Joining the dots on football in Europe cached version 09/02/2019 21:37:55 en Football: this is what being European looks like <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What’s the most Europeanised institution in British society? The answer is easy if you think about it.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Arsenal FC, which has at times fielded teams with no English players. Wikimedia/Ronnie Macdonald. Creative commons.</span></span></span><span></span></p><p><span>When I ask the question more often than not I am greeted with a sea of blank faces. ‘What’s the most Europeanised institution in British society?’ Easy! Easy! One-nil to me. Are we getting warm yet? Yes, a football club. From the owners and major shareholders, the management and coaching staff , via players on the pitch, youthful prospects training in the clubs’ academies, the competitions the clubs aspire to be part of, the shirt sponsors and pitchside advertising, the fans in the stands, the TV and wider media audience.</span></p> <p>To win the debate on Europe, not that there’s much evidence of anything resembling a debate just yet, we need to entirely reinvent the terms of it. Football is as good a place to start that vital, and urgent, process as any other. Europeanisation of British football isn’t all good, of course. Foreign owners at the expense of supporter ownership. Domestic talent not getting a look in because overseas players and managers are too readily preferred. </p><p>Global TV rights sold amounting to billions of pounds but ticket prices just keep going up, and up, and up. All of this is true but precious few fans would want to disconnect their football from Europe, and most would celebrate a decent proportion of the consequences of our national game going European as positives. OK it helps if you’re winning. <span class="print-no mag-quote-left">OK it helps if you’re winning.</span></p><p>When Newcastle supporters were basking in the success of their team’s French imports restoring the club to winning ways they famously renamed their favourite pre-match drinking hole The Strawberry, <em>La Fraiche</em>. Once the decline and fall returned it became all about those same French imports not having the stomach for a relegation scrap that true-born Geordies would have.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>But look again at the bigger picture. Think how Cantona, Ronaldo, Vieira and Henry, Klinsmann and Zola have transformed English football, for the better, on the pitch. Wenger, Koeman, Martinez, in the technical area have immeasurably improved how the top-flight game is played. Who in Leicester this season would resent the fact that it is an Italian, Ranieri, in charge rather than their former manager, Englishman Nigel Pearson?</p> <p>What can be said of football can to a large extent be said of the food we eat, the beer and wine that we drink, the fashion labels we dress ourselves in, the music we listen and dance to, the films and TV programmes we watch, the places we holiday in. British culture is increasingly Europeanised and most, if not all, are more than happy that it is. </p><p>This is a popular internationalism, not of the solidarity with this, boycott that activist variety but every bit as, if not more, important. The question we should be asking is ‘What has Europe ever done for us?’ Plenty. <span class="print-no mag-quote-right">The question we should be asking is ‘What has Europe ever done for us?’ Plenty. </span>And to those who retort, two world wars that’s what, it is Europe that both defeated the causes of both and since ‘45 has created the conditions to prevent a third one thank you very much.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>There is of course the issue of immigration, but in almost every case there is next to no mention of emigration. Europe is a continent of job, education and lifestyle opportunities. To return to football as our conversation-starter. Instead of worrying so much about all those gifted foreign players wanting to come and play here we should be asking why so few of our players want to play abroad? The millennial generation will increasingly see Europe as their workplace, the place to study and train, a cultural common ground. Who are we to deny them that opportunity? Or is the Europe of the future only to be for those who can afford a French second home or a Spanish property to retire to?</p> <p>What the in/out debate desperately needs is a popular vision of the Europe we want to become. A continent we are part of, not apart from. Britain as a European state like the rest of them not a so-called island race that patently ignores its history as a mongrel nation. Ironic really when 2016 marks the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings and the Norman Conquest. <span class="print-no mag-quote-left">In almost every case there is next to no mention of emigration. Europe is a continent of job, education and lifestyle opportunities.</span></p><p>And of course this is an island too that is on the verge of its own breakdown too. ‘Who shall speak for England’ the <em>Daily Mail</em> asks while on its back page the sportswriters regale the readers ahead of rugby’s Six Nations with how much they hate the Scots, and vice versa. What was once only true on the pitch is now absolutely the case off it. </p><p>Not the fired-up rivalry in the stands but a political division as the dawning realisation that Scotland and England are two separate nations takes root in the body politic. And once Scotland breaks away, as in every meaningful sense it already has, Britain no longer exists. ‘Who shall speak for England?’ </p><p>Whoever decided that Englishness is somehow the most anti-European of the lot is as out of touch with English popular culture as only a campaign led by an octogenarian, failed Chancellor of the Exchequer climate-change denier could be. Perhaps he should ask his daughter from which countries she gets all those tasty and best-selling recipes from for pasta, moussaka, paella or <em>coq au vin</em> from?&nbsp;</p> <p>Cosmopolitanism is what this debate is all about. To change all that is wrong with the institutions post-war Europe created we have to be in it. Only the cowardly walk away. Lawson, Nigel not Nigella, and their ilk want the kind of uncomplicated Britain that existed before the Beatles played Hamburg and changed the world, Celtic and Man Utd won the European Cup , the corner fish and chips shop were overtaken by home-delivery pizza joints and the mini was built and manufactured somewhere or other but certainly not here. <span class="print-no mag-quote-right">Nigels Lawson and Farage vs Nick Clegg and Alan Johnson, these are yesterday’s men.</span></p><p>Have France, Italy, Spain, Germany surrendered their culture, their language, their history at the expense of being European? Of course not. And neither have, or will, we. Do the Dutch and the Germans, the Spanish and Portuguese retain their differences via their rivalry. </p><p>Absolutely, as no doubt we will continue to do so with France and just about everyone else the other side of the Channel. And do parties including Syriza, Podemos, Left Bloc, Die Linke campaign to change Europe for the better? Yes and so should the English, Scots, Welsh left too, as constituent parties of a wider European Left of great variety.</p> <p>Our side is popular and cosmopolitan, modern and European. The other lot narrow and inward-looking, out of touch and ancient, stop the world we want to get off and can’t wind the clock back quick enough. Ours are values rooted in the present but with an eye and purpose on a better, European, future. We cannot rely on the referendum debate being framed in these terms. Nigels Lawson and Farage vs Nick Clegg and Alan Johnson, these are yesterday’s men. One line-up of business leaders vs theirs reducing the argument to number crunching that few have very much faith in.&nbsp;</p><p>Editors providing the anti-or pro case in papers that are read by fewer and fewer, trusted by less and less. For values and visions that matter we’ll have to look elsewhere, a Europe from below, together as Europeans of many different nations. Not out, but in to shake it all about. To the foundations if you don’t mind. Our single European currency, a faceless institution or a banknote in our pocket?&nbsp; Don’t make me laugh. It’s a culture, for me its my football, for others something else and we’re not giving it up for nobody. <em>This</em> is what a European looks like.</p><p>----</p><p>Mark Perryman’s book <em>1966 and Not All That</em> is published in April by Repeater Books. <a href=""><em>Philosophy Football’s</em></a> Another Europe is Possible campaign T-shirt is now available just £9.99 from<a href=""> here</a><em></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/pascal-boniface-benjamin-grizbec/football-and-its-role-in-unifying-european-publi">Football and its role in unifying the European public space</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/marigona-uka/kosovo-united">Kosovo United?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/catherine-stupp/my-turkey-berlin-immigration-and-amateur-football-scene">&#039;My Turkey&#039;: Berlin, immigration and the amateur football scene</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/dario-brentin/nations-most-holy-institution-football-and-construction-of-croatian-national-identity">The Nation&#039;s Most Holy Institution: football and the construction of Croatian national identity</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/aslan-amani/football-in-turkey-force-for-liberalisation-and-modernity">Football in Turkey: A force for liberalisation and modernity?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/catherine-stupp/proud-to-be-german-football-and-fear-of-nationalism">Proud to be German? 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Can Europe make it? UK Brexit Mark Perryman Joining the dots on football in Europe Thu, 18 Feb 2016 23:37:58 +0000 Mark Perryman 99921 at Heysel: 30 years on <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A reflection on the thirtieth anniversary of the Heysel Stadium disaster - one of football's worst tragedies.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="257" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Heysel Stadium - shortly before the tragedy occurred. Flickr/youtubers watch. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p><em>The following foreword is taken from the book</em><em>&nbsp;</em><a href="">Heysel, the Truth</a><em>&nbsp;</em><em>by Francesco Caremani. We are publishing it here in honour of the thirtieth anniversary of this great tragedy.&nbsp;</em></p><p>There is no other book about the events at the Heysel stadium on 29 May 1985 more relevant than this one. Even the title -<em>Heysel, the truth -</em>&nbsp;about a tragedy foretold suggests that in terms of prevention we are never ahead. What happened was avoidable. It could have been avoided. It should have been avoided. And already 30 years have passed.</p> <p>Francesco Caremani chose to return to this tragedy delivered from the belly of Juventus-Liverpool on 29 May 1985. A great and noble idea. He asked me what I wanted to write in my foreword, if I wanted to edit it for the updated edition of this book. I decided to leave it exactly as it was. Not because I was lazy, but simply because I don’t regard it as being “out of date”. I adjusted a few things, edited a few details. </p><p>The book was published in 2003. On 2 February 2010 we remembered, silently, the third anniversary of the killing of Filippo Raciti, a police officer who died at the Soccer Stadium in Catania while the local team was playing against the Palermo football club. The violence was worthy of an arena, with soccer providing the platform, and sometimes the aim. Italy is the country of slogans (“Zero tolerance”), of turnstiles, of supporters’ ID cards, and supporters with cards. And it’s we, Italians, when we refer to Mario Balotelli, who claim that blacks cannot be Italian, we are the ones who profess that “Opti Poba has come to Italy otherwise he would be still eating bananas” (statement of the new elected head of the Italian Football federation Carlo Tavecchio). It is because of us that Ciro Esposito died in agony after an atrocious shooting. We are those, we are always those.</p> <p>I quoted facts and statements pertaining what happened after the Heysel and following the first edition of this book, <em>The Truth</em>. Everything passes, yet everything stays the same. Aside from the updates, edited by the author, remains the drama of a slaughter that has taught us very little, as we are still attached to the seventeenth-century English thinker Thomas Hobbes’ idea of the <em>homo homini lupus</em>. We dare not lower the guard. “The Italian stadiums are in the hands of the <em>Ultrà</em>”, ring the words and music by Fabio Capello. He stated and repeated that <em>after</em>, not <em>before</em> the disaster. Into the hands of the <em>Ultrà</em> and, I would suggest, of the <em>Ultrà</em> journalists and of the TV shows, that are often more fanatical than the new barbarians.</p> <p>Heysel remains an immense wound that jolts our memories, and has scarred our conscience, not only in Italy, but among all those who are perfectly aware that they were involved in something untoward. By returning to this space and time, we hope to spurn the indecent temptation of allowing bygones to be bygones. Thirty years and thirty-nine deaths later.</p> <p>***</p> <p>I am obliged to admit to being a <em>Juventino</em>. I got married to Liliana to the strains of <em>You’ll never walk alone</em>, the anthem of the Liverpool football club, the English club closest to my heart. The truth is that it was like that before the Heysel and it still is so.