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Soccer World Cup - home of racist nationalism and stereotypes

Last post, I promised to post anything I find of interest in the Soccer World Cup. I wasn't expecting there to be much, but I was wrong. As is generally expected with international sports, they provide a handy forum for vacuous nationalism. I have no problems with it, as long as it plays nice.

Before I get into this post, though, I just want to wish my blog a happy 1st birthday. Who would have thought, when I published that first piece 12 months ago, that I would actually have the concentration span to stick with it for a whole year. If anyone is looking for a nice birthday present to give, the blog really needs people to comment. Particularly if they disagree with me.

Anyway, news a couple of days ago that a group of German fans and a group of Polish fans were planning to meet up and fight should take no one by surprise. Soccer has long been associated with this type of violence, and why should this year be any different. Even that, however, is not the sort of racism and unacceptable behaviour I'm talking about in this post.

We frequently buy and read the Independent, where racism is normally railed against (unless, of course, it is anti-Americanism or anti-Israeli). And yet the sports section has no qualms reinforcing the stereotype about Australia and drinking here. Similarly, talk of the Ukranian loss must include the words "vodka" and "hangover" as happened in the comments section in Crikey. Denigrating a country on the basis of a stereotype is wrong. Plain and simple. Whether it involves alcohol, isolationism or sheep, it is not acceptable and shouldn't be done. If an individual chooses to have an excessive amount of any of the things mentioned in the previous sentence, and it is worthy of criticising the individual, that is their choice and they can be appropriately criticised on an individual basis. To claim that an entire country does it, however, and to imply that every individual does, should be treated with the utmost contempt.

So why am I holding soccer to blame? Because I can. No, because it gives an air of permissibility and acceptability to it. Because (presumably) the editor of the news section would not allow it, but it does appear in the sports section. So remember, as one team wins and another loses (or in the case of soccer, as both teams draw), that it represents nothing more than a game. It does not actually improve the country of the winning team, and does not represent anything more than that the 11 or so players in the losing side weren't able to win on the day. Only this and nothing more.


I comment

Semi-apologies to Crikey - they didn't originate it. They just republished it from here. They did, however, republish it without comment, and as such are still open to criticism. As are the originators of the comment.

Comment from Gillian

Although in general sterotypes etc are bad evil things, when one considers that sport is simply a more 'peaceable' form of tribal warfare, it could be argued that resorting to name-calling etc is just another way of fighting that battle. Get to your enemy any way you can, right. Hence, for instance, the haka.

I respond

I didn't realise that England is at war with Australia. Nor was I aware of any current animosity between Australia and Ukraine. More to the point, when sport is used for political purposes, either by politicians or the media, it can lead to animosity between peoples. Sport doesn't settle problems (if it did, all the characters in pro-wrestling would get along brilliantly by now!) but it can cause them. It starts at low-level name-calling...

Comment from Gillian

England may not officially be at war with Australia, but when it's a matter of my team beating out yours, all bets are off. It's a matter of us and them. As for sport not being used for political purposes...there is already animosity between peoples. Sport allows it to be expressed without, usually, dropping large explosive devices on our "enemies". And no, it doesn't settle anything, but it sure gives those whose teams have won a warm glow!

I repsond

there is already animosity between peoples

I disagree. I don't think most Australians could find Ukraine on a map, let alone have any animosity or ill-will towards Ukrainians.

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