Monday, 28 June 2010

Politics and Football


Well seeing as how England has been kicked out of the world cup after a fairly miserable showing (I personally blame the government) I thought it would be interesting to take a look at a couple of BBC four documentaries about the political role of football and sport in general.



The First is Football and Fascism, it details how the three Fascist regimes of Mussolini, Hitler and Franco built and manipulate football leagues and teams in order to win national prestige, gain physical propaganda for they ideology and manufacture the consent of their populations. If your familiar with the brad and circuses theory of Social control you'll probably recognise a lot of the themes in both these documentaries.

The second one is the sequel or follow up entitled Football and Communism which I sadly can't find video clips of but both are available online* anyway. It follows the same formula as the first except obviously its about three Warsaw Pact nations, Hungary, the German Democratic Republic and of course the Soviet Union. Highlights include anecdotes how even prison guards were guilty of hero worshipping the star players whom they were responsible for. And a very interesting and unorthodox theory as to the origins of the Hungary uprisings in 1956.

Anyway the reason why I feel these documentaries are important to watch is mainly because I feel a lot of people seem to give sport a free pass. When ever question time has a discussing about a sports boycott or something in the same vein I guarantee you there'll be some fellow who say words to the effect of "lets keep politics out of sport" well I'm sorry but you just can't, especially not when its at the national level. Those documentaries are quite clearly at the extreme end of the spectrum of sport manipulation I grant you but the idea of manipulating professional sport to suit ulterior means is far from a unique or an exclusively dictatorial practice.
When cricketers like the Ironically named Geoffrey Boycott broke the cricketing boycott of South Africa it wasn't a statement about keeping the pure simplicity of the game intact (though that may well have been there intention) it was giving legitimacy to a quite brutal regime that was constantly trying to prove it was not globally reviled and isolated.

* cough cough
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