</p> <p>I was there too, that day. At that time, I was working for the daily <em>La Gazzetta dello Sport</em>, and I had contributed to a celebrative special insert to be published only if Juventus were to win. For obvious reasons the special edition was stillborn. I remember that it was a hot day, and suddenly, in one section of the stadium to my left, there was a hell unfolding. The price of that hell was the death of thirty-nine people, and they are the reason for a book, for this book. An uncomfortable read, I hasten to add.</p> <p>And a one-sided one. But on the side of good and of right.</p> <p>Francesco Caremani dug through tears, autopsies and post-mortems, showing how and why we had to add another layer of pain and indignation to the hurt and outrage already perpetrated in the carnage. All of this within a lethargic bureaucracy surrounded by disengaged sports institutions wriggling irresponsibly from the tragedy.</p> <p>That was 29 May 1985. The Heysel has been razed to the ground since, rebuilt and renamed King Baudouin, and no trace has remained of the notorious block Z, the fatal and lethal trap. Nonetheless, the Heysel and its gulag will live forever. On that evening, merely an ounce of organizational efficiency would have helped to avoid the massacre. The Belgian authorities and the UEFA lacked emergency measures and the fury of the hooligans did the rest.</p> <p>The heartbreaking irony is that the Brussels disaster was more useful for the English than it was for us, more to the advantage of the aggressors than those targeted, of more benefit to the perpetrators than the victims. Every time an accident occurs, there is a lot of talk about the “English model” and its laws: harsh, strict, prompt. On the contrary we, the Italians, have understood very little. And here we are, consuming our own stomachs while we wait for a decree, and then an amendment, a decree, and then an amendment, always at the receiving end of a system.</p> <p>Otello Lorentini is the actual narrator in this story, not me. Otello lost his son Roberto at the Heysel, and may be regarded as a sort of Virgil who accompanied the author in the underworld both during and after the tragedy. Lorentini was head and founder of the former <em>Associazione fra le famiglie delle vittime di Bruxelles</em> (Association for the families of Brussels victims). He transformed his pain into incredible, positive healing strength. He challenged everyone, and knocked at every door to prevent these unfortunate people from having to “die a second time”.</p> <p>It was not easy and it took time. In the end though, he gained something. His relentless dismantling of the facts was met with embarrassment, defensiveness, and reticence. If I had been Giampiero Boniperti, I would have hidden that bloody cup away and returned it to the tournament managers. That match was played in order to prevent further mayhem, fights and even more losses. It was won by a non-existent penalty, which was considered an acceptable outcome in this macabre chaos on a world stage. </p><p>It is as impossible to forget the exultations, as it is impossible not to stigmatize them; of course, it is easy too to point fingers. Nevertheless the awkwardness of this protocol had an appeasing purpose (“when the acrobat falls, the clowns enter the ring”). In terms of the soccer almanacs Michel Platini’s career ended on the day of his retirement, on 17 May 1987. But in reality it ended that night, under those eleven meters and that sense of guilt.</p> <p>Memory is something which needs to be trained, exercised. These pages serve the function of a gym where these horrific memories are being relived and we recall this appalling behaviour – something Italians prefer to sidestep in their lethargy. Apart from the compensation, and other measures taken (whether it is much or little) we don’t have to surrender to the ennui. The Heysel disaster is something that lies heavily on all of us. And we will never be able to downplay it; it would not be right. Thirty nine people died because of a soccer match; because of poor ticket allocation, drunkenness, lack of public order. Sooner or later, destiny’s bell tolls for all of us, but when it tolls deafeningly inside a stadium, there is no other option but to rebel.</p> <p>The alternative is to document it, as Francesco has done. Without rancour, with no fear or ulterior motives, he has called a spade a spade. What happened at the Heysel was a tragedy. The hope is always that the blood and cries will help to prevent such catastrophes in the future. There is a proverb in Italian which reads: “Time is a gentleman”; if we want Time to be a gentleman, we need men and institutions to act in the same way.</p> <p>I invite you to read these pages: you won’t discover any new horrors. But you will learn how hard it was to light a candle of justice. Only a candle…not a chandelier.</p><p><em><span>If you enjoyed this article then please consider liking </span><em><strong>Can Europe Make it?</strong></em><span> on </span><a href="">Facebook</a><span> and following us on Twitter </span><a href="">@oD_Europe</a></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/pascal-boniface-benjamin-grizbec/football-and-its-role-in-unifying-european-publi">Football and its role in unifying the European public space</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/isotta-rossoni/football-italian-synecdoche">Football: an Italian synecdoche?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Italy </div> <div class="field-item even"> Belgium </div> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? UK Belgium Italy Roberto Beccantini Joining the dots on football in Europe Wed, 27 May 2015 19:42:44 +0000 Roberto Beccantini 93146 at Football and its role in unifying the European public space <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Iron Curtain gave in when confronted with soccer, and that was only the beginning. Interview with Pascal Boniface.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="251" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The opening ceremony of Euro 2012, which was jointly held in Poland and Ukraine. Wikimedia. Public domain.</span></span></span></p><p><em>This is one of a series of articles we are publishing from&nbsp;<a href="">Eutopia Magazine – ideas for Europe</a>. Eutopia sets out to create a place for European citizens to analyze the issues most relevant to their future by openly debating them with authoritative voices in each field.</em></p><p><em>Invented in Italy (calcio) and in England, is soccer fundamentally European?</em></p><p><strong>Pascal Boniface:</strong>&nbsp;Soccer was born in England. It spread by way of British sailors, engineers and colleges who exported it directly or indirectly. The Italians and the Chinese may claim the paternity of soccer, but these claims are less recognized.</p><p>Soccer has been a European sport. The medal winners of the World Cup may be confined to Europeans and South-Americans, but soccer today is a world-wide sport, when it comes to audience and practice. As far as competition goes, for a very long time the World Cup only took place in Europe or in South America (the first was in Uruguay) and each time there has been an expansion, challenges are raised under the pretext that doing so exceeds the classical perimeter of soccer. Whether in the United States in 1994, in Asia in 2002, or in Africa in 2010, there have always been critics to say that these are not real soccer countries, that it is really a question of trade, that it is politically correct, etc. Nowadays, soccer is truly a world sport with English roots, developed in Europe first and with European and South American medal winners.</p><p><em>In which way has soccer changed Europe?</em></p><p>PB:<strong>&nbsp;</strong>The Iron Curtain gave in when confronted with soccer before giving in to public opinion, television and popular claims. We can note that in the 1950s, people did not travel much in general, seldom in Eastern Europe, and even less in the Soviet Union. The clubs, players and journalists who travelled to accompany these competitions were precursors. With the development of tourism and “fan support”, traveling for international games permitted the establishment of contacts between people. We can thus say that soccer played a unifying role in the European public space. It erased barriers, frontiers and the Iron Curtain long before the political process. Citizens knew, for instance, that there was a good club in Budapest. We thus had an eye on the Eastern countries at a time when no eye, no presence could be projected towards this part of the world. When soccer players began to migrate towards other championships, it became important to know their results. It was thus normal to be interested in the four or five European championships.</p><p>Moreover, many children learned European geography by reading “France Football” for example, and thanks to the ranking of the different European championships. In spite of the appearance of a certain weariness of Europe, we can say that the common references of the European youth can be found around the Erasmus program and the Champions League.</p><p><em>On the opposite end, in which way did Europe change soccer, particularly with the Bosman ruling, which symbolized the free circulation of workers?</em></p><p>PB: The Bosman ruling freed players but did not change soccer. This ruling is often linked to inequality in wages and to the concentration of the best players in the wealthiest clubs and the major championships. Yet, if club budgets are unequal, it is because of the TV rights and the inequality of the latter’s repartition depending on the importance of the championships. Liverpool will earn much more that the champion of Romania or Bulgaria.</p><p>There is a concentration of wealth in the most powerful and the most attractive championships. This concentration has become cumulative since the British championship, the most powerful, sells its rights abroad at an even higher fee (Indonesia, Malaysia...). There exists thus a concomitance of time with the advent of the Bosman ruling and the explosion of TV rights. If the Bosman ruling had existed without the explosion of TV rights, this inequality in the teams’ competitiveness would not exist.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Does it mean something to speak of "European soccer" distinct from other soccer playing (African, South American, etc...)?</em></p><p>PB: Geographically speaking yes. We realize that the European public watches many more European competitions than non-European competitions. There are indeed many more African, South American or Asian players who play in Europe than the opposite. There is still a kind of “soccer drain” that attracts the best players to Europe. It will not last forever as we already see the return of players in the Argentinian or Brazilian championships. The economic gap is not as large as before. But it is true that the competitions that count the most are European. Those who leave Europe are often at the end of their career.</p><p>The multi-polarization of soccer follows that of the world, and thus the fact that more important means exist in the other championships will bring an equilibrium. Even if the balancing movements are slow. It will still take time before the African Cup of Champion Clubs is at par with the Champions’ League.</p><p><em>Is the cultural, political, social and economic role of soccer particular in Europe?</em></p><p>PB: The economic role, yes, but with no common measure with the rest of the importance of soccer. The most renowned clubs are medium-sized businesses at the economic level whereas they are world-known. The societal media impact of soccer is incomparably more important than its economic contribution. One must not negate the economic contribution of soccer, but FC Barcelona, Manchester United and the Bayern Munich are as well-known as General Motors or Coca-Cola without having the same economic founding. In spite of the always increasing sizeable sums of money that circulate in the soccer world, one must not over interpret the economic importance of soccer.</p><p>On Monday mornings in universities, offices and workshops, people speak of the games that took place over the weekend. And on Friday evenings, people talk about the games that will occur during the weekend. Whether sport is watched on TV or is practiced informally or in a club, we see that sports have more and more importance in society. Today, even the generalist press talks about sports whereas it did not before. In 1930, for the first World Cup, the newspaper "L’Auto" (the ancestor of the daily "L’Equipe") recounted the first game of the French team in eighteen lines only. Nowadays, every media outlet watches over Ribéry’s injury and airs the departure of the French team for Brazil live. Soccer is at the center of the world for the month of the World Cup. And it is the same, starting in September, with the Ligue 1 and the Champions League.</p><p><em>Do the soccer frontiers in Europe intersect with other internal frontiers? Is the importance of soccer in Southern Europe, for instance, the same as in Northern Europe?