Politics, War & Football (Part 1)

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The revolution in European football and politics bears testament to how it is possible for people to change old perspectives and embrace new philosophies in life, for the better.

THE warriors march onto the battlefield. At the edges, two generals sit alongside their lieutenants, planning tactics and shouting commands. The air erupts with the chorus of battle cries, blare of trumpets and beating of drums from their fanatical followers.

In this battle, there can only be one victor. This is football, and football means war.

Every four years, a battle is waged across Europe. The dust had just settled in the latest edition of the European Championships in Ukraine and Poland with the swashbuckling Spaniards emerging victorious.

But football is more than just a sport. Football not only stirs strong emotions among the players and coaches on the field, but also its supporters in the stands and streets. Throughout history, many acts of hostilities and violence have been exacted in the name of football.

Hours before the match between Russia and Poland, fights broke out in the streets of Warsaw and 140 fans were arrested.

Their centuries-long bad blood can be traced back to the infamous Katyn massacre where 22,000 Polish PoWS were reportedly executed during Russia’s occupation of Poland in 1939-1945.

At the height of the Greek bailout crisis, Germany met Greece in the quarter-finals. Predictably, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was booed by Greek fans.

In Europe, the line between football and politics is blurred. Club football is notoriously tainted by political conflicts.

The high tension in the “El Classico” derby between Barcelona and Real Madrid is a spillover from the civil war between the freedom-fighting Catalonians and the Spanish federal government.

The stadiums hosting the “Eternal” derby between Roma and Lazio are eternally marred by fireworks, crowd violence and racist banners.

“Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play,” George Orwell once wrote. “It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence: in other words it is war minus the shooting.”

In Europe, it is a case of football imitating politics. Sadly, in Malaysia, it is more of a case of politics imitating football.

Ingrained in football is the spirit of tribalism. And ingrained in tribalism are colours and chants. Every football team has its distinct colour. Colours symbolise exclusiveness, and strengthens the “us against the world” siege mentality. The true die-hard supporters don’t just wear their team jersey; they cover themselves in body and face paint. (Continued in Part 2)


By: Raphael Kok- The Star

The writer is a young lawyer. Putik Lada, or pepper buds in Malay, captures the spirit and intention of this column – a platform for young lawyers to articulate their views and aspirations about the law, justice and a civil society. For more information about the young lawyers, visit www.malaysianbar.org.my.