Saturday, June 12, 2010

Six (increasingly silly) reasons why leftists should support the All Whites


1. Football - or soccer, as it is demeaningly termed here in New Zealand - has had a long association with the left, in both the antipodes and the northern hemisphere. It was football which brought Allied and German troops together in no man's land on Christmas day during World War One, and thus foreshadowed the left-wing soldier-citizens' revolutions that brought the war to an end in Russia in 1917 and in Germany in 1918. Che Guevara may have had a rather bourgeois liking for golf, but he used games of footy to help train the volunteers for his guerrilla armies. In New Zealand, postwar British immigrants - the co-called 'two bob Poms' who fled the cramped austerity of Yorkshire and East London for open spaces and public works projects downunder - championed the twin causes of football and trade unionism. Back in the eighties my father, who remains even today an unregenerate rugbyhead, would mutter 'bloody Pom - they're all Poms!' whenever a trade union leader or local footballer was interviewed on the telly.

2. The internationalism of the World Cup, and of football in general, ought to help shake Kiwis out of their insularity. Rugby is our national sport, and we still assume that much of the rest of the world attaches the same rare importance to the game. It does not. If we were to dump rugby for football we would discover that, in sporting as well as economic and political terms, we are very small fish in a very large pool. We would discover that even in South Africa, Australia, and England, let alone Argentina and Spain, it is football, not rugby, which is the pre-eminent sport. Instead of imagining ourselves as the rightful champions of the world, we would have to consider ourselves inferior to nations as previously insignificant as Senegal, Honduras and Ivory Coast. We might lose some of our First World hubris.

3. The All Whites have already attracted considerable support from the New Zealand public, despite the fact that they are very unlikely to reach the second round of the World Cup. Whenever the All Blacks play, we expect nothing less than victory. Losses, especially in World Cup games, prompt national mourning and weeks of recriminations. If the Kiwi public can learn to cheer the underdog against the overdog, then it will become a good deal less neurotic.

4. The All Whites are playing Italy, a team which is both aesthetically and politically objectionable. Italy plays a dull, vicious style of football designed to create one-nil wins and opposition injuries. They are sore losers - when they were knocked out of the 2002 World Cup by South Korea, for example, they reacted by whingeing for weeks and booting all the Koreans out of Italy's domestic club competition. One of the major forces in Italian football is the club SS Lazio, which was patronised by Mussolini and enjoys the support of thousands of neo-fascists today. Italy won the 2006 World Cup final after the Lazio player Marco Matterazi used racist language to goad the French captain Zinedine Zidane into a headbutt. We should avenge Zidane.

5. Tommy Smith is left wing.

6. Do these arguments seem a little laboured? Do you sense that even their author finds them somewhat unconvincing? Do you think he might have some other, less respectable reason for urging support for the All Whites? You should do.

The sad truth is that I have very personal reasons for wanting New Zealand to get behind the All Whites and let the All Blacks labour in obscurity. After growing up in South Auckland as part of the oppressed minority known as soccer players, I want revenge on rugby. Rugby was the sport of the larger and cooler kids, who rounded on skinny wretches like me in the school changing rooms and condemned us as 'soccer sissies'. Rugby was the sport that dominated school awards ceremonies. Rugby was the sport that was all over the TV. And it was my high school's First XV, and not its First XI, which attracted groupies at the afterball party.

Like my fellow soccer sissies, who came mostly from the green, middle class fringes of South Auckland, I developed a repertoire of responses to the jibes that were thrown my way by rugbyheads. I would respond to sneers about soccer being a 'girl's game' by noting the manliness of Pele and George Best; I would refute claims that 'nobody plays soccer' by pointing out that, outside the veldt of the apartheid state and the coalfields of Wales, it was soccer which was the global game of choice. Deep down, though, I recognised the justice in the accusations I faced. Like the rest of the boys in my soccer teams, I was skinny, pasty, and had freckles rather than muscles on my limbs. I blew on my hands to keep them warm at Wednesday night practices, and winced on the rare occasions my head came into contact with that greasy heavy round thing called a ball. I played soccer not in homage to the genius of Pele and Best, but because I feared the prospect of getting spear-tackled by Polynesian kids twice my size, or drowning on the muddy bottom of a scrum. I was not so much an enthusiast for soccer as a refugee from rugby.

There was a curious dissonance between the timorous middle class boys who opted to play soccer in South Auckland and the hard men from the old country who coached the game. I remember a coach called Mr Dunbar, who had grown up in a Glasgow slum and spoke with the sort of accent that forces distributors to add subtitles to Ken Loach's movies. Mr Dunbar had come to New Zealand to help build hydro dams on the cold central plateau of the North Island, but the bunk dormitories of Mangakino had probably seemed like luxury to him. Like the other members of Papakura Boys C, I could only understand Mr Dunbar when he swore. Luckily, perhaps, he swore often, especially when he was watching me listlessly pursuing opposition strikers down the left side of my own half, or ducking my head at the last moment to avoid contact with an aerial cross, or skipping neatly out of the way of a ferocious free kick.

