We publish this collaboration sent by some readers of our website with reflections on FIFA’s World Cup Tournament.
By Andres Camilo R. Cifuentes
A week has passed since the end of the 2022 Football World Cup in Qatar and it is a necessity to some recollection. At least we can start with three public interest lessons for the workers of the living and integral territory of culture.
When I shared a video compilation of Argentine sports commentators ranting about Lionel Messi as a fake idol -fourth attempt, let’s go for the Cup!- and, immediately after, the response of the champions’ sports victory poem, which showed the virtue of the team and its central captaincy, a provincial Colombian friend wrote me to “get over it”, “that the World Cup has gone out of fashion”. In return, she jokingly invited me to a pop concert and tour of the Mexican RBD.
The Qatar final on December 18, 2022, had billions of spectators with television and street records who screamed and cried, celebrated with frenzy and nostalgia. After the World Cup, what is left for us? More than the little Arabian ghost La’ebb, Gasparin. Remembrances and living lessons, no more.
The first lesson is the contradiction between the mass soccer passion for the art and spectacle of football, not only with the massive celebration of the Argentine people, but also its resonance in Bangladesh, Haiti, India, Morocco, Madrid and the United States, contrasted with the deficit of sensitivity and aesthetic awareness of a good part of the radical left, the social sciences and philosophy.
In fact, cultural poverty is found in the intelligentsia and its means of expression, its opinions, rather than in the motley public of amateurs, amateurs, viewers and attendees.
There is still a deficit of understanding between art and politics and the sports phenomenon itself. The woke politics of liberalism, the anti-soccer sectarianism of the far-left and the politically correctness and opportunism of progressivism and conservatism show such an aesthetic deficit that is not their fault but the fault of the very cultural decadence of capital and imprisoned labor. Let this be, once again, an occasion to recall the classic anthology Su majestad el fútbol (1968) and El fútbol a sol y sombra (1995) by the Uruguayan Eduardo Galeano, his fantastic pen, moved by the legs of soccer players. Read it, big heads. Listen to his last soccer interview and what he said about Messi, La Pulga.
Whoever does not have an artistic sensibility will not be able to make a triumphant revolution, nor truly side with the working people, to have contact with their modus vivendi. For, as Trotsky said in Literature and Revolution (Ch. VII, 4, 1924), the revolution will give, besides bread, the right to poetry. And soccer, for some philosophers, seems to be a poetic manifestation in the field of sport, with the plays of its architects, the narratives of the announcers and, above all, the feelings of the spectators and the portrait of the artists. Said the youth poet, Michael Benítez Ortíz, “poetry is elsewhere”, not only in books of prose and rhyme, “for example, in rock n roll”, alluding to Elkin Ramírez of Kraken. If you don’t believe this, listen to the soccer song “Muchachos, ahora nos volvimos a ilusionar” by the gauchos La Mosca and theology teacher Fernando Romero, which already has more than 15 million visits, top in the rankings and has crossed borders.
On the occasion of the World Cup, let us review the inaccuracies and misunderstandings of the cultural phenomenon of soccer, the institution of the World Cup and its political dimensions, which show the very crisis of thought and culture, the mental rottenness of universities and leftist parties, contrasting them with the lessons we bring you today.
From the decolonial approach, the Afro-American Erika Edwards for The Washington Post controverted the myth of white Argentina and the pseudo-criticism of identity. In particular, the one that says that the Argentine national team was a European backwater of Creole and elitist whiteness, without popular ties and with a racist ethos, since it did not include black and indigenous Araucanian players in its squad. At the same time, the French national team was equally racist by owing its victory to players of African descent, exporting talents. The response of the Cuban Julio César Guanche in his Latin, brown and plebeian rehabilitation of La república popular del fútbol was enough to refute the so poor, unilateral and biased identitary opinions, otherwise, non-footballistic and convenient of press merchants in favor of the “multicultural” France.
The black Cameroonian philosopher, Achille Membe, also recognizes this “tribute in blood”…In 2018 Membe praised Colombia as “the most African team in Latin America,” both for the imprint of the Choco Pacific and for its fleeting football, pending rebirth.
Football, some say, its cultural consumption, was seen as an alienating activity and a deviation from reality, an issue confirmed by the sense of post-World Cup existential emptiness and the irrational celebration of fans in the midst of Argentina’s skyrocketing inflation and post-pandemic. Something false because of its one-sidedness. Football is a popular sports art of the first line, although it does not escape the circuits of capital and its cultural industry, i.e. the football narcotic of the society of showbusiness. However, the social scientist and Marxist philosopher of our millennium who dares to limit himself to say that lightness of football will fall into ridicule and discredit, as when decades ago the boring academicist Theodor Adorno (Aesthetic Theory, 1969) and Max Horkheimer did it, when devaluing Jazz and Rock n’ roll, making apology of the high culture of the bourgeoisie. Something similar was done by the Stalinist bureaucracy and the traditional left, saying that these expressions were “playing into the hands” of imperialist culture.
This sectarian vision towards football is summarized in two phrases: one of them is “the World Cup is over, let’s focus on the important thing: the life of football player Amir Nasr-Azadani”, defender of women in the recent revolutionary outbreak in Iran, an issue that should mobilize democratic personalities, public figures and workers around the world to reverse the condemnatory sanction of him and hundreds of political prisoners. The other is “football is the opium of the people and for the people”, according to the powerful Colombian song Hasta cuando…hasta siempre (2001) by La Pestilencia, to remember the mafia-paranoid and unpunished murder of the Colombian football player, Andrés Escobar Saldarriaga, after scoring an own goal in the 1994 World Cup in and with the United States. Quite a ballistic. Life doesn’t end here, Andres. Neither does football in Qatar.
