Tag Archives: Sartre

The “Other” and the “Drug”: What Football can take from the SONA

With the onset of the largely empty State of the Nation Address President Aquino’s efforts to distance himself from the “negativism” of the people still cannot be ignored. Land reform, social service budget cuts, rampant demolitions and persistent political killings were also absent as well as a tangible national plan. The obvious side of the picture would be that the errors of this administration’s priorities continues, however in the larger political context, as Aquino widens the gap between him and Hacienda Luisita he also attempts to shift the attention of the nation towards the apparent victories over the wang-wang. This reminds me of Alain Badiou when he says that one of the biggest cultural triumphs of imperialism is the eradication of the word itself. If we don’t talk about it, it probably doesn’t exist. Similarly in Football, while just about everything is talked about, there has never been any clear attempt to distinguish football as a largely social phenomenon. Most of the time the subject of football is about a team’s tactics, a players’ form, rankings etc. While that is fine, in both politics and football, recognition of social conditions is unequivocally necessary.

Street Painting at the People's SONA protest, photo courtesy of Lori Navida

The Detachment and the Drug

This was a coward’s SONA basically, Aquino may bark a lot, defending his KKK , (Kaibigan, kaklase, Kabarilan/ friends, classmates, shooting buddies) but his bark ends when it counts. It counts only when it defends his administration, usually by not talking about it. His aimless focus on the smaller things points to the lack of significant achievement and the abundance of problems that are ruled by secrecy. In KABATAAN Party Rep. Mong Palatino’s blog article, Utak Wang-wang, Utak Haciendero, he tackles how the SONA’s utak wang-wang focal point was put in place for the utak haciendero that the regime clearly possesses in light of the country’s continued plight. All of this as the SONA repeatedly (as did last year) slam naysayers and critics simply for being critical. Palatino adds that this is ironic, considering his family were both a main proponent and beneficiary of this kind of political opposition during the Marcos dictatorship. It’s sort of unnerving to have a president and from Aquino’s family whilst not mentioning and favoring detaching itself while profiting from Luisita, even if it is one of the bleakest pictures of feudalism and landlordism in the Philippines.

Football has a similar train of thought, though not intentional and obviously does not bear the same consequences but in essence excludes the social issue from the self as does the SONA. In an entry from the Equaliser Football blog entitled “The Attraction of the Futile” it is discussed how football can turn into an escape. True enough I am one of those victims, yet at the same time what it also does is serve as a medium for the of entrapment of the most prominent facets of modern life, namely globalization or the expansion of global capital to monopolistic heights. There is a two line struggle between elevating the game (like other popular sports) to its rightful space within the bigger realities of society and keeping it an escape for convenience. Football can easily become a drug with an addiction that shuts out the world. The entry talks about how the injection of social connectedness into the sport is not only left out of mainstream media (for obvious reasons) even amongst supporters it is not a popular topic. I’m not sure this is the case in the Philippines to a wider extent but I have encountered sentiments of antagonism by the “invasion” of the sport by political discourse. The football community is not an isolated collective, but a result of the emerging sub-culture fumed by media, mainstream or not in all dimensions. The former was tackled in a previous entry.

Stephan Schrock, taken from http://tinyurl.com/3vm7hlw

Especially now when we are facing cases of alleged rape, while this may be all a hoax, I think we cannot be so quick to condemn the issue to a PR spectacle as was the case with the Subic rape case which was in reality manifested by our unfair dealings with the US military. Women’s rights, player’s rights and socially conscious support among others are not nuisances to the game but symptoms of putting football into a relevant area of society and not a pedestal. The personal is political is an often used quote, extending it to football the tactical is political. The entry of the Equaliser ends with “Enjoy football, even go as far as to love it, but don’t let it overwhelm the more significant realities of which it is a mere by-product.”

The “Other” Problem

Borrowing from Jean-Paul Sartre, the notion of the “other” is not only present in both cases but emits a “self-renewing” distinction. The other basically positions a subject who in order to be conscious of the self must be acknowledged by another. The SONA does the reverse of this perfectly, by not taking into account the more pertinent social issues such as the education budget (8 out of 10 HS graduates don’t make it into college) and land reform, he does not become the haciendero president, he effectively constructs himself as a wang-wang buster. This occurs even by dismissing his family’s history with political opposition by calling out the present opposition as counter-productive in his speech. There can be no Luisita if we do not talk about it. As opposed to the lies that we have been accustomed to from the Arroyo years, Aquino’s rhetoric is grounded on the omission of his identity, as has been the case even since the campaign period.

Football’s other is then the realities seemingly outside of the sport. Simply put, football, especially today’s football did not come from the sky, it’s a conglomerate of all the present social conditions. Sometimes it’s almost as if the orthodox footballing world/community exists outside the apparent unorthodox realities that allow it to endure. Why for example does Europe boast the best leagues, probably because of the money invested in the culture built around it. The debt crisis of many big teams is also indicative of how the competition is also an economic one as clubs vie for the best players coupled with the club owner’s profiteering. While all of these have been popularly documented, what has not been often said is that these incidents have their roots in the inequalities present throughout the world.

Mao Tse Tung, in his 5 Golden Rays, explicitly says that the root of subjective thinking is the separation of things . In this case the separation from the political turmoil and the tendency for separation from the conditions that are at play with the sport.

The Echoes Never Stop

Philippine football will face so many more issues outside of the rape scandal, they cannot all be dismissed as impediments to the game. This is part of the effect of a growing following, and I think the National Team must take a hold of the situation as I’m sure there is more to come. Corruption, in Philippine football has already been dealt with as we know it, but I’m doubtful that it’s the end of it.

I heard one fan say “do what you (azkals) want, but not when you wear the flag.” It’s not a national team based on skill alone as I have repeatedly said before, but based on what a nation should value, human rights and genuine democracy. I think this is what the Philippine Football indie film Happyland achieves, in the sense that football is also a product of domestic situations and project for cultural democratization. Enjoy the game, don’t be consumed by the game. The Azkals, likewise the fans should not make Aquino’s mistake with the SONA, though unlike the SONA, I am more hopeful for football.


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