I can recall one occasion when I enjoyed a sort of vicarious revenge against the rugbyheads who dominated sporting and social life in South Auckland. One Friday night in 1992 a visiting youth football team from a particularly hard part of Yorkshire - from Scunthorpe, perhaps, or Grimsby - turned up at the Forge, which was then the closest thing to a nightclub in Papakura, and ordered a few drinks. As luck would have it, the local first XV was also boozing at the Forge. Assuming that the Poms who had just walked in were as soft as the average bunch of South Auckland soccer sissies, a couple of the props from the first XV wasted no time in starting a fight. Within five minutes they searching for their front teeth in the carpark at the back of the club.

I don't wish violence upon the rugbyheads of New Zealand, but I would love to see the country turn its attention and affection toward football, even if only for a few weeks. Let's all be 'soccer sissies'!

Footnote: I'm pleased I got up last night for the clash between South Africa and Mexico that launched the Cup, and pleased I went to bed before the nil-all draw between Uruguay and France. I got the Mexico-South Africa scoreline right, but picked Uruguay to edge out France by a goal. I'm hoping that Nigeria's Super Eagles can sneak past the Maradona-damaged Argentinians tonight. I've picked Germany, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Argentina, Spain, the Netherlands, and Ghana to make the last eight, and the Netherlands to beat Ivory Coast in the final. (I know a lot of people are talking about Brazil playing Spain in the final, but these teams are in adjacent groups, and it seems to me quite likely that they could meet each other as early as the second round.)

67 Comments:

Blogger Giovanni said...

Your arguments under point four are remarkably stupid, if you don't mind me saying so.

I like soccer more than rugby for entirely obvious reasons, but I must say that I have always found the colossal chip on the shoulder of NZ soccer fans towards rugby extremely off-putting - however justified in turn by bullying from rugby-heads it might be.

Interestingly, the soccer fans who tried to involve me in their almost conspiratorial early morning soccer watching sessions in the early stages of my stay, besides pointing out ritually that soccer was a culturally superior activity, always assumed I should care for British tournaments such as the FA Cup, and almost seemed to take umbrage when it turned out that no, sorry, I didn't.

2:43 pm  
Blogger maps said...

They're meant to be stupid arguments. You're not upset because I dissed Italy, are you?

2:46 pm  
Blogger Giovanni said...

I suppose so, yes. I mean there's stupid and stupid.

2:47 pm  
Blogger maps said...

In all seriousness, though, I sympathised with Zidane when he was provoked int his head-butt, and I do think Italy have a dreary style of play. Shouldn't aesthetics count for something? I am putting money on the Netherlands and on the African teams based partly upon the way they play.

2:57 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the only protective gear that we wear are shin-guards which is basically only a flimsy piece of plastic and they break from being kicked, easily. soccer is a complete contact sport. and after running (mostly sprinting) for over an hour, elbowing can hurt. plus, if you make a big enough scene, you can get a direct kick, or even a penalty shot which is good. so next time your going to call a soccer player or any other sports player a "sissy" get ALL the information.

2:59 pm  
Anonymous kick the ball not the italians said...

Bloggers pick England to win
http://blog.sysomos.com/2010/06/08/who-will-win-world-cup-2010/
but this is NOT scientific

'What’s interesting is although England has attracted the most conversations, it has also garnered the most negative conversations (35%). This is significantly more than the runner-up, the U.S., which attracted 26% negative sentiment. Brazil, Italy and Spain attracted the most popular sentiment with 46% each.'

3:29 pm  
Anonymous comment from an american sporting patriot said...

Soccer? BAH!

Compare soccer to baseball: Baseball has more frequent scoring, rapid accelerations of game play, players who must play multiple roles, complex and intriguing coordination and contextual dependencies, and a sense of accumulating tension in all but “blowout” games.

Compare soccer to football: Football has lots of scoring, staccato passages of great speed and violence, the most complex play calling and coordination of all sports, a plethora of subtle rules, and an inherent offense-defense clash that the viewer can never forget.

Compare soccer to basketball: Basketball has lots and lots of scoring, complex rules and coordination, continuous motion and offense-defense interplay, and frequent intervals of elevated tension. Besides, only via pro basketball can we derive significant entertainment from watching teams composed 70% of deadbeat fathers and 30% of convicted felons bounce a ball against a hardwood floor.

Compare soccer to ice hockey: Here’s the closest comparison, for ice hockey hasn’t “taken off” nearly as well as the aforementioned three sports. It’s difficult and tiring, and it features occasional refreshing violence, but like soccer, its rules are excessively simple, and long intervals can go by with no scoring or any other sort of climactic event.

Soccer isn’t just boring; it’s so simple even a child can understand it — and only a prepubescent child could take an interest in it. Apropos of which, where are the cheerleaders? A game with sidelines should have cheerleaders in scanty outfits. To say nothing of “sideline news babes,” such as have become prominent in football.

Clearly, soccer — a friend prefers to call it “European kickball” — is “not ready for prime time.”

3:47 pm  
Anonymous Jason Goroncy said...

A great post Scott, though I'm one of the minority residents in this land requiring no convincing on this matter.

3:56 pm  
Blogger Giovanni said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4:07 pm  
Blogger Giovanni said...

