Monday, June 26, 2006

Evil frogs

I was down on the Ukraine at the beginning of the World Cup. As we sat in one of the bars dedicated for a month to 'soccer' and contemplated the flags of thirty-two nations, Muzzlehatch and I quickly decided that the Ukrainians had the worst banner. Before you decide that we're hopelessly shallow for making aesthetics the criterion for not supporting a team, check out the Ukranian flag in its true awfulness:

Doesn't it remind you of the paintjob in the boys' bogs at your old primary school? My attitude towards the Ukraine has softened, though, since a team member made a spectacularly imaginative excuse for its 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Spain in its first World Cup match:

This morning Ukraine's defender Vladislav Vashchuk said that Ukraine's humiliating 4-0 defeat at the hands of Spain was not the fault of the players - but was down to the frogs. Frogs outside the team's hotel in the scenic east German town of Potsdam had croaked all night before the game, leaving the team tired and out of sorts, he said. "Because of the frogs' croaking we hardly got a wink of sleep," the defender explained. "We all agreed that we would take some sticks and go and hunt them...

The Guardian described that as the weakest excuse in the history of sport, but don't the Ukrainians deserve some credit for being so splendidly shameless? I'm tempted to support the team now that it's staggered into the last sixteen.

Simon Black is not a person who uses trivial asethetic criteria for choosing what teams to support at the Cup. A Premier League footballer who became a socialist activist after retiring from the game, he has written a rebuke to lefties who disguise their contempt for sport with weak political arguments:

As World Cup fever grips the globe, many progressives will be sighing at the prospect of another sporting spectacle distracting the “masses” from the pressing issues of the day — the classic “bread and circuses” argument. There is a tendency on the North American Left to disdain sport: its competitive nature, the corporatization of its grand events, its inherent masculinities and cultures of exclusion.

Some of this critique is grounded in good sociology; some of it bears an irrational disdain for that in which one does not participate or enjoy...

In many countries, soccer is a terrain of political and ideological struggle like the media or the education system. Teams in Europe often have decidedly partisan political followings. Lazio of Rome was the club of Mussolini and retains a large fascist following today. Italian club A.S. Livorno has long been associated with communism and banners of Che Guevara can be seen waving in the stands at the team’s home games. Clashes between Livorno’s supporters and the fans of right-wing teams can dominate match day in this picturesque Tuscany town.

When asked to play a friendly match against the Zapatistas, left-leaning club Inter Milan gladly took up the offer encouraged by its bohemian supporters who see their team as a counterbalance to AC Milan, owned by former right-wing Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi...

You can read Black's guide to the Cup here.

And if you're keen to discuss the ongoing drama in Germany with other lefties, then you could do worse than check out the Joga network...


Blogger Rob said...

The Ukraine?

12:04 am  

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