&nbsp;</em></p><p>PB: Historically, yes, but it has changed. The stadiums in Germany are full since the renovation and the arrival of a family public. In England, it’s different. Even if a club is relegated to an inferior level, it will always have supporters faithful to the club. In France, more than a supporting culture, people like victories above all. There are therefore great fluctuations depending on the results. Lens or Saint-Etienne can be considered exceptions. We can say that there are different cultures of attachment. In England, the attachment is really particular, visceral, of family transmission. In Italy, there is less attraction, the audiences are not as good. In other countries, the bond is strong but it does not have the total characteristic that prevails in England.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Soccer recreates an identity link in a world where globalization tends to break down the barriers to these feelings of belonging. It is the case for Belgium, which is united behind its team whereas the country is divided between Walloons and Flemish. Could we say that Europe will be truly united only when it has a unique team for the World Cup based on the United States model?</em></p><p>PB: Europe must not at all have its own team for the World Cup. There is on the one hand the United States of America, but on the other hand, there is no United States of Europe. It is therefore not the same story. The United States are a federal country. We are a federation of nation-states, which is very different. The United States has been one country from the outset. Two hundred years ago, France and Germany were not in the same country, nor were they united in a same federation. Moreover, these internal competitions add salt to the European construction.</p><p>At a time when Europe is blamed for being an ensemble that erases identities, it should not add the erasing of the soccer identity, because everybody rejoices at a France-Germany, a France-Italy, a Netherlands-Germany, etc. game. The historical rivalries in which soccer and strategic politics become entangled are useful for the creation of a national public space, so that people do not think that Europe has erased everything, for which it is blamed often enough. And what would we do with a united European team?&nbsp; We do not need it in terms of competitiveness, it would be hard to manage. It is the same as when people say that if we had a European team at the Olympic Games, we would be the first in terms of medals. It is wrong because we would not be able to represent several teams in collective sports. The medal count would thus not be at all the same. Once again, Europe is already blamed enough for erasing identities that it should not involve itself in sports where soft patriotic feelings are and have been essential.</p><p><em>Money penetrates soccer more and more. This is particularly true at the club level. Can Europe, particularly through UEFA, open the way for a certain regulation of soccer? In this case, can soccer show the way that Europe should take to regulate its social and economic globalization?</em></p><p>PB: There are no direct links or parallels between the financial regulation of UEFA on one side and the European construction on the other. Money plays an important role for the clubs, less for national teams. Can Europe regulate? But regulate what exactly? When people say that there is more and more money in soccer, it is the reflection of the market economy. Soccer has deficits but does not function at loss. Soccer redistributes the money it earns. Do people say that there is more and more money in cinema? It is always the players’ salaries that is the target because many people consider that it is abnormal to be paid to play soccer. In Raymond Copa’s time, he was already told “You are paid too much, go back to the mine!” He earned a hundred times less than what the stars earn today.</p><p>When we listen to a diva sing, nobody wonders what she earns, we just listen to her. Why do we ask the question for a soccer player? It is true that there is a lot of money in soccer, which can sometimes induce bad behavior from very young players. Some twenty-year-old soccer players have a media profile identical to that of a sixty-year-old minister, with his political life behind him. But how could we regulate? Should there be a salary cap? In this case, it should be done in other fields. It is the market economy with its qualities and its faults. The activity must be regulated so that it does not live at loss.</p><p>In this sense, Michel Platini’s financial fair play (he’s the president of UEFA) is a very good thing so that clubs in deficit may not alter the competition. But then it is not for Europe to decide what should be the salaries of soccer players and club budgets. Unless we return to another system in which the State decides the budget of clubs and the players’ salaries, but I think that part of Eastern Europe would disagree.</p><p><em>In spite of the logic of internal blocks, how, through UEFA (created in 1954), has European soccer been able to make countries that don’t even have diplomatic relations cohabit?</em></p><p>PB: To become a member of UEFA has a very important media impact and represents few obligations. UEFA is very welcoming, it erects less barriers for the countries that are candidates to join the EU. In terms of obligations of results, of constraints, the fact of becoming a member of the EU takes years of negotiation so that a country’s juridical and economic system is compatible with what already exists in the EU. Whereas for UEFA, a country just needs to adopt the same chart. It is therefore easier and more attractive to join UEFA. It enables, in particular, Turkey, Israel or Ukraine to show a belonging to Europe, which is not obvious on the political level.</p><p><em>Interview conducted by Benjamin Grizbec. Translated by Jennie Dorny and Raimes Combes.</em></p><p><em>First published at <a href="">Eutopia</a>.</em></p> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Benjamin Grizbec Pascal Boniface Joining the dots on football in Europe Eutopia Mon, 03 Nov 2014 16:38:04 +0000 Pascal Boniface and Benjamin Grizbec 87413 at Should Serbia vs Albania have gone ahead in the first place? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Were UEFA being dangerously naive when they allowed Serbia and Albania to be drawn into the same qualifying group?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-caption"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="287" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>An Albanian player is attacked by a Serbian fan during the abandoned football match on 14 October. Flickr/Nazionale Calcio. Some rights reserved.</p><p>When Albania and Serbia were drawn in the same group for the Euro 2016 qualifiers, UEFA decided to persevere, despite the historical and recent tension in the region. Usually if the political situation is sensitive, the teams are drawn in separate groups or played in a third country. For example, due to conflict between Georgia and Russia, before the draw for World Cup 2014 qualifiers, these two countries were separated to play in different groups for political reasons. In the case of Albania and Serbia, UEFA decided not to keep the teams apart.</p><p>One of the reasons was that Albania and Serbia have never been at war with each other. Hence, since they were never in a conflict then there was no reason to redraw the match. But let's look at the last war in Balkans - between Serbia and Kosovo. Albania as a state was not involved however the Kosovars and Albanians share the same nationality, with a majority of Kosovars also identifying as Albanian.</p><p>The official Kosovo nationality has been, since 1999, "Kosovar" - a term introduced by UNMIK and taken over by the Ministry of Internal Affairs since 2008. Downplaying the relation of the Kosovo-Serbia tensions with Albania and the Albanian nationality, is an attempt to move forward. However it also plays a part in obfuscating the reasons of the war which were ethnically oriented between Kosovo Albanians and Serbs. Thus the first shortcoming can be the underassessment, by UEFA, of the regional political tensions in Balkans and the ignorance of the intrinsic relation between statehood and nationality in the triangle of Kosovo, Serbia and Albania, when proceeding with the match.</p><p>However, they acknowledged that the political situation might be more tense than previously thought and, as such, opted for the match to take place under very special conditions. </p><p>One of the conditions which played a significant role in the escalation is that football fans of the away country would not be allowed in the stadium of the home country. Thus Albanian fans would not be allowed in Belgrade’s stadium, nor the Serbian fans in Tirana’s stadium. </p><p>This supposedly would create amenable conditions for a smooth match. However UEFA again got it wrong in believing the match could go ahead without trouble if the football fans of the away side were banned from travelling. In reality, this condition created a perception of unfair, discriminatory and unequal treatment of the Albanian football fans. </p><p>The Albanian public was largely unaware that the same rule would apply also to the Serbian fans. The above condition was one of the incentives for the overreaction of the Albanian fans through flying in a drone with a <a href="">Greater Albania</a> flag over the stadium. Essentially the message was: you ban us in the stadium but we will still be there. Could this be seen another unfitting condition of UEFA? Yes, in cases of political sensitivity as high as in Balkans, spreading conditions that might easily be seen as discriminatory to one or the other group might revive old tensions quickly. Creating such a condition to balance the entertainment and security needs when the political tensions are so high only contributes to further escalation as shown by the match.</p><p>Was the reaction to the drone being flown over the stadium to be expected? The reaction of the Serbian fans, security watchers and players [excluding few] to take the flag and verbally and physically attack the Albanian players was to be expected due to the amount of nationalism propagated by the state and inherited from the Kosovo wars. A recurring phase shouted in the match by fans was ‘kill, kill Albanians, until they all disappear’.&nbsp;</p><p>A sudden change from highly nationalistic society to a non-nationalistic society has never occurred in our time. Keep in mind the match was taking place one and a half decades after the Balkan wars. In addition, the incapability of the security forces in the stadium to provide general security and especially for the Albanian team as they were the only one in danger was a big shortcoming. </p><p>However even this is expected due to the nationalism and as well as the lax security preparations for the game. The reaction of Albanian players as well was to be expected, as football is not a usual game that they play in Serbia. This is much more than a game due to the specific political circumstances; hence the take over by a Serbian player of the flag immediately spurred a reaction by the Albanians players, interpreting it as a national offense. Thus political sensitivity and nationalistic feelings that played a role for reactions of both sides, and the above reactions (and even worse) were to be expected. On a positive note, the success of this story is that nobody was killed or severely injured.</p><p>Now we turn to the reactions and the meaning of the match by the locals in Kosovo, Albania and Serbia, and among internationals. The Albanian’s territories, especially in Kosovo and Albania experienced the end of the game euphorically, feelings of happiness and triumph symbolized by the showing the flag over Serbian stadium. Many people went to celebrate in streets, drinking, singing and driving all over cities with the Albanian flag in tow. Many reactions were even seen in Facebook pointing to the third raising of the flag in row in Balkans: 1919 in Albania, 2008 in Kosovo and last one in 2014 in Serbia. It was perceived as symbolic victory of Albanians in the Balkans against their long term oppressors. </p><p>On the other hand, the international media brought the images of the game back to the war. Internationally it shifted the image of Balkan people, from progressing slowly and approaching more European values, be it Albanian or Serbian, backwards to war times, hating each other, bloody, violent, racist and nationalistic, backward people. Thus locally the Albanians are perceived as winners however internationally, both Serbs and Albanians are perceived as losers.</p><p>What will be the long-term consequences of this match for locals and internationals? Albanians&nbsp;experienced&nbsp;racism, humiliation&nbsp;and&nbsp;mistreatment in the airport (where they were kept locked for many hours), and&nbsp;attacks in&nbsp;Belgrade and other cities even after the game (sporadic attacks of Albanians in their homes was spread over the Serbian territories and political authorities asked to stop it).&nbsp;The match reaffirmed the beliefs that Serbians are not respectful towards Albanians, will always be violent towards them and hence increased and deepened the mistrust between two communities generally. </p><p>Similarly for the Serbs, the drone was perceived as an attack and a threat towards Serbs, and reaffirmed their beliefs that Albanians do hate them, always will want to take their territory if they can, and hence the mistrust between Serbs and Albanians grew deeper. For the internationals, it brought the image of the Balkans, represented here by Serbs and Albanians, as a nationalistic and backward region with even less of European perspective&nbsp;than&nbsp;they&nbsp;had&nbsp;previously imagined.