. Hard work may get you some cash but what man really needs is to challenge society and change what is taken from us, to me this was exemplified in Ramil quitting his life of snatching/ theft despite the additional financial burden it brings. What is his stealing compared to the condemnation of a society of the poor to a life of stealing?

Ultimately the undertaking of developing football, albeit just about anything in society is based on the masses as a motive force. Football does not change society but in Happyland it becomes a representation of taking what is right into the hands of the underdeveloped who in turn become pioneers, awakened the masses are a messiah.

Note: Today the Philippine Azkals have yet to play Mongolia in the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers, this may not be the semi-finals of the tournament but it resounds enormous importance in football’s continued existence in the country.  Phil Younghusband’s cameo in Happyland as a supporter of football’s development is a welcome yet cheesy addition to the film; however his real performance will be on the pitch. With it are the stakes of raising football to greater relevance locally as did Happyland.

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Algeria, Fanon and Zidane

Having recently seen the film “The Battle of Algiers” it reminded me of two things, national liberation in relation to the Arab question as well as Zinedine Zidane, the French-Algerian footballer whose legendary exploits hail him as one of the best to walk the Earth. The connection might seem unorthodox but being in the frame of globalizing revolt as well as football as a milestone for cultural/ sporting expression it puts Zidane at ends with ideas of another French-Algerian, Frantz Fanon and internationalism, not despite his French heritage but because of it. Though by no means is Zidane a revolutionary nor a liberator as we must put this distinction in the Algerian/African struggle yet as Fanon put it, “culture is the first expression of a nation.[i]” In 1954 Algeria spoke sending shockwaves to the United Nations and to the knees of imperialism, in 2010 Zidane helped the Arab world speak for international football, and today Algeria among others like Egypt and Tunisia are still speaking militant verses.

Rock the Casbah!

What struck me the most about the film was how the Arab culture coalesced with guerilla tactics, women using their veils for hiding weapons, and how simply dressing like an Arab would put you directly in the order of battle; an extremely racist and risky assumption for the French colonizers of Algeria. On the whole it tackles national liberation and the domestic means to express this. A revolution is culture necessitated through struggle. Though as we examine Algeria, Albeit the region today, can we say that they are independent? No, we cannot. The post-colonial situation is not far from that of the French occupation despite the 1960 UN resolution calling for the independence of all colonies. Algeria cannot be free when its hand feeds the machine of global exploitation. The Marcosian leader of Algeria at present is Abdelaziz Bouteflika since 1999. Between June and December 2010 food prices had increased by 32%, Since 2001 Bouteflika has been involved in the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad) a project undertaken in relation to free trade and other parasitic western oriented economic policies. [ii] Massive protests as is the trend in region broke out and are still ongoing although in a less consistent fashion.  Hence the political habits and concentration of nominal cultural or the Arabic heritage has become mired up in the automation of western dominion, Fanon in Serequeberhan’s article on African politics[iii] calls this inert and empty. In addition, for Fanon, without the long-term destruction of colonial residue it is bound to readapt. [iv]

The Battle of Algiers was dispersed by French military yet the nation awoke to a period of emerging national consciousness, and even in post-colonial society that stage in its history will always be vital as a launching point for successive anti-colonial and national liberation movements. Yet today even with the sudden surge in the protest movement Algeria is still faced with the post-colonial structure of foreign plunder and a confused expression of how to view the western world and even themselves, in short, what is imperialism to them, and is it still here? Of course more importantly, how do we destroy it?

 

"We are winning" 🙂

 

Fanon noted, in 1958: “The XXth century, on the scale of the world, will not only be the era of atomic discoveries and interplanetary explorations. The second upheaval of this epoch and incontestably, is the conquest by the peoples of lands that belong to them.” [v]

 

good read

 

 

 

Is this that period? It’s hard to say but with regard to Fanon’s point given the current suppression of the Arab-Algerian identity it’s bound to happen. Historically we can say that the Algerian people know it to be possible and as a form of expression, protest seems to be the current language that is beginning to take shape in revolutionary mold. National liberation will always reference itself to its history and is interconnected with many international trends such as the fight against global austerity as the rampage of the imperialist fallout of the 2008 financial crisis. Similarly it is related to the politics surrounding the 2022 World Cup and Zidane underneath it.

 

Zidane: Citizen of the World

He is an artist, I remember watching Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, a documentary with no words and hardly any sound, just movements juxtaposed against world events and facial expressions. Zidane tore through the field and commanded the pitch. Having led the mediocre French National team to win the 98 World Cup and the subsequent Euro 2000, he had already retired when he was called up again to be in the 2006 squad which he captained to the final. It’s true that most of France’s recent success in football had to with Zidane. Born an Algerian who was naturalized in France he retained dual citizenship and when the bids for the 2022 WC were announced he was the ambassador for Qatar. Zidane keeps quiet about his exact religion but his parents were Muslim.