I do think Italy have a dreary style of play

Shows a remarkable lack of knowledge of soccer: you confuse 'being good at defending' with 'playing defensively' and - if you think the English style of soccer qualifies as 'attacking' - you also confuse 'running a lot down the sidelines' with 'being entertaining'. But this is actually a dispiritingly widespread point-of-view amongst the local soccer-loving populace, judging by the number of people who have enjoyed boring me with it over the years, and again it's hard not to trace it that staple of the English tradition, according to which you need to be the moral winner - by playing better, entertaining more - before you can be the actual winner. Ridiculous as that is, it fails to be true as a point of fact. I challenge you to go through the history of the world cup and find as much entertaining, attacking football in the actual games played by England versus those played by Italy. Good luck. Let's start by matching this game, shall we? Or maybe this goal. Or maybe this other game. Feel free also to tell me who England has produced in the last thirty years who could hold a candle to Roberto Baggio for entertainment. I in turn will do you the courtesy of not holding my breath.

though, I sympathised with Zidane when he was provoked int his head-butt

Oh, I'm with you on that one, no question.

4:22 pm  
Blogger Giovanni said...

Also, a possibly less silly reason why leftists should support the All Whites: not to be dicks.

4:25 pm  
Blogger maps said...

But England* are dull too, Giovanni! And, if truth be told, so are the All Whites, who seem to take after England and other northern European teams. The All Whites tend to put the ball in the air at one end of the field and try to connect their heads with it at the other.

But when you're a super-underdog you're allowed to be unadventurous in your style of play. If the All Whites' brains trust pushed a lot of men up front and ordered them to dribble their way past the oppositon and keep their passes flat and fast and earthbound, a la Brazil in the '60s or Argentina in '86, then they'd ensure their team lost by a cricket score.

Surely, though, a team like Italy has the talent to be more adventurous? When they go up by a goal after twenty minutes, do they really have to shut up shop and hold grimly on for the last seventy?

*List of teams which I'm hoping make an early exit from the Cup, for either aesthetic or political reasons, or both: Italy, England, USA (please let's stop more people like 'American sporting patriot' from turning up in this part of the net!), Brazil (if the coach continues to insist on abandoning the freeflowing style of yesteryear for a northern European approach), France (that handball against Ireland in the qualifier lost them the sympathy they gained after the 2006 final), Serbia (I can't sympathise with a team whose fans chant gleefully about Srebrenica), Greece (dull as ditchwater), and Germany (duller than ditchwater). Any other nominations?

7:07 pm  
Anonymous Enzo said...

I would only add this to Giovanni's excellent demolition of your half baked hatchet job on Italian Football: We did not whinge for weeks after the 2002 World Cup. That whole tournament was an absolute travesty and we are quite properly still whinging about it.

8:11 pm  
Blogger Giovanni said...

But England* are dull too, Giovanni!

England may be dull, but if you go back to watch those games you'll find that Italy isn't. You say we should always be pressing for more goals when we're winning just to be more spectacular - I seem to recall in the final against Germany in 82 we missed a penalty and then went up 3-0, is that enough? - but that's really just as often a mark of arrogance and stupidity as it is a mark of flair. And sometimes you attack simply because you're crap at defending, like Brazil and France were in 1982. Either way, you'd be hard pressed to find a more consistently spectacular team than Italy, aside obviously from Brazil, in the history of the cup.

8:12 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'That whole tournament was an absolute travesty and we are quite properly still whinging about it.'

lol

8:28 pm  
Blogger Giovanni said...

lol

Oh, indeed.

8:33 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the biggest problems italia players have -

staying inside their bodies

9:14 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

more lol...this guy is pciking NZ top of its group on political grounds...
http://octobersurpriserevolution.tumblr.com/post/687813998/my-world-cup-support-ranking

10:10 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

from said site

Group F
1 New Zealand (I’m probably being inconsistent here given my Australia hate)
2 Paraguay (only country in the Americas where over 90% of the population speaks the indigenous language)
3 Slovakia
4 Italy

re #2...what about Bolivia?

10:12 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

See also...
http://rustbeltradical.wordpress.
com/2010/06/11/the-world-cup-who
-to-support-a-marxist-position/

10:15 pm  
Blogger maps said...

Giovanni: as an example of attacking football, how about the game between Argentina and Nigeria last night? Thirty-one shots on goal! Argentinians, especially Messi, taking on the Nigerian defence with dribbling runs and short passes. No attempt to shut up shot after an early goal. Match report here:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2010/jun/12/argentina-nigeria-world-cup-group-b

11:54 am  
Blogger dave said...

Sport it sport. Its owned by billionares or wanabes, corporatist, nationalist, celebratory blah blah, all the things that represent alienation (we get off on the commodities that are sold back to us).
Its about wanking just as much as Shane Jones is about wanking.
The only good thing about sport is when you are very young and you enjoy it for the sheer fun of the run and the challenge, before some teacher fucks it up, or some parent abuses you or the opposition, or your parents start buying houses in Sports Academy Zones, or some TV hack talks about your potential and you start believing their bullshit.
Its a job, why invest it with bourgois mysticism and join the mob?

1:02 pm  
Blogger maps said...

That's an anarcho-primitivst view, Dave. Should we also spurn art because it is commodified in capitalist societies? What about clothes? Food?

We should distinguish the positive aspects of sport and the negative aspects which fetishisation and commercialisation create. In other words, distinguish between the use value and the exchange value of different sporting practices and institutions.