</p><p>From now on they might become more cautious in their decision making on the region due to the incident. Thus the Balkans' image internationally has been damaged. For both locals and internationals the match had negative consequences as for the locals the match served to deepen the mistrust between communities and reaffirm their divisive beliefs, whereas internationally it damaged the region’s progressive reputation and image. Thus in long term, the UEFA inaccurate assessment of the political situation to proceed with the match damaged the Balkan countries locally and internationally, perhaps unintentionally.</p><p>If these countries have not been put into a test, as some peace promoters think to have found the solution of reconciliation after war through football, the image of Balkans would have perhaps survived or not be damaged as prospective European countries.</p><p> Furthermore the deep animosities might not have resurfaced and a smoother reconciliation would have been set into a path. The match might have done more harm than good in long term to all the countries in the region by deepening local mistrust between communities and reaffirming the stereotype of the backward, blood thirsty Balkan people. Peace and reconciliation between communities takes a long time and the time needs to be given, situations that may include potential provocations between communities [e.g. football match where the perception that a discriminatory policy was being applied only to Albanian fans was created by not allowing them in stadium] should be avoided in order to do less harm in long term. </p><p>There are many unresolved issues in the region [e.g. Kosovo/Serbia] that can spark such reactions before a peaceful match can be played. In addition, in post conflict countries, even seemingly innocuous events, such as football matches, are political.</p><p> Perhaps peace and reconciliation may be facilitated through football, however the timing and the local socio-political realities must be taken into account when such UEFA decisions are made in future. As stressed earlier, UEFA unintentionally might have damaged the region in the long term, however they also remain unaccountable for their faulty decision-making and will not be able to undo the harm done. Thus peace making through football too early can be very harmful for everybody involved: UEFA, locals and internationals.</p><p>Lessons to be learned from this case would be that UEFA, as an inexperienced organization in post conflict&nbsp;situations, should understand, assess and be sensitive to the local/regional context much more when proceeding with matches and have higher security&nbsp;criteria&nbsp;for the host countries in the future - if they wish to remain involved in post conflict zones and provide football for everybody in these areas.</p><p>They must also seek advice from other experienced local organizations (NGOs, universities, think tanks if they are impartial, or conduct public polls on the sensitivity of the game) and international organizations or regional organizations such as EU when they assess such matches to avoid further mistakes. </p><p>Lastly, UEFA should open an independent inquiry to bring the facts in the table, in order to avoid further pitfalls and spreading of further misrepresentations in the region. For instance Serbian authorities said that they had suspicions that the brother of Edi Rama, current Albanian prime minister had organized the drone. The President of Albania, Nishani said on the other hand, that he suspected that the Serbian security services planted it. </p><p>In the end, the organizer of the match is UEFA thus the full responsibility lies with the organization, not the involved states, on whether to proceed with sensitive games and as such they should be able to take all the measures before the game to ensure peaceful play. If there are escalations, they should as well take responsibility, and acknowledge their roles by changing their practices of decision making in the future.</p><p>Luckily there were no casualties this time, but next time we shouldn't take the chance.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/ben-denison/putting-politics-on-pitch-uefa%27s-failed-response-to-serbiaalbania">Putting politics on the pitch: UEFA&#039;s failed response to Serbia-Albania</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Serbia </div> <div class="field-item even"> Albania </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Albania Serbia Arlinda Rrustemi Joining the dots on football in Europe A Balkan Farce: Serbia vs Albania Thu, 30 Oct 2014 19:59:46 +0000 Arlinda Rrustemi 87316 at Putting politics on the pitch: UEFA's failed response to Serbia-Albania <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Instead of bringing the focus back to sports, UEFA’s decision about the abandoned Albania-Serbia game has given an even larger stage to politicians and their political rhetoric.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="321" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>hatemodernfootball. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>On Friday, UEFA finally gave their&nbsp;<a href="">official ruling</a>&nbsp;on the punishments for the abandoned EURO 2016 qualifier between Albania and Serbia. As is often the case when UEFA or FIFA are involved, both parties and fans of both squads were left feeling aggrieved and unhappy. Both the Albanian and Serbian FAs have criticized the ruling as unfair to their respective side and unduly lenient on their opponent. Both have said that they will appeal to the highest level to overturn the sanctions. Finally, both remain deeply split over what happened that night in Belgrade and who ultimately holds responsibility for the football match’s descent into political chaos. While UEFA had an opportunity to help diffuse the political tensions surrounding this situation, their punishments will instead only inflame the heightened political rhetoric.</p><p>Much has been<a href="">&nbsp;written</a>&nbsp;already about the match and the immediate aftermath of the game, so I won’t rehash those events (you can see my immediate reaction as it unfolded&nbsp;<a href=";;utm_content=storify-pingback&amp;utm_campaign=&amp;awesm=sfy.co_iwN0">here</a>). In addition, in light of the events on the field, both Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić of Serbia and Prime Minister Edi Rama of Albania have made contentious comments on Twitter and in the press, using the same rhetoric about “<a href="">normal Serbia</a>“&nbsp;and “<a href="">normal Albanians</a>“. Rama’s historic visit to Belgrade was also postponed until November in light of the events, and Vučić still refuses to say that Rama’s brother was not involved. The whole event turned into an episode of high political drama, or rather maintained its political drama, just as&nbsp;<a href="">predicted</a>.</p><p>In this context, UEFA announced their decision to award Serbia a 3-0 victory in a match Albania had forfeited, dock three points from Serbia for the pitch invasion, order that Serbia play their next two games behind closed doors (meaning no fans will be allowed at the game), and fine both teams 100,000 Euros. </p><p>Thus in terms of qualification, Serbia has a victory but no points from the victory, though three goals in their favor will mean a lot if the team is tied with anyone on points, since goals scored is the first tiebreaker. In fact, looking at the&nbsp;<a href="">Group I table</a>, Serbia now has three more goals than any other team in the group. This could potentially get even more contentious as Albania and Serbia will seemingly be battling it out for third&nbsp;place in the group behind Denmark and Portugal, and the right to go to a playoff to determine whether they will qualify for France 2016. Those three goals may very well prove to be the dividing line between the two teams, and the lack of points from the game might prove deadly to each of their qualification chances. Given all this, it makes sense that both teams would react so strongly against the rulings.</p><p>How was this ruling even arrived at? Why did UEFA decide that Albania should forfeit the game after fans charged onto the pitch during the incident?&nbsp; As reported the night of the game, the referee in the stadium announced that the field was safe to play on after the break, but the Albanian team refused to continue. Thus, according to official UEFA policy, it counts as a forfeit. The Albanian FA now claims that they never refused to play, but instead insisted that it was too unsafe to play. </p><p>Meanwhile, the Serbian FA are protesting the ruling because they claim that the whole event was instigated by the Albanian side, and believe that as hosts, they should be treated the same way Italy was following the infamous&nbsp;<a href="">2010 “Genoa incident</a>“. The incident in question was a Italy-Serbia qualifier abandoned after visiting Serbian fans continuously threw objects onto the field and rioted in the stadium. The decision resulted in light punishment for Italy and a forfeit for Serbia. The Serbian FA’s logic sees Serbia’s role in this month’s match as akin to Italy’s, and Albania’s role as akin to Serbia’s. In the end, both sides are upset, as the sanctions will undoubtedly make qualification that much more difficult.</p><p>After 10 days, some of the vitriol seemed to be dying down. Then the UEFA decision was announced, and now it appears that both sides are angry at each other yet again. What should UEFA have done instead? UEFA should have looked at the broader political context, which they had already failed to do by allowing Albania and Serbia to be in the same group at all, a decision justified on the basis that the two countries had&nbsp;<a href="">never fought a war</a>&nbsp;against one another. </p><p>The most reasonable decision would have ordered that the game be replayed on a neutral site behind closed doors, with both sides fined, and Serbia given a multi-match, behind closed doors ruling.&nbsp; This would not have allowed the political situation on the field to determine the outcome of the game, but instead allow the actual players to determine the outcome. There would have been massive logistical problems involved in setting such a game up, but since Group I had just five teams while the others had six, there were plenty of FIFA dates available to make the game up at the cost of one friendly. This all could have been done, but instead UEFA decided to impose a forfeit and prevent the teams from settling the matter on the field.</p><p>Most worrisome is that UEFA has undoubtedly added to the political discord, as the result of the game will continue to be litigated in the press and in the courtroom. Two things are particularly troubling. First, with Rama’s visit still happening in November, the historic meeting now has the potential to be derailed, and the focus shifted from key regional issues and economic cooperation.</p><p> With Rama&nbsp;<a href=";mm=10&amp;dd=23&amp;nav_id=91994">already saying</a>&nbsp;Serbia should recognize Kosovo, additional flash points between the countries can only serve to make the meeting less productive. Second, Serbia returns to play Albania in Elbasan for the penultimate game in the group, and potentially the deciding match in terms of who proceeds. Serbian supporters will not be allowed to travel to Elbasan, but the UEFA ruling will likely bring added tension to the game anyway, as Albanian fans and players will still feel aggrieved at the situation. UEFA had a chance to make sure the return game in Albania would feel like a normal football match, but instead they have almost guaranteed the continuation of political theater.</p><p>Of course, one should never be surprised when UEFA or FIFA does something that makes&nbsp;little sense. But in this case, UEFA only created a ruling that does more to further the political reactions in football, instead of removing the political element from the game. Instead of trying to bring the focus back to sports, they have given an even larger stage to politicians and their political rhetoric. And for an organization that explicitly states that politics do not belong in football, they seem to be doing their best to ensure they remain intertwined in Serbia and Albania.</p><p><em>This article was originally published at the&nbsp;<a href="">Balkanist</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/ivan-djordjevic/football-and-ethnic-violence-in-balkans">Football and ethnic violence in the Balkans</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Serbia </div> <div class="field-item even"> Albania </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Albania Serbia Ben Denison Joining the dots on football in Europe A Balkan Farce: Serbia vs Albania Mon, 27 Oct 2014 22:56:03 +0000 Ben Denison 87201 at Football and ethnic violence in the Balkans <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>How can one flag cause so much trouble? A contextual analysis of the now notorious, abandoned football match between Serbia and Albania on 14 October 2014.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class="image-caption"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="287" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>An Albanian player is attacked by a Serbian fan during the abandoned football match on 14 October. Flickr/Nazionale Calcio. Some rights reserved.</span></p><p>"Football has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence: in other words it is war minus the shooting", stated George Orwell in his essay “The Sporting Spirit” in 1945. These bitter words could be easily applied to a recent football match between Serbian and Albanian national teams in EURO 2016 qualifier.