With the leather ball and the World Cup in mind, whoever dares to make a serious, pondered and dialectical analysis of the mass cultural industry, even of football aesthetics, will no longer be able to fall into the false steps and commonplaces of the vulgar political approach of the left, right and center.
Just as the philosophy of art has made inroads into horror and fiction cinema, it must do the same with football. Where the prism of the soccer technique and its gladiators, the stadiums and the business, the audiences and the bars, the fanaticism and the lumpenism, the ideologies and the emotions, the catharsis, are reconsidered again, always having a maxim: each match is unique and concrete.
The second lesson is that, even though up until now there has been a relative silence on the part of the champion white-and-blue team and its French counterpart, in the World Cup in Qatar the football phenomenon had a number of political expressions of different kinds and colors. It shows that, beyond the World Cup, soccer is political par excellence with the exquisiteness of its enveloping cultural atmosphere, its drug.
On the side of the football players, the Germans were there with their mouths covered, alluding to the lack of freedoms, censorship and rampant homophobia. The Moroccans, by eliminating the once colonial Spain and Portugal, raise the Palestinian flag and, contradictorily, celebrate with chants the oppression of the people of Western Sahara. The Argentinians at odds with the Belgians and French (the Maradonian ” Qué te pasa, bobo! Andá…, andá para allá bobo…”), as coach Van Gaal and the golden boy, Kylian Mbappé, demean South American football, poorly financed and with humiliated imperial statesmen, the pathetic Emmanuel Macron. After all, since 2022, 20 years ago, Latin America had not won a cup, hence millions of Latin American workers celebrated the sporting triumph of the Argentine national team as their own. The celebration was of an internationalist nature, of communion of the oppressed peoples of the world celebrating the party of football.
On the part of the spectators, the LGBTI flag returned to the field and that of other just causes. The discrediting of certain mocking macho gestures and masculinist and even racist commonplaces of the stars, goalkeeper Dibu, players and public did not go unnoticed (No discrimination armband). The topless and female displays of protruding breasts in the face of the reactionary morals of the Arab monarchs. The Mexican chants of “we want beer, we want beer” and social harangues in the Qatari stadiums, defying the police of the sheikhs, emirs. All this begins to put in crisis the cultural hegemony of the dictatorships of the Persian Gulf and the radical Muslim worldview.
Football has several similarities with political logic. Both involve party-team struggles, their results are win-lose, and a different tactic and strategy must be designed for each encounter. In football and politics, precise roles are required and the location of the teams to fight the battles, the coach, captain, defenders, midfielders, attacking vanguard and midfielders are needed. Also consubstantial to football and politics are the supporters and detractors, opposing sides and pitch, the art of harmonizing and conflicting emotions and personalities, and so on. Football, analogous to revolution, is the celebration of the poor, where they meet and its members awaken and arouse emotions of joy, rage and venting; obviously, its channeling is different, it follows different paths and objectives.
Commenting on the World Cup in Qatar, for journalist Pablo Esteban, the Argentinainazo of December 21, 2022, a national holiday on the occasion of the third football star, was a massive popular mobilization of more than five million people in the Obelisco and, in the end, in all corners of the country and the world, far superior to the 72-73 with the return of former President Perón after the military coup and, also, superior to the speech of dictator Galtieri in Plaza de Mayo, on the occasion of Thatcher’s imperial invasion of the Malvinas in 1982 and the war for the recovery of the insular sovereignty of the Argentines.
Even journalist Miguel Wiñazki acknowledged in El Clarín that it was a political mobilization in a broad sense, of majestic dimensions, that is to say, cultural. The argentinazo of December 2001 was the revolutionary process of dignity and rage that ousted a president by helicopter. Without preaching any exceptionalist thesis of history, the next and definitive argentinazo of the workers and their popular allies, with militant Trotskyist parties at the head, will bring the trophy of a Socialist Argentina and the second and definitive independence of Latin America from Euro-American imperialism. Anywhere in the world the red flame can explode and celebrate football.
The third lesson is the remembrance and its prospective, not so much of what the world festivities have been, their universal cults to perfection and human virtuosities, be it the Olympic Games of Greek heritage, the World Cup of Latin and English resonance, any other, but the very possibility of what they could be in the civilizational future, beyond the conjuncture of their sporting quadrenniums. That the cultural enjoyment and happiness is not just an exceptional elixir, an outside of the normality and hell of the capital, but a universal moment of freedom, of the common, of full football realization.
The World Cup in Qatar forces us to imagine a possible new world, a civilization in the 21st century and new millennium, where football and other manifestations of human powers are fully visible. Someone said that soccer could be the metaphor and sporting expression of the unhealthy competition between States, with their nationalistic, chauvinistic and warmongering interests, in a word, football as a catalyst of violence in society and a bad example. This may be so. The bourgeoisie is skilled at that. Just look at Russia’s colonial invasion of Ukraine.
But now, we would like to dream that, as part of the process of civilization, in the manner of the sociologists, Norbert Elias and Erick Dunning (Sport and Leisure in the Process of Civilization, 1986), football becomes a friendly sporting encounter between peoples and a peaceful struggle of teams with conflicting passions, unusual and lively fans.
Once we have beaten Imperialism, until it disappears from the face of the Earth. Once its barbarism does not contaminate the green fields of world football. Once we manage to win the match of our lives, football and its world cup will be truly universal and the golden ball will be able to roll on a planet, free of poverty, excess of suffering and oppression between nations.