Take, for instance, Liverpool Football Club. This is an institution which brings great pleasure to a community, and connects that community to its past (including, incidentally, its radical working class past). But it is an institution which has been captured by capitalism. It has been taken over by corporates, who have hiked ticket prices, set up exclusive corporate zones in the club stadium, and run up a huge debt buying up players with no connection to and interest in the community the club is supposed to represent. The solution is not to throw away the club but to give it back to the community that created it, by getting rid of corporate interests and replacing them with a board that represents the community.

This might seem utopian, especially in the super-commercial world of the English Premier League, but the fact is that a lot of major sporting clubs in England and elsewhere are drowning in debt, and may soon need bailing out, just like some banks did during the recent financial crisis. A left-wing government could nationalise the clubs and let the fans run them.

Bilbao FC is an example of a club which is run in the interests of the community it represents. Bilbao is controlled by Basques, and uses only Basque players. During the Franco era it was a symbol of Basque defiance of attempts to assimilate the people of the Pyrennes.

3:21 pm  
Blogger Giovanni said...

Take, for instance, Liverpool Football Club. This is an institution which brings great pleasure to a community, and connects that community to its past (including, incidentally, its radical working class past). But it is an institution which has been captured by capitalism. It has been taken over by corporates, who have hiked ticket prices, set up exclusive corporate zones in the club stadium, and run up a huge debt buying up players with no connection to and interest in the community the club is supposed to represent.

It's also an instution with an appalling history of supporter violence, resulting in scores of deaths. Seems rather odd to omit that.

Giovanni: as an example of attacking football, how about the game between Argentina and Nigeria last night? Thirty-one shots on goal! Argentinians, especially Messi, taking on the Nigerian defence with dribbling runs and short passes. No attempt to shut up shot after an early goal.

Your point being?

Incidentally, Messi and Heinze's cracking goal aside, I didn't think it was a particularly enjoyable game. Lots of running, lots of physical exuberance, lots of mistakes - even from the likes of Veron. I've enjoyed England v. USA and South Africa v. Mexico more so far.

3:29 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How football defeated apartheid:
http://www.foreignpolicy.com/
articles/2010/06/07/how_soccer_defeated_apartheid?page=0,0

9:32 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Basque nationalism has been condemned by many Marxists and anarchists. They believe it divides the workers. They want the Basques to become Spanish. At least, to let go of their identity as Basque, and identify only as workers.

9:42 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Italy has always had a very talented team as has France. I recall watching Italy in the 80s and they played great soccer. I was less impressed by the Germans who won that time I think (but played rather dull if precise games.)

My parents were from England so I and my brother played soccer. This was in the 50s - 60s . There was no bullying or anything by rugby players. (Yes rugby got the main attention.) I had friends who played rugby.

I was simply no good at rugby so I didn't play it. My bother played for the Mt Wellington team for some years until he left University about 1970. I took up chess as a a way of avoiding people. (And as not many played seriously I could shine in a small pond!)

I enjoy watching soccer except my TV reception is bad (in my room) and I miss a lot. I watched the first game to half time.

I have frequently watched the final of the FA Cup.

It is strange that soccer, the game of working class in England, is not played by the workers here -they play what in England ("Rugger") was the game for the Nobs.

Soccer is he number one sport - activity in the world - rugby is not my cup of tea (although I sometimes watch a game, I stick at my memories of the 1981 Spring Bok Tour)

10:28 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

I recall that head butt...but again I think that isn't any reason to 'avenge' Italy. Just play soccer.
N.Z. since I can remember has been really second rate at soccer so we probably wont get anywhere. But soccer is a good game.

10:35 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

"comment from an american sporting patriot said...

Soccer? BAH!

Compare soccer to baseball: Baseball has more frequent scoring, rapid accelerations of game play, players who must play multiple roles, complex and intriguing coordination and contextual dependencies, and a sense of accumulating tension in all but “blowout” games.

Compare soccer to football: Football has lots of scoring, staccato passages of great speed and violence, the most complex play calling and coordination of all sports, a plethora of subtle rules, and an inherent offense-defense clash that the viewer can never forget.

Compare soccer to basketball: Basketball has lots and lots of scoring, complex rules and coordination, continuous motion and offense-defense interplay, and frequent intervals of elevated tension. Besides, only via pro basketball can we derive significant entertainment from watching teams composed 70% of deadbeat fathers and 30% of convicted felons bounce a ball against a hardwood floor.

Compare soccer to ice hockey: Here’s the closest comparison, for ice hockey hasn’t “taken off” nearly as well as the aforementioned three sports. It’s difficult and tiring, and it features occasional refreshing violence, but like soccer, its rules are excessively simple, and long intervals can go by with no scoring or any other sort of climactic event.
"
Soccer isn’t just boring; it’s so simple even a child can understand it — and only a prepubescent child could take an interest in it. Apropos of which, where are the cheerleaders? A game with sidelines should have cheerleaders in scanty outfits. To say nothing of “sideline news babes,” such as have become prominent in football..... "

This is all crap from an arrogant American. Sure I can see the drama of baseball (great game) - but basketball - it's so repetitive - and US Football is a moron's game.

Keep the whores and US sex and stupidity out of sport - it degrades the game.

The US in fact are starting to switch to soccer...which is about all such a failed nation can manage.