</p> <p>The match, scheduled for October 14 2014 in Belgrade, was abandoned after the brawl caused by the appearance of a drone carrying the flag of the so-called “Greater Albania”. The game was supposed to be a fitting prelude for the historical visit of Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama to Belgrade, first time after 1946. Instead, it turned into a disaster. Instead of showing how problematic relations between two states do not undermine new regional politics strongly devoted to the project of the membership in the EU, the match between two national teams displayed nothing but the nationalist violence in both countries.</p> <p>The situation eventually started to calm down a week after the match. After the days full of inflammatory rhetoric and heavy reactions from both sides threatening to cancel the scheduled visit of the Albanian PM, political leaderships of Serbia and Albania reached an agreement to postpone the meeting for November 11. And this is probably the only good news that followed the game. UEFA’s decision about the punishment for the two Football Associations is yet to be announced at the moment of writing this article. Still, however drastic the sanctions, it is clear that the events related to the abandoned match have almost nothing to do with football.</p> <p>To recap what happened that autumn night in Serbian capital: the organisation of the match between the two national teams involved heavy security measures and a strict ban for the supporters of Albania. The reason behind these unpopular measures with 3500 policemen securing the event is the unresolved conflict in Kosovo. Similar security policy was applied just a year ago, in September 2013, when national teams of Serbia and Croatia, the “old foes”, played against each other in World Cup 2014 qualifiers. </p><p>The game started without any indications of potential incidents, the crowd chanting the “usual” insults against Albanians. Had the atmosphere remained the same, the game would have finished without significant incidents, perhaps. However, this was not supposed to happen. The match was interrupted before the end of the first half with the appearance of a small flying object – a drone – carrying a flag and map of the so-called “Greater Albania”, which includes, apart from Albania and Kosovo, parts of other neighbouring countries, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Greece. The brawl started after one of Serbian players managed to catch the flag upon its landing on the pitch, being subsequently physically attacked by members of the Albanian team who wanted to take the flag from him.</p> <p>What happened next was a huge fight that included not only players and team officials, but also the present stewards and fans who somehow managed to invade the pitch. One of the invaders was Ivan Bogdanov, perhaps one of the most notorious football hooligans in the world, “famous” for his role in the cancellation of a match between Italy and Serbia in Genova four years ago. The violent scenes that followed resulted in the Albanian national team taking refuge in the safety of the tunnel, while angry fans were throwing various objects on their heads. Serbian players tried to protect their Albanian colleagues, but it didn’t help much in the extremely heated atmosphere that pervaded the stadium. The epilogue was the abandonment of the match, pending UEFA’s decision on the penalties.</p> <p>Reactions that followed the match were somewhat predictable. Serbian and Albanian media competed in accusing the other side for escalating the incidents, while social networks burst with inflammatory rhetoric. The Serbian side highlighted the “terrible provocation” – the appearance of the map of “Greater Albania” that caused “justified discontent” among people, while the Albanian media insisted that the brawl showed the “barbaric and savage nature of Serbs”. </p><p>Western reports offered explanations pertaining to the usual metaphor of the Balkans as a powder keg of Europe, where old nationalist enmities between Balkan tribes still escalate on regular basis. However, the hysterical accusation in Serbian and Albanian media, as well as orientalyzing explanations of what had happened during the game, don’t offer a framework for understanding the structural factors that once again made a Balkan football match good material for front pages in world media. With football on the back seat, of course.</p> <p>In this text I will not try to speculate on who caused the incident at the match and why, and who let Ivan Bogdanov walk freely on the pitch in the middle of the chaos. The key issue is how can one flag, however problematic, cause chaos at a football match and generate nationalist hysteria. </p> <h2>The memory of another football game</h2> <p>Firstly, the events that occurred during the match between Serbia and Albania have a striking similarity with another famously abandoned football game that took place in May 1990, immediately before the break-up of former Yugoslavia. The game that was supposed to be played in the Croatian capital Zagreb at Maksimir stadium, between local club Dinamo and Red Star from Belgrade, didn’t even start, due to violent incidents on the pitch. </p><p>This match soon became a sort of a myth, considered in Serbian and Croatian public narrative as the symbolical beginning of the war in former Yugoslavia, commonly recognised through the phrase “the war started at Maksimir”. In fact, the mechanism that followed both games was the same. Ethnically motivated incidents that escalated on the pitch triggered extreme reactions in the public sphere in both countries. In the “Maksimir” case, both the Serbian and Croatian sides were accusing each other for causing the brawl, creating the atmosphere of mutual distrust. This football match, basically, served as a cause for political actions that led to the violent break-up of the Yugoslav state.</p> <p>The match between Serbia and Albania induced similar reactions. Public space became full of the worst nationalistic stereotypes, with the sad consequences on the field. The cases of the attacks on the shops owned by ethnic Albanians in several Serbian towns, as well as the ethnically motivated violence against Serbs in the regions with Albanian majority, showed that the escalation of violent incidents by far go beyond the significance of one football match. </p><p>Moreover, it was football again that opened the Pandora box of ethnic hatred. The titles in the Serbian media the day after the game seem self-explanatory: “Albanian security service organised the assault”, “Albanians set the Balkans on fire again”, “A devilish plan from Tirana”. The Albanian side followed the same pattern. The celebrations organised in many places in Albania and Kosovo and the ignorant attitude to the highly contested nationalistic symbol such as the map of the “Greater Albania” showed the same nationalistic drive as in Serbia. </p><p>Extreme reactions that escalated both in Serbia and Albania, certainly, wouldn’t be possible if the cause was any other event but the football match. Once again, football displayed its capacity to homogenise the nation, at the same time showing how easy “the beautiful game” can serve as a trigger for unrestrained reactions that eventually lead to violence. Indeed, not only in the Balkans.</p> <p>The key to understanding the role of football as a trigger for the violent nationalism in the Balkans is the incident at Maksimir stadium in 1990. After these events football in the whole region became permanently and deeply contaminated by nationalised politics. Chants like “Kill the Serb”, “Kill the Croat, so that the Albanian won’t have a brother” and likewise, became a part of football folklore on the stadiums across the region. </p><p>A good example of this attitude could be a comment made by reporter during the live broadcast of the match between Serbia and Albania. While the whole stadium was chanting “Kill, slaughter, Albanians to vanish”, his remark was that the crowd “express their discontent”. The football stadia, therefore, still remain a space for the expression of, let’s say, “acceptable nationalism”, where killing the “fags”, Croats, Serbs, Albanians, Moslems, Orthodox, is considered normal and desirable behaviour. </p><p>Using ritual violence to insult and intimidate the enemy on the pitch represents a regular practice in football fans’ subculture. However, the incidents that occurred at Maksimir stadium in 1990 or during the recent match between Serbia and Albania, indicate how easily this ritual violence can turn into the real one. When ritual, verbal insults transform to actual violence followed by setting fire to houses or shops owned by “the enemy”, it goes far beyond “usual” stadium enmities. </p> <p>What happened last week in Belgrade represents a very dangerous political manipulation, where football stands as a stage for causing chaos without obvious reasons. Responsibility for the violent events lies with the Serbian and Albanian side, as well as the UEFA. The essential message, however, is that inflammatory atmosphere created around one football match could easily serve as a trigger for an unpredictable instability. </p><p>It seems that this time, luckily, things were eventually brought under control. It is obvious, however, that manipulation with nationalist sentiments still works around the region. And it could be repeated again, next time with much worse consequences. The drone flying over Belgrade stadium may not have carried a bomb, but a symbolic explosion caused by its load was loud enough. In the region where economic and social situation, caused by neoliberal economic agendas, is reaching a collapse, the turn to the right wing and nationalism could make things only worse.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/ivan-djordjevic/red-star-serbia-never-yugoslavia-football-politics-and-national-i">&quot;Red Star Serbia, never Yugoslavia!&quot; Football, politics and national identity in Serbia</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/dario-brentin/nations-most-holy-institution-football-and-construction-of-croatian-national-identity">The Nation&#039;s Most Holy Institution: football and the construction of Croatian national identity</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Ivan Djordjevic Joining the dots on football in Europe A Balkan Farce: Serbia vs Albania Wed, 22 Oct 2014 23:08:14 +0000 Ivan Djordjevic 87079 at Greece and the financial politics of football <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Owning a football club has increasingly become a means of securing political influence in many European countries. The recent&nbsp;<span style="line-height: 1.5;"><em>Koriopolis</em> scandal in Greece is just one example of this.</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="246" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Wikimedia commons. Public domain.</span></span></span></p><p>Football is no longer a simple 90-minute affair. Between tickets, merchandise, broadcasting rights, sponsorships and betting, the beautiful game has become one of the most profitable industries in the world. Off the field,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">multimillion-dollar transfers</a>&nbsp;and sponsorship deals are becoming more and more commonplace each season. </p><p>Real Madrid paid close to $140 million for Gareth Bale last season, a relatively small amount considering that Real Madrid is the world’s most valuable franchise with a total value of $3.4 billon. The rising profitability of football has created an entirely different ballgame off the pitch that now stands to jeopardize the quality of the world’s favourite sport.</p><p>There was a time when football clubs based their revenues solely on selling match tickets, but with the development of cable and satellite technologies, football has become a truly global sport. As European leagues started reaching every corner of the world, new fans also became potential customers eager to buy everything football-related. Eventually, broadcasting rights became more profitable than selling tickets for key matches. In 2014, the Premier League made&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">1.5 billion pounds</a>&nbsp;from selling the television rights to its games, as each team received a 26 million pound royalty for international broadcasting.<span></span><span></span></p><p>&nbsp;<span>The last Champion’s League final captivated over 380 million viewers worldwide. For many companies this type of exposure is unprecedented and multinationals fight till the end to sign sponsorship deals with Europe’s most successful football clubs. Sports manufacturers and kit sponsors alike are eager to have their logo on the front of a&nbsp;</span><a href="" target="_blank">football jersey</a><span>. </span></p><p><span>Despite Manchester United’s terrible past seasons, the Red Devils still sold an average of 1.4 million jerseys a year, which means over a million human-billboards for AON, the team’s official sponsor. Just like jerseys, leagues and stadiums are also selling their naming rights. Arsenal plays on the Emirates Stadium, named after the airline, and Atlético de Madrid won La Liga BBVA, named after a leading Spanish bank.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>For some international investors, jerseys and naming rights are not enough, as we have begun to see an increasing trend of club takeovers by wealthy foreign investors, starting with highflying Roman Abramovich when he bought Chelsea in 2003. Fast forward ten years later and nine top clubs in the Premier league are now under&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">foreign ownership</a>. From Russian oligarchs to Sheiks, billionaires are buying football clubs as if they were a midlife crisis token. </p><p>For a continent where being open to foreigners is almost as out-dated as buying a Blackberry, this buying spree sent nationalistic tensions soaring. Injecting large amounts of money into their new toys, foreign investors have given their clubs the possibility of virtually buying any player they like. According to FIFA, in 2013, five teams spent $828 million dollars in transfers. Amongst them, AS Monaco, Paris Saint-Germain, and Manchester City are all owned by foreign investors.