Paradox Paradise

Would you still call it nonsense, if sense exchanges its meaning with nonsense?

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

What is there inside the football?

The school I went for my basic education had very different ideas than the ones I learnt there. Academic excellence was the prime goal of an educational institution in those days. There were, of course, weekly hours, and annual days dedicated for nurturing extra-curricular activities – arts and sports. Among these castaways of the academic system, arts were given a deserving superiority over sports. The reason for this is obvious. Unlike sports, arts are more sophisticated and deal with ones intellectual abilities. Civilised man’s attitude towards the primitive and instinctive human nature is not much different from that of the nouveau riche towards the less privileged. The most one can expect is sympathy, and on a fortunate day, charity. It has not changed much during the last 25 years, except for a slight growth in the chances of building a career in one of those extra-curricular activities. This won’t change much, as long as development and progress are interpreted as synonyms.

Efforts of educational systems around the world have been very successful in nipping our primitive intelligence in the very bud. This of course managed to keep individuals excel in non-academic professions a minority, but couldn’t do much damage to the popularity. The danger popularity could bring up is efficiently kept under control by awarding the entertainment status, something for the few hours after work, to arts and sports. Human spirit can be crippled with some constant effort, but I’m not sure whether it can be eliminated or not.

According to some recent market research, in India alone, the FIFA World Cup final matches will be watched by 70-100 million people on television. And in countries who are playing the finals, 95% TVs are estimated to be tuned to the game. The authenticity of the figures is of course questionable, but a few millions added or subtracted cannot make any substantial difference to the point I am raising here. India doesn’t have representation in the competition, and all those millions of Indians are supporting some other country with an almost equal feverishness that the playing countries have. This is not a fact only for India. As there are only 32 finalists, and half of them are already eliminated after the first round of matches, that’s a similar situation in most parts of the globe.

One argument I could think of is that when you don’t belong to any of the two teams competing in a match, you naturally possess the position of neutrality. I agree. But that privilege naturally ends at the moment you decide to take sides.

The FIFA World Cup is arguably the most commercialised sports event on our planet. It is miles ahead of the divine Olympic Games in that aspect. And unlike Olympic Games, the FIFA World Cup doesn’t pretend having the noble cause of uniting and celebrating humankind. Ironically, and defying intentions, this professional football extravaganza is much closer to the goal of the Olympic Games of amateur roots. My fellow countrymen, including the fanatically patriotic ones, are supporting Brasil, Argentina and Germany. Many go a few miles ahead in the idea of universal brotherhood by supporting the French, the Dutch, the Portuguese, and behold, the English. There’s a logical difficulty in buying the argument of the spirit of sports breaking political and cultural boundaries, especially when each team represents a political entity and not any neutral community or geographical area. And because of its clearly expressed political identity, it cannot ask for the privileges that art, literature and music enjoy.

We live in a small world that is getting smaller by day. And most of it now fits into a football. Does this disprove the biggest universal myth we are taught to call country? Or it just emphasises the power of economical realities over political realities?

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