10:42 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maps would have fitted in at my intermediate school where the nuns considered rugby too violent. They refused to let us play it, and made us all play soccer instead. They also coached the teams, and refereed between in-school teams. That ball WAS TOO HARD for my head too! Another vivid experience for me was a film made by the Brits to celebrate their 1966 win. Blew my mind when I was ten! If you play a sport when you are young, it can be like supreme poetry when you're old & yr bones are cracking. I'm watching the World Cup. But, sure, it is hard to forget the insidious context mentioned by "Dave" above. Algeria play in a few minutes: where I am (till next week) on the northern edge of Paris (high Nth African population) there is an almost religious silence. Cheers, Bill Direen

11:35 pm  
Blogger dave said...

Well if your talking about socialist sport why wait to the World Cup which is the height of imperialist sport?
Why not put soccer for need and not for greed into your list of demands to meet the crisis?
There are plenty of SA workers who would rather have houses and jobs than have to pay for flash new stadiums so that wankers can watch crappy games with a dud Adidas ball.
In fact some of the SA socialists have proposed backing the Gaza games instead. Now that would be fitting the rhetoric to the reality. Palestine 10 Israel 0.

11:46 pm  
Blogger dave said...

The Alternative (poor people's) world cup started today (13.6.2010) at Avonwood field (behind Athlone stadium in Cape Town); along with other teams, team Palestine lined up for the competition. Whereas all the world's capitalist press recognizes the fascist 'Israeli' team in the millionaires world cup, we recognize team Palestine as the only legitimate representative of the people in the land of historic Palestine. With red headbands and Palestinian flags the team Palestine lined up with other teams. Competition is from today and the next 3 sundays from 10am to 17h00. [13, 20, 27 June and 4 July]. We look forward to the day when all the millions of Palestinian refugees return to their homes in Palestine. We call for Palestine supporters to turn out in numbers in support of the alternative world cup.

for further comment from the alternative world cup, call co-organiser Ashraf Cassiem ph 0761861408

1:26 am  
Blogger maps said...

So we should boycott the World Cup because it attracts the attention and money of the world's capitalists? The reason the Cup attracts that attention is simple -lots of people like football, and the world's best footballers (plus the All Whites and the Greeks) are at the Cup. If people support an alternative World Cup featuring teams like Palestine, it will be because they sympathise with the political intent of such a tournament - not because they find the best-quality play there.

There's an analogy here with art. Many of the world's greatest artists are represented in galleries like the Louvre and the Moma in New York, and most of New Zealand's best artists are found in the collections of big institutions like the Auckland Art Gallery. That's why people flock to all these institutions, why corporate sponsors seek them out, and why speculators who buy up work by promising young artists and then try to offload it to these institutions.

Should we boycott the big art institutions, because they are commercialised, and instead set up a non-commercial gallery in the someone's garage? While grassroots galleries are good, just as grassroots football tournaments are good, it'd be ridiculous to tell people not to go and se Van Gogh or McCahon at a big gallery, just because capitalism had its paws on said gallery. In the same way, it's daft to tell the hundreds of millions of people who appreciate football that they can't sample the highest form of their art, just because that art is exhibited in expensive stadiums with corporate boxes.

As I say, Dave, your policy of boycotting the real world in favour of some utopian alternatuve with only a tiny following reeks of anarcho-primitivism.

9:07 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'As John Paintsil raced around the perimeter of this famous rugby pitch brandishing a Ghanaian flag, it was clear this victory meant more than simply establishing an advantage over a well-fancied World Cup opponent in a tight group. The match-winner Asamoah Gyan dedicated the first victory by an African side in these World Cup finals to the entire continent.

"Every African is behind us. I salute all you guys. We win this match for you," he said after a breathless finish to an entertaining encounter.'

10:38 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

GOD BLESS OUR HOMELAND GHANA
AND MAKE OUR NATION GREAT AND STRONG

WE STRONG NOW

WE GREAT NOW

WE WORLD CUP NOW

10:50 am  
Blogger Fatal Paradox said...

Come on Maps, of course you want to wish violence upon the rugbyheads of NZ, bunch of social reactionaries that they are! :p

From my own quixotic/romanticist point of view, I consider that the All Whites are supportable precisely because they have zero chance of winning the cup (in the same way that a cynic might say the Palestinian national liberation movement is a noble cause because it is doomed to defeat).

Other than the All Whites, I will also be supporting Chile (a much better team than NZ, but still with no chance of winning) in the World Cup for purely sentimental reasons.

11:01 am  
Blogger maps said...

I should clarify that, except in extraordinary circumstances (think of the 1981 Springbok tour or the 1936 Olympics) I don't believe it is wrong for anyone to support their national team at an event like the World Cup.

The site someone linked to earlier in this discussion, which claims to offer 'Marxist' arguments why it is wrong for anyone to back teams from imperialist nations like the US, conflates sporting teams with national governments in a way that is very simplistic.

The ways in which people experience and interpret the performances of their national teams are varied and complex. It's interesting to consider the role that the success of the French football team in the 1990s played in decimating support for the neo-Nazi National Front in that country. The white working class voters the National Front was courting with racist and anti-Muslim rhetoric suddenly found themselves supporting a team that was led by a self-described 'secular Muslim' of Algerian descent, and that included many black players. National Front rhetoric about the perfidy of blacks and Muslims consequently lost a great deal of credibility.

I think that the average sports fan in New Zealand would be insulted if they were told that their support for their national team was an indicator of racism, or pro-imperialism, or even anything but the mildest and most benign nationalism.