<span></span><span></span></p><p><span>When Qatar Sports Investments bought Paris Saint-Germain in 2011, the French were outraged, perceiving this as an outright attack on French values. A rather mediocre club with a long history of racial tensions and hooliganism, PSG’s fans were not enthralled either by the prospect of having a foreign owner. But the Qataris&nbsp;</span><a href="" target="_blank">hashed out a plan</a><span>&nbsp;to make PSG a top-tier European team and in only two years they were winning the French League and selling hundreds of thousands of jerseys sporting their new acquisitions, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Brazil’s captain Thiago Silva. </span></p><p><span>Overnight, Paris was transformed into a football capital and today PSG has a real shot at winning the Champions League for the first time in its history. Fears of Qatar’s hidden agenda in buying the Parisian team are fading fast thanks to the club’s outstanding performance. As it turns out, it was mostly a strategic decision to diversify the country’s investment portfolio – while having a bit of fun along the way.</span></p><p><span></span></p><p><span>The PSG success story shows that it’s not the nationality of investors that should matter, but their intentions. While for some club owners investing in football can be a way to diversify their portfolio, for others football is the yellow brick road to power. Football’s popularity and success at bringing people together gives club owners an incomparable platform that facilitates their networking with powerful individuals. </span></p><p><span>It only takes a match ticket for a club owner to suddenly find himself in the power circle, surrounded by mayors, police officers, investors, and high-level politicians. That’s how an emerging football mafia builds relationships that it wouldn’t have had otherwise. Only when backstage affairs stop being about the game and become a mere political tool, should football fans be right to clamour. Greece offers one of the most compelling narratives of what can happen when politics become synonymous with football.</span></p><p><span></span></p><h2><strong>The Greek paradox</strong><span>&nbsp;</span></h2><p>Evangelos Marinakis is the president and owner of Olympiakos, and&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">star protagonist</a>&nbsp;of Greek football’s biggest corruption scandal. Known as&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Koriopolis</a>, the case around Marinakis and approximately 80 other suspects focuses on charges of bribery and match fixing. Despite, or perhaps because of, the severity of the case, the club owner’s name was conspicuously absent from the press and the scandal was soon buried.</p><p>The Olympiakos tycoon used Greece’s most emblematic team as a&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">political and economic platform</a>&nbsp;for his personal gain. The Koriopolis scandal cannot be reduced to a simple match-fixing problem, which is an increasingly common occurrence in international football. The Koriopolis scandal is a snapshot of how a football owner can use a club as a tool to benefit from a country’s fragile rule of law. During the Koriopolis scandal, Marinakis was both the owner of Olympiakos and the Hellenic Football Federation’s vice-president at the same time. In any other league this would create a conflict of interests, but in Greece, apparently not so much.</p><p>Olympiakos and the profitability of the football industry made Marinakis one of the most powerful men in Greece. Marinakis recently ran as an independent and&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">gained a seat as local councilman</a>&nbsp;in the port city of Piraeus, while his former club spokesman won the position of mayor. The ease with which both secured public office will definitely give new wings to the club owner’s political ambitions.</p><p>Football has the unmatched power to bridge social gaps and fuse together the motliest group of fans behind a common goalpost. Marinakis’ fortune could have turned Olympiakos into a top-notch team able to compete with the giants of Europe, giving its fans great players to watch. Even if the days when Greece uproariously celebrated wining the Euro 2004 are long gone, Greeks ought to remember that winning trophies means more than just charismatic individuals armed with woolly sweet talk and bags of cash.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/geoff-andrews/art-of-dissent-twenty-years-of-philosophy-football">The art of dissent: twenty years of philosophy football</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Greece </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Greece Marcu Niculescu Joining the dots on football in Europe Tue, 21 Oct 2014 15:29:06 +0000 Marcu Niculescu 87020 at The art of dissent: twenty years of philosophy football <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>For the last twenty years I have been organising&nbsp;Philosophy Football FC, a team which started with eleven ideologically sound players who had trouble defending inswinging corners.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="450" height="324" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'></span></span></span></p><p>It started in October 1994 after a match in the relatively new Premier League. Mark Perryman and myself, friends and activists in the recently defunct British Communist Party, were in the habit of reciprocating hospitality after each of the fixtures between (his) Tottenham and (my) QPR. </p><p>On this occasion, after a fairly dull 1-1 draw at White Hart Lane, our thoughts back at Mark’s house turned to the politics of football. The conversation went something like this. ‘Football has become a global business’. ‘But it’s the ‘people’s game and part of popular culture’. ‘The cultural is political’. ‘The art of politics’. ‘Remember the Marxism Today T-shirts?’ ‘Not a T-shirt. A football shirt! </p> <p>After such humble origins, Philosophy Football grew rapidly, with the early shirts (sold from Mark’s kitchen table) adorned with the existentialist thoughts of Albert Camus, the socialism of Bill Shankly and from Eric Cantona – then at the peak of his career with Manchester United – the famed ‘sardines’ rebuttal to journalists. From this point on, Philosophy Football developed its critique in two ways; a celebration of the beautiful game in defiance of the motives of big business and by opening up new spaces for dissent. </p> <p>On the first aspect, it was the shirts themselves - as the current <em><a href=" ">CamusCloughCounter Culture</a></em> exhibition at Rich Mix testifies – that captured resistance to official corporate sponsorship. The imaginative creations of designer Hugh Tisdale, these ‘cotton cult-shirts of intellectual distinction’, have found their own niche among a growing dissident fan network. Eliciting legal challenges from Umbro – until they realised PF didn’t have any money – the skilled craftsmanship behind the shirts serve as a modern day endorsement of William Morris’s ‘art for the people’ principle. </p><p>The beautiful game was thought the best counter to the commodification of art and culture. Tisdale, the ‘agitational typographer’, known to wear his own Morris-patterned casual shirts, has now designed hundreds of T-shirts drawing not only on the wisdom of philosophers from Wittgenstein to Wenger, but also on a critique of the values of global corporations&nbsp; – the ‘Don’t think, Consume’ and ‘Corporate Greed Division’ shirts come to mind. </p><p>Tisdale himself has even driven a bus to Gaza as part of the campaign to break the blockade, his comrades decked out appropriately in ‘Viva Palestina’ shirts. Poignantly his own exhibition coincides with the William Morris <a href="">‘Anarchy and Beauty’</a> exhibition at The National Portrait Gallery.</p> <p>‘Anarchy and beauty’ might sum up the thinking behind the shirts, but there is also an anarchic streak behind the political cabarets, debates and campaigns which Philosophy Football has held in support of many causes over the last two decades, notably the Spanish Civil War, the Miners’ Strike, the Hope Not Hate Campaign and opposition to the Iraq War. </p><p>The events with satire and music, poetry and even – in the early days – an alternative fashion show, have pushed out the boundaries of politics and owe a lot to Mark Perryman’s brilliant organisational skills in knowing how to intervene, create interest and publicity and galvanise public support. As a result, many of the political themes that have filled openDemocracy in recent times, on what it means to be English, on the limits of nation-state politics and political parties, the commitment to building a democratic culture, the need to seek new spaces for dissent, were all played out in the development of an oppositional football culture.&nbsp; </p> <p>This oppositional culture has also, perhaps most surprisingly of all, had its impact on the pitch. For the last twenty years I have been organising <a href=" ">Philosophy Football FC</a>, a team which started with eleven ideologically sound players who had trouble defending inswinging corners. Since then we have won championships, hosted ‘football in the community’ events and been on many European tours, to launch the shirts of Philosophy Football’s leading dissidents, including Pier Paolo Pasolini in Rome and Jean-Paul Sartre in Paris, and to share the common cause of internationalism with like-minded teams. </p> <p>Recently we have helped launch <a href=" ">‘Three sided football’</a>, the brainchild of the Danish artist Asger Jorn, whose critical interrogation of the alienated and repressive late capitalist society through his concept of triolectics, was an attempt to refine Marxist dialectics. </p><p>This, he argued, would release new spaces beyond the constraints of the polarised two-class society which had been reflected in the organisation of conventional football. Inspired by Jorn, we designed hexagonal pitches, installed three goals on public parks and organised tournaments with the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London, the Museum Jorn in Silkeborg, and the Athletic Bilbao Foundation in Spain. </p><p>We currently play in the Luther Blissett Three Sided Football League in Deptford, South London . Our most radical contribution to the ‘art of dissent’ was an impromptu midnight game on Taksim Square last year, in a brief pause from the Istanbul protests and police violence. We put down jumpers for (three) goalposts, joined with the locals and for an hour or so helped redesign the square as a place of peace and an open site of participation.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/joel-sharples/does-democracy-make-germany-better-at-football">Does democracy make Germany better at football?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Geoff Andrews Joining the dots on football in Europe Sun, 12 Oct 2014 23:35:47 +0000 Geoff Andrews 86752 at Does democracy make Germany better at football? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Does democratic ownership of German clubs help explain their success at football?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//ötze_2013.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//ötze_2013.jpg" alt="" title="" width="320" height="534" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mario Götze/wikimedia</span></span></span></p><p>Germany’s superb performances during this year’s World Cup in Brazil have prompted the usual tired tropes from commentators and pundits. They tend to follow two well-trodden narrative arcs: either we are told that their success is due to their brutal efficiency and discipline, or they are compared to a finely-calibrated German automobile – a triumph of technique and engineering. </p><p>While these stereotypes of German exceptionalism may be comforting for an English media still struggling to come to terms with the vast gulf in standards between the English and German sides, there are other plausible factors that are rarely mentioned. </p> <p>The Bundesliga’s ‘50+1 rule’, which ensures that clubs are majority-owned by their own fans*, has long been praised for delivering dramatically cheaper tickets, a stronger fan culture and more prudent financial management. The clubs’ presidents are accountable to their members and can be voted out – can you imagine Ivan Gazidis or Khaldoon Al Mubarak saying, “We do not think the fans are like cows to be milked. Football has got to be for everybody,” as former president of Bayern Munich Uli Hoeness said in 2013.