The F-word seems to have become popular again. No, I am not talking about the swearword that is usually censored in the language of the media, it’s the other one that will continue to make the headlines for at least a couple of weeks: Football. Whether you follow every single match of the tournament or struggle understanding how the idea of 22 players chasing a ball for 90 minutes can be riveting, it seems almost impossible not to have an opinion about the World Cup. That being said, the fact that a sports event can monopolize the media at the expense of everything else happening around the world could have a misleading effect. Indeed, due to football enthusiasm you may have not heard about or chose to overlook ISIS declaring a new Islamic Caliphate, Israel vowing to make Hamas pay for the alleged murder of three Israeli citizens or thousands marching against the Chinese government in Hong Kong upon the handover anniversary from Britain to China in 1997. Even in Brazil, protests of excessive World Cup expenditure seem to fade over cheering for the national team. (Heads up for people who have no clue: Brazil advanced to quarterfinals despite relatively poor performance)
Does football have such hypnotic impact? Portugal’s authoritarian leader Salazar would have probably answered, “yes” to this question. He had acutely (and quite dangerously) identified football as one of the core past time activities along with fado (music and cultural values) and Fatima (religion) that made the Portuguese stray from his authoritarian measures. No wonder the military junta in Thailand launched an echoing initiative allowing free broadcasting of World Cup to all Thai citizens as part of its “happiness” campaign.
Despite its manipulative power, football is not all about forgetting politics. In fact, it can cause or resurrect social controversies. Take a look at Marine Le Pen’s latest call for the removal of dual nationality from people with Algerian origins over riotous celebrations of Algerian victory in France. Similarly, the mayor of Nice banned waving of foreign flags in the city on the day of Algeria-Germany match.
I do not intend to publicly condemn the football fans or call for a World Cup boycott; we all deserve to watch quality game after all. Nevertheless, next time you tune in to see the remaining matches it might be worth checking afterwards a section other than “sports” on your local news source.
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