I've actually picked Chile to upset Spain, Tim! I thought the Spaniards might start slowly. I know, it's probably a faint hope...

11:51 am  
Anonymous mike said...

"So we should boycott the World Cup because it attracts the attention and money of the world's capitalists? The reason the Cup attracts that attention is simple -lots of people like football, and the world's best footballers (plus the All Whites and the Greeks) are at the Cup."


Err, there are plenty of other arguments *against* mass organised sport, besides its capitalist and/or nationalist tendencies. Here's a few:


1. Children are forced into participating in organised sport.

2. It is uncreative recreation. (Read Brian Sutton-Smith's work on the amazing play culture of NZ children before team sports were introduced into schools in the early-20th century).

3. It teaches a winner-takes-all Darwinian ethos. ("How you play the game" is a genteel myth).

4. It operates as a safety valve for releasing social frustration in harmless rather than politically-challenging ways.


John Lennon once sang of the working class as "doped with religion and sex and TV... ... you're still fucking peasants as far as I can see": he could easily have added organised sports to these opiates of the masses.

12:32 pm  
Blogger The Paradoxical Cat said...

It's a beautiful game. I got up early this morning to watch one of the few free-to air matches (well if you call Freeview :free").

What a civilised game in contrast to rugby. The theory seems to be that if anybody behaves like a rugby player they get disciplined, and the bullies are sent off. Bravo! (Though I can't say I thought that red card was really justified, today.)

1:04 pm  
Anonymous George D said...

Incidentally, Messi and Heinze's cracking goal aside, I didn't think it was a particularly enjoyable game. Lots of running, lots of physical exuberance, lots of mistakes - even from the likes of Veron. I've enjoyed England v. USA and South Africa v. Mexico more so far.

Greece vs South Korea was beautiful. The Koreans seem to have great poise on and around the ball. I wonder if this was just due to the poor quality of their opposition - I hope not.

Argentina - Nigeria was a messy match, and neither side really played interesting football.

1:08 pm  
Blogger maps said...

I think Dave will weigh in with a counter-opinion on the rugby-football comparison, Tim.

I think that, for all the elegant simplicity that makes it the best winter sport, football ultimately falls short of cricket in the aesthetics stakes, because it doesn't have the nuance that cricket has, and because it doesn't combine individualism and team play in the way cricket does.
Could you watch a football game for five days, and not be dissatisfied when it ended in a draw?

1:36 pm  
Anonymous Socialist Aotearoa critical supporter said...

Omar Hamed post on John Mulgan, Man Alone, and suicide at the Socialist Aotearoa site mentions several commenters from Reading the Maps:
http://socialistaotearoa.blogspot.
com/2010/06/reading-alone-landscape-and-language-of.html

1:42 pm  
Blogger Giovanni said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2:00 pm  
Blogger Giovanni said...

suicide at the Socialist Aotearoa site

Blimey.

Could you watch a football game for five days, and not be dissatisfied when it ended in a draw?

Ah, but a draw in cricket has nothing whatsoever to do with a draw in football. A draw in football is when the scores are level at the end of the game. This has happened in cricket only twice since 1876. A draw in cricket is when you cannot reach a result, which is simply not allowed to happen in football. Regardless of whether the game is played fot 90 minutes of five days, the concept of a "no result" would make football supporters go crazy. This is really what makes cricket such a different sport - less like war, more like pastime.

2:02 pm  
Blogger Giovanni said...

The Alternative (poor people's) world cup started today (13.6.2010) at Avonwood field (behind Athlone stadium in Cape Town); along with other teams, team Palestine lined up for the competition. Whereas all the world's capitalist press recognizes the fascist 'Israeli' team in the millionaires world cup, we recognize team Palestine as the only legitimate representative of the people in the land of historic Palestine.

A one-state solution, then? How sensible, and not at all self-aggrandising.

I'd also point out that "poor people"'s world cup is one hell of a misnomer. There are a lot of people of very poor extraction that play for the teams who take part in the actual World Cup. And a lot of poor people for whom it matters. And believe me, I know how much fun it is to lecture the masses on how they should feel, but.

Now, talk to me about the Homeless World Cup - that I'll get behind in a flash.

2:47 pm  
Blogger Fatal Paradox said...

@Maps, of course as you know I am in total agreement on the superiority of cricket to all other forms of sport! Its only drawback is that unlike football it is not a truly global sport, so apart from Bangladesh and the West Indies there aren't too many neo-colonial nations that have a chance of taking down the imperialists...

3:12 pm  
Blogger dave said...

Will a world cup victory for an African or Latin American team change the course of capitalism one bit?

Yes, but not by hastening its demise, rather in prolonging its death agony.

If you want to hold its hand while it exchanges less bread for more circuses, then that's your choice. Just don't pass if off as socialist.

And the "poor peoples" world cup is not a misnomer since it is played by poor people whereas those poor people who play in national teams are be well rewarded for their skilled labour.

Those poor people who are always displaced by world games venues have many times the unfulfilled talent that ever gets to be realised on the professional pitch.

For intelligent people the colonisation of the mind produces some weird and wonderful configurations.

4:25 pm  
Blogger Giovanni said...

If you want to hold its hand while it exchanges less bread for more circuses, then that's your choice. Just don't pass if off as socialist.

That's fair enough.

4:40 pm  
Blogger maps said...