</p> <p>You can buy a season ticket at Bayern Munich (82% fan owned) for £67, as compared with £985 for the cheapest season ticket at Arsenal. In fact many Bundesliga games are so much cheaper that English fans can fly over to Germany and still pay less than watching their local club. Around 1,000 English fans actually do travel to watch Borussia Dortmund at every home game. </p> <p>Furthermore the debt-ridden boom and bust tendencies of the Premier League, which saw clubs such as Portsmouth go from FA cup winners to financial ruin in the space of around three years, are barely anywhere to be seen. No Bundesliga club has ever faced insolvency since the league’s creation in 1963, as compared with over 50 insolvencies in English football since 1992. </p> <p>But could Germany’s fan-ownership model also be a factor in the national team’s success? There are a number of reasons to believe it could. The focus on long-term stability over short-term profits means that clubs are less likely to assemble lavishly-paid ensembles of international superstars that will maximize their merchandising and television revenues. At Schalke 04, who finished third last season, the club’s constitution stipulates that it can’t sign a player for over £300,000 without the approval of the supervisory board, which includes fan representation. Policies such as these are borne out in the numbers of homegrown players in the Bundesliga: 60% as compared with 30% in the Premier League. </p> <p>While we should be wary of a ‘British jobs for British footballers’ parochialism, the focus on bringing through young local talent has definitely given players the breathing space to develop. Of the 2012 German Under 19 first team, ten had already played first-team football in the Bundesliga. Mario Götze, scorer of the World Cup-winning goal, broke into the Borussia Dortmund team aged just 17 having come through their youth academy, and played 33 games to help them win the 2009-10 Bundesliga title. Had he been at Chelsea, for example, where the last player to break into the first team from the academy was John Terry around 15 years ago, he almost certainly wouldn’t have had the same opportunities. </p> <p>Of course it’s no good providing opportunities for young players if the talent is simply not there, and a significant factor in generating this talent has been the huge investment in youth academies by German clubs. Since 2001 it has been mandatory for each of the 36 Bundesliga clubs to have a youth academy, and the requirements for these are the most stringent in Europe. At the same time the Bundesliga struck a deal with the German FA to funnel €700 million into the youth academy system over ten years. An interview with the Bundesliga’s CEO in <em>The Observer</em> highlighted the links between the 50+1 rule and the investment in young German talent: “The rule keeps clubs closer to their roots, their community and the central purpose they have […] The people who run the clubs very much have their roots here, and together with the [German FA] I guess we share one idea: that Germany should have world-class German players.”</p> <p>The comparatively longer terms served by Bundesliga managers also gives it the edge over the Premier League, where managers that have been in their post for longer than a season are in the minority. This too stems from the ownership model – with Premier League clubs’ stock market value so tightly coupled with their performance on the pitch, investors will rarely tolerate a manager that is struggling to find his feet. Manchester United’s share price fell from $18 after Alex Ferguson’s retirement to $14.26 at the nadir of David Moyes’s reign, rising again to $18.78 after his sacking. When a football club is run as a PLC the share price takes precedence over allowing a manager to build a team for the future. Fans, on the other hand, tend to understand that it takes more than just a season for a manager to build a squad, win over the dressing room and implement their playing style, and will be more willing to give a manager time to settle in. </p> <p>Although a hire-and-fire culture is pervasive in all European leagues, the Bundesliga tends to do better than most in giving managers a chance. This matters for the national side because it provides stability for young players that are coming through. Often young Premier League players who are liked by one manager can quickly find themselves out of favour and on the bench halfway through a season when a new manager comes in. Take Andros Townsend at Tottenham Hotspur, who had a strong start to the season under Andre Villas Boas and scored a spectacular goal on his full England debut in October. When Villas Boas was sacked in December following a few heavy defeats Townsend struggled to get a game under his successor, Tim Sherwood. Although he was ultimately ruled out of England’s World Cup squad through injury, in truth his season had already petered out by March due to Sherwood’s preference for the more predictable Gylfi Sigurdsson. When you consider that a record ten managers were sacked during the 2013-14 season, it’s easy to see why the Premier League is not a stable environment for young players to flourish. </p> <p>Although it is by no means perfect, the German fan ownership model gives fans more of a say in how their club is run, providing a bulwark against the ruthless forces of the free market that have taken over the Premier League. It’s not German efficiency or Vorsprung Durch Technik that made them World Champions; it’s having a football league that is grounded in principles of democracy, cooperation and financial sustainability. </p> <p>* The two exceptions are Wolfsburg and Bayer Leverkusen, which originated as works sporting clubs owned by Volkswagen and Bayer respectively. </p><p>&nbsp;</p><p class="sdendnote"><em>This article is part of the <strong>Modernise: de-privatise</strong> <a href="">series</a>. </em></p><p class="sdendnote"><strong><em><span>Liked this piece? Please donate to OurKingdom </span><a href=""><span>here </span></a><span>to help keep us producing independent journalism. Thank you.</span></em></strong></p> uk Can Europe make it? uk Joel Sharples Joining the dots on football in Europe Thu, 21 Aug 2014 23:11:11 +0000 Joel Sharples 84613 at A post-World Cup glow for Belgium? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The success of the Belgian national team at the 2014 World Cup has briefly united Flemish and Walloon speakers, but will this have any effect on the country's increasingly fractious identity politics?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="400" height="272" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Belgian national football team. Flickr/Eric Drost. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p><em>"Pour tous les Belges qui ont suivis ce match, il y avait moyen de faire quelque chose, fait chier!" </em></p><p>The&nbsp;<a href="">comments</a>&nbsp;by Daniel Van Buyten, Belgium’s number 15, sum up the country’s feelings pretty well after suffering a 1-0 defeat against Argentina on Saturday in the World Cup quarter-finals. But there is nonetheless a real sense that the Red Devils have achieved something that will reverberate far beyond Brasilia’s Estádio Nacional. </p><p>The national team has exceeded expectations and sky rocketed through the international rankings into the top ten teams from an all-time low of sixty-sixth in 2009. Not only has this restored Belgian's flagging footballing credentials, but with such a young team the experience gained over the last five games will put them in an excellent position ahead of Euro 2016.</p><p>More importantly though, Belgians have rallied around their team in colourful and often&nbsp;<a href="">very loud</a>&nbsp;displays of national unity, something that seems to have been lacking over the last years. In a county polarised between a French speaking south and a Flemish speaking north Belgium's World Cup success has gone a long way toward healing Belgium’s linguistic divisions. </p><p>In the most obvious sign of national unity, Belgian flags have in many places replaced the flags on Flanders and Wallonia – two of Belgium’s three regions. This was even the case in Antwerp, a bastion of Flemish nationalism. On a personal level, football has transcended linguistic divisions and brought Flemish and French speakers together around a common cause. &nbsp;</p><p>Belgian politicians were quick to join the football frenzy, but with Flemish and Francophone political parties once again&nbsp;<a href="">deadlocked</a>&nbsp;over the formation of a federal government it remains to be seen whether Belgium's success on the field will have any real impact on the country's contentious political scene. </p><p>But a resurgent Belgian identity will challenge the separatist agenda espoused by the Flemish N-VA's which has been&nbsp;<a href="">pushing</a>&nbsp;for Flemish autonomy. Given the N-VA’s victory in regional elections in May and the important role it will likely play in a forthcoming federal government Belgium’s football success has come at a critical juncture.</p><p>The N-VA's leader Bart de Wever is all too aware of this, and party officials have been doing their best to&nbsp;<a href="">downplay</a>&nbsp;Belgium World Cup success. Incredibly, authorities in Antwerp – which is controlled by the N-VA – even sought to&nbsp;<a href="">counter</a>&nbsp;the spread of Belgian flags on the pretext that many of those displayed the “Jupiler” logo, a Wallonian beer. In the end though, the federal police refused to carry out the order.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Ultimately it would be too much to hope that the Red Devils alone can turn back the rising tide of Flemish nationalism, let alone solve Belgium's regional issues which include deep socio-economic disparities between North and South. But at the very least Marc Wilmots and his players have reminded Belgians what it feels like to be a united nation. </p><p>One can only hope that the chant of "tous ensemble!" adopted by football supporters will become a slogan for Belgium's political class.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/isotta-rossoni/football-italian-synecdoche">Football: an Italian synecdoche?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/edin-dedovic/bosnian-national-football-team-case-study-in-post-conflict-instituti">The Bosnian national football team: a case study in post-conflict institution building</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Belgium </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Belgium Hugh Lovatt Joining the dots on football in Europe Tue, 08 Jul 2014 16:13:08 +0000 Hugh Lovatt 84318 at Taking a selfie of yourself eating a banana wont solve racism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>#weareallmonkeys just allows white people to jokily dismiss their own privilege without addressing the racist power-structures which still exist in our society</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Two years ago the Chairman of the Spanish FA,&nbsp;Angel Villar Llona, declared that racism&nbsp;<a href="">'does not exist'</a>&nbsp;in Spanish football. Fast forward to Sunday April 27 and Barcelona full-back Dani Alves was pelted by bananas thrown at him by racist Villareal fans. Villar Llona’s statement two years ago was out of touch with reality, but is even more so in light of yet another overtly racist targeting of a La Liga player. </p> <p>Alves' response to the incident was to <a href="">eat the banana on the pitch</a>, which has been met by widespread applause from predominantly white football journalists. The incident led to Alves’ teammate and compatriot Neymar posting a photo of himself eating a banana on Instagram with the hashtag #WeAreAllMonkeys. This has now taken off and began trending across social media outlets with other footballers such as Ivorian midfielder Yaya Toure, as well as Argentinian striker Sergio Aguero also posting similar photos with the hashtag.&nbsp;<a href="">By Monday over 100,000 people had used the hashtag</a>&nbsp;as people appeared to be rallying to combat racism in football. These footballers sharing their photos and showing 'solidarity' with Alves are apparently&nbsp;<a href="">'trolling'</a>&nbsp;the racists in question, which is supposedly a good and progressive thing. </p> <p>People have spoken about 'not stooping' to the racists' level, implying that Alves' reaction was the best course of action. Alves was not the first player and will not be the last player to be targeted like this.&nbsp; Last year, when then AC Milan midfielder&nbsp;<a href="">Kevin Prince-Boateng led his team off of the pitch</a>&nbsp;due to racist chanting in a Serie A game, there was not the same media attention. Prince-Boateng was not the recipient of patronizing hashtags. This was a very much stronger stance to take against racism, it was not worse or better than Alves’ handling of it. Nobody can criticize Alves for handling the issue as he did. But, it is important to remember that there is no perfect response and that we cannot merely brush over the issue of endemic racism by eating a banana. This is a case of privileged white people telling non-whites how to react. Had Patrice Evra for example punched Luis Suarez in the face for<a href=""> persistent racial abuse during a Liverpool vs Manchester United game</a>, the same journalists who are applauding Alves (most of whom have never suffered racial abuse) would have been quick to condemn Evra’s use of violence, probably calling it a poor way to conduct himself.&nbsp; <strong></strong></p> <p>The problem with the #weareallmonkeys popularity is that it fails to recognize the deep layers of racism or the way in which racism is fostered through a system that privileges whites over non-whites. If anything it glosses over the issue, making it into a joke. The complexities of racism and how it can take on many layers is overlooked. Anyone who posts a photo eating a banana with the tag is automatically seen as not being racist and as showing solidarity with Alves and victims of racism more generally.