 

at the 2006 world cup

 

However his role in affirming FIFA’s choice for Qatar was met with massive criticism from the western world mainly attacking Qatar’s football pedigree. The point is football must be taken places, new places, it’s a sport that exists on internationalism redefining itself on new soils, sounds like revolutionary philosophy. Football is not European, given that it originated in England, it is a national culture internationalized with its own set of political issues. Anyway his efforts helped to reject the ethnocentrism football experiences and once again made football relevant for a significant part of the world. In truth what would football have done in a place like England besides jack up its market value, Qatar makes the WC historic as the first Arab nation to host it.

“It is time,” he said, “to bring the World Cup to the Middle East. Football belongs to everyone. It is time to give it to Qatar.”

John Fiske, in Understanding Popular Culture, believes that the body is key to representing socio-political contexts prevalent at a given time. He deliberates the point superbly, when he notes that ‘the struggle for control over meanings and pleasures (and therefore the behaviours) of the body is crucial because the body is where the social is most convincingly represented as the individual and where politics can best disguise itself as human nature’.  Zidane’s ability and heritage contributed to the Qatar decision. [vi]

He who is reluctant to recognize me opposes me – Fanon

National liberation according to Fanon is an international phenomenon undertaken by man. Zidane is no revolutionary yet what he does in accordance with today’s post-colonial Algeria and Arab world is try to redefine what they mean to the others, something positive amidst the imperialist ideological offensive.  He is part of laying the groundwork for Arab cultural internationalism. His French background does not serve to be a colonial undertaking as he still sees what is best for Arab culture in his own way. He is in the words of another French-Algerian Fanon he is in “…contact with the people of the new movement gives rise to a new rhythm of life and to forgotten muscular tensions, and develops the imagination. He makes innovations, he makes works of art.” [vii] The duality of Zidane’s heritage does not necessarily make him a more objective man but puts him in a position of dual relevance in search of cultural identity apart from his skills.

Zidane makes Arab culture relevant in the biggest sporting event on the planet and because he is also French it adds to the internationalism of it all. This development of identity corresponds to the more massive progressive political development in certain regions of the world. Does Zidane effectively create this new type of progressive culture? No, ultimately it’s up to the people of Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia etc, whose voices are now interconnected with the fight for freedom and genuine democracy against imperialism alongside a glaring example of a cultural rejection of western supremacy. The Battle of Algiers and the 2022 World Cup will only be two of the many events that will shape the history of a universal struggle whose spotlight is currently occupied by Arab nations. Fanon says that the building of a nation is akin to universalizing values, that this two-fold experience is ultimately the source of culture, Zidane and today’s Arab activists have shown that struggle and identity are one and the same.

Sources:


[i] Fanon, Frantz (1959) Reciprocal Bases of National Culture and the fight for Freedom, Marxists.org

http://www.marxists.org/subject/africa/fanon/national-culture.htm

[iii] Serequeberhan, Tsenay (2010) Africa in a Changing World: An Inventory, Monthly Review

http://www.monthlyreview.org/100101serequeberhan.php

[iv] Ibid

[v] Fanon, Frantz (1959) Reciprocal Bases of National Culture and the fight for Freedom, Marxists.org

http://www.marxists.org/subject/africa/fanon/national-culture.htm

[vi] Fiske, John (1991) Understanding Popular Culture, Routeledge Inc. London, England

[vii] Fanon, Frantz (1959) Reciprocal Bases of National Culture and the fight for Freedom, Marxists.org

http://www.marxists.org/subject/africa/fanon/national-culture.htm

 

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YELLOW CARD of the week: runner up for most infuriating person/event of the week

All Those Who Condemn the World Cup 2022 in Qatar


FIFA’s December decision to hold the 2022 World Cup in Qatar was controversial to say the least for other countries who were bidding, mainly England, the rest of Europe and some figures from the United States. From corruption allegations linked to Qatar being picked, weather issues as the WC is supposed to be held in June-July which is summer for Qatar, and the lack of football pedigree of Qatar. It all boils down to the insistence of many that football should stay within the confines of its elite, in effect creating a geo-political ethnocentric view of how football should expand. Being a football convert from WC South Africa those arguments demean what football has meant to so many. Hence, does it follow that because of these setbacks that can be averted in 11 years the Middle East has less of a right to host a WC? The name of the tournament itself denotes internationalism for football.

Football for all

Holding the WC in Qatar would entail a tremendous leap for football as a whole, expanding in an often misunderstood region of Asia where no WC has ever been held. The allure of a WC is not only quality stadiums but expanding football as tenets for cultural identity. I must reiterate football is created through the grassroots and how it is appreciated as a mass oriented sport, contrary to having quality stadiums, hordes of hooligans, an income generator and home to successful clubs. The 2010 WC is the first in Africa, 2018 will have it for the first time in the eastern European area; FIFA and Blatter are on a mission to bring football to the world not to where it has already gone. It can even be argued that England’s success in domestic football is partly due to its previous hosting of the tournament which inevitably draws legions of people to stadiums.
Among the selling points of holding the WC in Qatar would be the stadiums that would somehow be air-conditioned reducing the temperature by 20 degrees or more. Mostly it was that after the tournament Qatar promised to take parts of the stadiums apart to donate to poorer countries who lack facilities, Philippines? Besides that, is weather really the issue? What will having a WC in England or USA do for the international football community besides translate itself into a profit?