It's not fair enough in my book! Dave, are you going to campaign for a boycott of next year's Rugby World Cup, which has many of the faults of the Football World Cup, albeit on a smaller scale?

6:08 pm  
Blogger Giovanni said...

What I meant is that the "don't pass it off as socialist" charge is fair enough. Needless to say, not everything that is not inherently socialist - say, picking one's nose - needs to be boycotted. And conversely not all activities need to find some sort of socialist justification in order to be pursued. Personally I play or watch football because I enjoy it. I don't play or watch other sports because I don't enjoy them.

And here's a tip: if it existed before capitalism, then it's not capitalism's fault, and you don't need to get rid of it in order to get rid of capitalism. Religion is one thing. An enjoyment of organised physical activity - both as spectactors and as practitioners - is another. We can lament and critique how these things have been corporatised, but wishing to ban them would do no good to the Cause.

And another thing: sports may be an opiate of the masses, but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to live in a world without opiates - whether actual or metaphoric.

6:19 pm  
Blogger maps said...

I see what you mean now, Giovanni, and I completely agree. There's also the practical problem of throwing up yet another barrier to the assimilation of socialist ideas, by seeming like people who come from another planet with a very different, and very much more dour, culture.

6:47 pm  
Blogger Giovanni said...

Here's a Guardian interview with Socrates, the former Brazil great and protagonist of the takeover of a football team by its players remembered as la democracia do Corinthians.

Asked to give the outgoing Lula government a vote from one to ten, he responds a seven or an eight:

"Not 10, you'd have to change everything all at once for that."

Amen to that.

8:02 pm  
Blogger dave said...

Pepe Escobar in THE WORLD CUP WAR quotes Eduardo Galleano "FIFA is the IMF of football".
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Global_Economy/LF12Dj02.html

9:34 pm  
Blogger dave said...

Maps same argument for rugby world cup. Its not Giovanni's ahistorical abstraction of any game I object to, there are inherently joyful aspects derived from our genes (Sonny Bill - should have stayed in League), its the worshipping of rugby corporate gods when the system is crapping out. As Escobar says, China rising, BP spilling, and we could add, Israel amuck, Iran war looming.
Boycott? Why bother, plenty of more important things to do.

9:49 pm  
Blogger Giovanni said...

Its not Giovanni's ahistorical abstraction of any game I object to

AHEM!

(Or, if I may translate it into the football stands vernacular, "ahistorical is your mama")

9:54 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

I think the soccer is good and bad. As a game and in so far as we can divorce if from politics and various realities especially in SA right now it is good. Soccer is a great game for me.

How is it or can it be bad?

Well, there is the sense that we are fiddling while Rome burns. (We always do this.) And it angered me to see the poverty still in Africa and SA especially. There is alwys a lot of nationalistic hypricsy associated with the Olympics and the World Cup (The Rugby World Cup also). As things get worse there is a cut off point.

There are parallels with the 1981 Springbok Tour which I recall vividly. There was a sense that we , the protesters were bringing politics to sport. That it was SA's business whether they were racialist or not. That we weren't true kiwis for disrupting the rugby matches. But Apartheid was demonstrably wrong in a deeper sense than the general wrongs of Capitalism.* I had a hard time deciding to protest as I was quite scared (even of my life) to be honest. I worked alongside very keen rugby players. Did I have the right to disrupt the game they loved? I decided I had to take part. I was in quite few demonstrations and also at Mt Eden where I was battened.

There are some //s . From our point of view we had NZ team involved, the Gleneagles Agreement had been signed by Muldoon (who ignored it) ... but the Africans themselves must be somewhat of two minds this case.

Will it be used to gloss over the evils of SA (which has in some ways only changed its coat - Capitalism and exploitation continue,although Apartheid is gone) and exploitation and so on?
The crime rates in SA are huge. The poverty and the conditions of workers and the unemployed etc is not good.

What do the people of SA and what to the left wing in SA have to say on this?

* I am not sure if I am right on this - blow me apart if you think I am...

10:34 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

"Should we boycott the big art institutions, because they are commercialised, and instead set up a non-commercial gallery in the someone's garage? While grassroots galleries are good, just as grassroots football tournaments are good, it'd be ridiculous to tell people not to go and se Van Gogh or McCahon at a big gallery, just because capitalism had its paws on said gallery. In the same way, it's daft to tell the hundreds of millions of people who appreciate football that they can't sample the highest form of their art, just because that art is exhibited in expensive stadiums with corporate boxes."

There does come a point when art has to be sacrificed to political reality. To the fact that people are dying.

This doesn't mean that we decry Van Gogh (who cared for people in a deep way) - he would probably be saddened and sickened at the way his art is sold for obscenely large prices...but we could look forward to day when artists are on livable wages and art is not just for billionaires. Dave has a point here.

10:42 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

I think Dave 's concept of an alternative World Cup is great. The Left should boycott this one and get behind a real people's cup. Even just a big meeting where players play and don't even count the scores. (Except for fun.) We don't want obscenely rich stars. We want people to be happy in the world.

This World Cup is as dust.

Dave is right if we are in anyway caring or "left" we would boycott this obscenity.

10:49 pm  
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11:06 pm  
Anonymous powerofD00M! said...

As a frequent observer of this blog I cannot let the attack on liverpool fc and its fans - of whom I am one - stand unchallenged.
To pick on Liverpool FC as "a club with an appalling history of violence" is unfair.
The Heysel stadium disaster had a number of contributing factors, but the fact is that the Stadium was not up to scratch in a number of areas primarily security. The lfc and Juve fans were seated too close to each other and started pelting each other across an insufficient temporary fence. Eventually some LFC supporters charged the Juve supporters, who were escapignover a wall which then collapsed.
Since the disaster there have been numerous gestures from Liverpool fc and its fans, including a permanent memorial at Anfield commemorating the Juventus fans. When the two teams played at Anfield stadium the lfc fans held up placards to form a banner saying "amicizia".
A group of Juventus fans retaliated - some were armed and a pistl was fired. The fact is that there were thugs among both sets of supporters.
To blame the event on the working class liverpool fans as UEFA and Margaret Thatcher did.
Thatcher's attacks on Liverpool were seen as part of her assault on the working class, and rightly so. Liverpool FC has a long working class history and the fans recognise their own - for instance local fans' support of Fernando Torres not just as a great player, but as a working class player from the working class of Madrid.

11:45 am  
Blogger maps said...

I can believe what you say, POD. A few years ago I got confronted in Auckland's London Bar (now a Thai restaurant) by a group of Liverpudlians-turned-Kiwis, because I was wearing a chicken-yellow Chelsea 'away' shirt which someone had given me (I don't pay much attention to what I wear).

I was given a lecture about supporting Britain's richest club by one of the Liverpool fans, who turned out to be a former activist in the Trotskyist Militant Labour organisation which took over the town's city council and took on Thatcher in the '80s. In the end we had quite a good chat...

2:02 pm  
Blogger Giovanni said...

The Heysel stadium disaster had a number of contributing factors, but the fact is that the Stadium was not up to scratch in a number of areas primarily security. The lfc and Juve fans were seated too close to each other and started pelting each other across an insufficient temporary fence. Eventually some LFC supporters charged the Juve supporters, who were escapignover a wall which then collapsed.

This is appalling. The Liverpool fans broke through a barrier and charged at a sector of the Juventus fans occupied by families. Blaming the crumbling infrastructure and not the cowardly violence of the perpetrators is just shocking.

8:58 pm  
Anonymous PowerOfD00M! said...

I think trying to lay the blame on one set of fans is a bit simplistic. You dont think that every lfc fan at heysel was a deranged hooligan, do you? Similarly not every Juve fan was an angel. One of them had brought a loaded gun to the game. I think there were probably antisocial elements in both sets of supporters.
This is an old working class club with a rich history, far more complex than you make out. Surely you cant disagree with what Ive said, its not very controversial, is it?
What do you think of the overtures that lfc fans have made to Juve fans over the last 20 odd years?

11:33 pm  
Blogger Giovanni said...

I think trying to lay the blame on one set of fans is a bit simplistic. You dont think that every lfc fan at heysel was a deranged hooligan, do you? Similarly not every Juve fan was an angel. One of them had brought a loaded gun to the game. I think there were probably antisocial elements in both sets of supporters.

Jesus. Repeat after me: a large group of Liverpool fans broke through a barrier and charged at a sector of the Juventus fans occupied by families - miles away from the supposed target of their 'take an end' strategy. I note that the injuries weren't due just to the wall falling, either, some terrorised fans jumped off the wall before it fell. But beyond that, I really don't understand your quibbling. Who cares if a Juventus fan somewhere had a gun? This was an organised action. It had consequences. One thing is to say 'not every Liverpool fan is a thug and was in on it', quite another is to disown it entirely. I also find it a little bit difficult to balance the supposed good that these working class supporter groups have done historically with the very measurable pain they have inflicted - and this goes for most major European teams.

I grew up near the San Siro stadium in Milan. I know the degree of militarisaiton of our public spaces that we tolerate every sunday, the financial and human cost it has. And on top of that there used to be a political fissure - AC Milan ultras were hard left, Inter ultras were hard right - yet I'm buggered if they weren't all fucking thugs.

10:25 am  
Anonymous P0wer0fD00M! said...

The Heysel tragedy has been discussed at length on the internet. We dont have to do it over and over. There is a decent history around it by a Juve fan at http://bianconeri.tripod.com/heysel.html
Danilo gets into the nitty gritty in what I think is a balanced way. There's plenty of blame to go around and he doesnt pull any punches.
My point was and is that talking about liverpool fc as an institution of violence is remarkably one-eyed, unfair, unhelpful and untrue.

11:26 am  
Blogger Giovanni said...

I'd also submit that this history of violence, which would be an objective reality even if the responsibility for the Heysel massacre could be distributed equally between the fans of the two sides, cannot be just left out, as maps did - it would be grotesque to do so. And I stand by that.

5:18 pm  
Anonymous Fydd said...

Where's has your Marxist analysis of the world cup spectacle gone? Behind the glittering image of the world cup lies exploitation, drudgery, corruption, infrastructure spending on trains for tourists rather than workers, world cup football workers being underpaid, overworked, thrashed, tear gassed...

http://www.zabalaza.net/leaflets&talks/zacf_world_cup_statement.htm

http://libcom.org/news/stewards-strike-world-cup-leads-violence-may-spread-16062010

Though i think there is nothing wrong with watching the football...

11:40 am  

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