”I’m so bored with the USA” – The Clash

USA’s Landon Donovan jokingly tweeted “I have an idea … we play Qatar in a friendly (they can even host it), and the winner gets to host the 2022 WC … wait, do they even have a team?” The ignorance comes from a man who doesn’t really have a right to boast about American football having never gone past the round of 16 and having never won anything in an international competition. Who the hell is Donovan to talk about football pedigree? The USA had their chance in 1994 when they hosted, they developed a domestic league as a result, now it seems, unsurprisingly that 2022 is a chance to bring more money into their imperialist industries; as the WC generates the majority of all income for football in general. As of now Qatar have their own national team and league, what more in 11 years?

The English express similar sentiments at just about every sport segment of BBC, every English football blog etc; Blatter was right to call them sore losers. He also recently announced that the tournament could be held in the winter season, though disrupting the schedules of many football leagues, isn’t it worth taking football someplace new and more importantly, someplace relevant? Racism and geo-centrism in European football stem from the same kind of intolerant attitude that put their leagues on a pedestal.

VIVA FIFA!

Many also accuse FIFA of corruption in the bid for 2022 hosting duties, whoateallthepies.tv said “we’re now all just waiting for Sepp Blatter to shuffle off. Then maybe FIFA can at last become the transparent, honourable organisation football needs it to be.” With absolutely no evidence it’s hard to imagine especially coming from the Philippines where top FIFA officials were instrumental in ousting the very corrupt former Philippine Football Federation President Jose Mari Martinez. Moreover, with or without the corruption allegations Qatar would still have been a good choice for the world cup given its significance for the progress of world football. There may be some things on the ground that contributed to corruption speculation but when you take a look at the big picture it wouldn’t have made the choice for Qatar any less suitable.

Right now, the Asian Cup is going on in Qatar, having hosted the 2006 Asian games among others they proved they can do justice to such events.

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RED CARD of the week: title given to most infuriating person/event of the week

MRT/LRT fare hikes

President Aquino’s new year greetings to the Filipino apparently come with a 
price. Within the first week of 2011, Ricky Carandang, Secretary of Strategic
Development and Planning confirmed there will be fare hikes. Affecting about 1.2
million commuters, this is in addition to the fare hikes of expressways and
taxis. With the fee already announced as being 11 pesos for the boarding fee and an additional 1 peso per kilometre the regime is already resorting to its propaganda approach of pitting Filipinos against each
other. Overall the economic policies being put into place in the context of a
disastrous budget allocation make it seem as if the regime is looking for
enemies as fast as possible. Bayan or Bagong Alyansang Makabayan’s Nato Reyes
commented by saying “it will make commuters suffer for the debts incurred
through onerous contracts entered into by past governments. Where is the justice
in that?”

“BREAK YOUR BACK TO EARN YOUR PAY
AN’ DON’T FORGET TO GROVEL” – Bankrobber, The Clash

The hikes accelerate Aquino’s thirst to “stabilise” an economy by proving his
“brand” of neo-liberal policies which, in truth, echo from the centers of global
capitalism. In his desperate attempts to constantly explain himself, he tries to
generate money for his development programs (Conditional Cash Transfers etc)
which ironically cripple the people’s economic life in order for his dole outs
to look like an indicator for change. Robbing the people and them buying their
support, it’s the oldest trick in the book.

“You can have whatever you like” – T.I.

Amidst this, P-Noy has the audacity to tell the Armed Forces of the Philippines
that the regime will provide for all of their necessities. Despite the fact that
about 1 activist per week was murdered in 2010 under P-Noy. The human rights
record of the military and the abusive actions of the police recently does not
exactly call for the regime to reward them, albeit without any resounding
mention of their offences. Human rights stopped for the regime at their PR
campaign with the Morong 43, wherein the military even proudly extolled their
grand plans for counter insurgency, apparently put on by their dwindling
confidence in facing progressive forces. The point is, P-Noy mocks the people
with these hikes, saying that the government couldn’t do anything about the 300%
increase in the SLEX, that they needed the transport subsidy for rural areas,
whilst proclaiming an unlimited bag of cash for the military. In effect, Aquino
not only buys support for his “changes” through dole out development schemes, he
prepares for the inevitable backlash of his policies by rewarding fascism.

“You do not talk about fight club”

From the Hacienda Luisita reform issue, to the budget cuts to these fare hikes,
Aquino seems to be in the habit of justifying his action by taking the issues to
a “greater good” standpoint. In Luisita, the peasants vying for their rights to
the land itself were outweighed by development of agriculture by the landowners,
are we supposed to blame the peasants then? With the budget cuts in education,
it was to prioritize basic education and teacher’s salaries, blame the
protesters from state colleges and universities? Now, with the fare hikes, it is
for the rural community who aren’t really covered by the transport subsidy,
should the guilt be on the commuters? In reality, the conditions for these
policies were cooked up by the same people, the same liars who attempt to blur
their exploitative practices with “prioritization”. Upholding basic rights never
entails the sacrifice of others, contrary to the justifications of the regime.
All of this without a hint of wage increase.


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