</p> <p>This suggests that through solidarity we are all the same and share the same burden. It is offensive for anyone to claim that a white person is the same as someone who has suffered direct racist abuse and offensive to suggest that this is unimportant. By doing this we are ignoring their own position of privilege, when in reality we are not all the same and we are not all born with the same degree of privilege. These people did not and will not suffer having bananas hurled at them, be taunted in the streets (or at football matches) or be targeted by police because of the colour of their skin. That is their privilege and any movement that doesn’t recognize this is not combating the issue.&nbsp; </p> <p>This doesn't get to grips with the racism that exists within football and society as a whole. It is taking the easy option and sweeps the major issues under the carpet so that everyone can feel better about themselves. Brushing over the chants and claiming that we're all in it together is not going to make racism go away. </p> <p>White people, ignoring their own privilege, eating bananas, declaring themselves to be monkeys, is not very likely to end racism or truly address what underpins racism and the power-structures that exist within our society. Alves is not a monkey, none of us are, so why pretend?</p> <p><a href="">As was tweeted at me</a>&nbsp;''people want easy solutions. They don't want to interrogate their own privilege and complicity in letting racism fester.'' Until we really examine privilege we will not be any closer to truly eradicating racism. Having received racist abuse in January 2013 Dani Alves said that the campaign to fight racism in football was <a href="">‘’a lost war’’</a>.&nbsp;Unfortunately the #weareallmonkeys campaign only confirms what he thought, rather than rectifying it.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/sunder-katwala/football-fascism-and-british-0">Football, fascism and the British</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/catherine-stupp/my-turkey-berlin-immigration-and-amateur-football-scene">&#039;My Turkey&#039;: Berlin, immigration and the amateur football scene</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Spain </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Spain Timothy Smith Joining the dots on football in Europe Fri, 02 May 2014 15:23:27 +0000 Timothy Smith 82428 at Kosovo United? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The debut of the Kosovo national football team in their first ever FIFA sanctioned match was a hugely significant event for a country still struggling for global recognition.&nbsp;<em>Read more from our&nbsp;<a href="">Football, Politics and Society</a>&nbsp;debate.</em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="Kosovo fans in the stands for their country's first "official" football match. Demotix/Fitim Selimi. Some rights reserved." title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Kosovo fans in the stands for their country's first "official" football match. Demotix/Fitim Selimi. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>When Vladimir Putin brought up the example of Kosovo in order to justify Russia’s territorial excursions into Ukraine and eventual annexation of Crimea, hardly anybody was surprised. Nonchalant as usual and with little regard to the international community’s indignation, it soon became obvious that Putin had decided once again to jaunt through references to peoples’ right to self-determination in order to make his case that nobody could do anything about it. After all, this was not the first time that Russia’s president had become a renegade of international law, nor was it the first time that he had drawn parallels between Kosovo and other breakaway regions, like South Ossetia and Abkhazia in 2008. Who was to say that it could not happen again?</p> <p>To Kosovars it wasn’t the weight of Putin’s assertion about their country that mattered that day as much as it was their tendency to upstage Kosovo’s own historic moment in the international media. Misleading as they were and remain, Putin’s attention-grabbing remarks were not just crass and tactless, but for the country of two million situated miles away, they were simply untimely. It so happened that on that same day, Kosovo was fighting its own battle to make the headlines on the eve of its first ever FIFA-sanctioned friendly match. Alas, as is the case with most small countries, they barely ever make the news – the news makes them.</p> <p>It had been a long journey for Kosovo on the way to making its first appearance on the international football map. Indeed, the challenge to get its own team recognized had more or less kept pace with Kosovo’s struggle to gain international recognition as a sovereign state ever since it declared independence from Serbia in February 2008, following a brutal conflict and a decade of international trusteeship. </p><p>Since then, Kosovo has been recognized by little more than half of the UN member states – 108 in total – and 23 out of the 28 EU members. Having historically acted as Serbia’s big brother, Russia has been key in blocking Kosovo’s recognition by the remaining half of the countries. Unable to secure UN membership and remaining hostage to power politics, Kosovo’s own international football appearance has been continuously dismissed by both UEFA, the European football governing body and FIFA, the world football governing body.</p> <p>Teetering on the brink of despair, the leadership of the Football Federation of Kosovo (FFK) who had been lobbying unsuccessfully for UEFA and FIFA membership for the better part of five years, decided to pursue what most thought, at the time, a far-fetched route to appeal to FIFA. </p><p>In September 2012, taking advantage of the World-Cup qualifying match between Switzerland and Albania, the federation approached nine of the brightest stars originating from Kosovo who were scheduled to play for the Swiss and Albanian teams. They were asked to sign a petition in a final pledge asking FIFA to allow the country to play international friendlies. Notable among the signatories, who called upon FIFA’s president Sepp Blatter to give the Kosovo team a shot, were the Swiss national team’s Valon Behrami and Granit Xhaka as well as the rising star Xherdan Shaqiri. The latter had stirred much controversy in his adopted country for wearing three flags on his shoes (Swiss, Albanian and Kosovar) as an allegiance to his roots during national matches.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Surprisingly, the petition turned out to be a major tour de force in grassroots advocacy. In January this year, after months of bickering, FIFA’s Emergency Committee in a public release confirmed that its members would be allowed to play international friendlies with FFK clubs and representatives. The Serbian football federation was displeased, but FIFA President Sepp Blatter, underlying football’s extraordinary power “to bring people together”, hailed the decision as a “major boost for football development in Kosovo”. </p><p>Shortly afterwards, Kosovo’s first match was announced, against Haiti, and to be held on March 5. For the people of Kosovo - whose profound devotion to the sport and their favourite international clubs rarely falls short of dances on the streets and the deafening honking of car horns whenever major derbies are scheduled, - FIFA’s decision was met with unspeakable excitement.</p> <p>Yet, the exultant joy that overwhelmed most turned out to be short-lived. It soon became clear that this was to be no ordinary friendly. FIFA stipulated a number of restrictions on the Kosovo team for the game. No display of national symbols, including here flags and emblems, and no playing of anthems would be permitted. In the spirit of yet another post-national dictum procured from without, the only thing that Kosovo would be allowed to display were kits and other equipment that bore the name ‘Kosovo’ and a little star the size of the letter ‘o’ to adorn the somewhat stifled name. For those that know the <a href="">‘asterisk saga’</a> in Kosovo-Serbia negotiations, these restrictions were a harrowing reminder of where Kosovo stood in the great abyss that is the politics of recognition.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>And so it came to be – the international football semi-debuting of the internationally semi-recognized Kosovo with its own set of semi-designations. In spite of these limitations, the day of the match found thousands of Kosovars flocking their way to the stadium in the ethnically divided northern town of Mitrovica where the match was taking place. That Kosovo should have its only stadium that fulfilled the FIFA-set criteria located in the southern bank of Ibar river in Mitrovica, which for the past 15 years has served as a natural barrier dividing the Albanian-inhabited south from the Serb-inhabited north, was ironic at best and unfortunate at worst. Ironic because, where else could Kosovo better showcase its triumph in having its team gain some recognition, but in a town that has served symbolically as a battleground for sovereignty claims between Kosovo and Serbia. Unfortunate, because despite all the cajoling, the Kosovo team has yet to feature a footballer from the Serb community.</p> <p>Within minutes, the audience rushed in through the doors and took their seats in the stadium of 17,000 chanting and singing along the way. A banner displaying the pictures of internationally famous football players of Kosovo descent who play for other international teams was featured on the sidelines, with the inscription “We need you!” Among others, it showed Manchester United wunderkind, Adnan Januzaj, Lazio’s Lorik Cana and the Swiss national team’s three stars who had co-signed the petition that had led to the FIFA-sanctioned friendly that day. Soon after, both teams entered the field. Before posing for the pre-match team photos on the somewhat unevenly trimmed grass, the national anthem of the guest team was sung first. As per FIFA’s restrictions, Kosovo anthem was eschewed. Yet, the singer did not balk on the field – instead, he sang another song based on the allegorical poetry of one of Kosovo’s most renowned authors to the cheering crowds.</p> <p>Those who had had no luck in securing a ticket within the first few hours after the sale began, were forced to make other arrangements. Office spaces, cafés, restaurants and homes were all used indiscriminately to watch the game. In the true spirit of solidarity, a waiter in one of Prishtina’s many bars was appending small Kosovo flags to the screen while offering rakija shots on the house. By the kickoff, everyone had assembled in front of the screen. Half way through the match, most had made at least a comment or had offered a punch line that provoked some fainthearted laughter. After all, in the land of blood and honey, the pageantry could go amiss – but not the sense of humor.</p> <p>Alluding to the heavy security in Mitrovica, one of the attendees jested: “New FIFA rule: whoever shoots the ball across the Ibar river, will have to go on his own to get it,” to which the waiter replied “Let’s hope nobody does that, because that would mean the end of the game.” Another murmuring voice was heard from the back: “This is a friendly, after all – 30 minutes in and it ends by implication.” Some laughed, others watched in silence giving in to the occasional outburst of excitement every time one of Kosovo’s players approached the opposing team’s goal.&nbsp;</p> <p>Ninety minutes of regular playing and five minutes of extra time later, neither team scored. After all the heavy lifting and befuddled patriotism, the match had ended in a goalless draw. Notwithstanding all the mixed feelings there were those that saw it as a silver lining amidst a daily struggle for identity. “At least, we can officially say we never lost a game.” Yet others, who had seen Kosovo navigate the turbulent waters of international recognition, were cautiously optimistic. In a concluding observation, a member of the international community, who had been working for years in Kosovo, quipped on social media: “A 0-0 tie, just like every other football match ever. Kosovo is clearly ready to meet international standards.”&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/ivan-djordjevic/red-star-serbia-never-yugoslavia-football-politics-and-national-i">&quot;Red Star Serbia, never Yugoslavia!&quot; Football, politics and national identity in Serbia</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/edin-dedovic/bosnian-national-football-team-case-study-in-post-conflict-instituti">The Bosnian national football team: a case study in post-conflict institution building</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Kosovo </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Kosovo Marigona Uka Joining the dots on football in Europe Mon, 24 Mar 2014 22:01:44 +0000 Marigona Uka 80635 at Football: an Italian synecdoche? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Are the issues facing Italian football emblematic of the issues facing the country itself? <em>Read more from our <a href="">Football, Politics and Society</a> debate.</em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="Luciano Moggi: a symbol of corruption in both Italian football and society?Flickr/calciostreaming. Some rights reserved." title="" width="460" height="288" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Luciano Moggi: a symbol of corruption in both Italian football and society? Flickr/calciostreaming. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p><span>Football is a reflection of society, Michel Platini once remarked. It mirrors not only its values, but also its fears and prejudices. A mere glance at Italian football reveals a sorry state of affairs. With the escalation of racism and territorial discrimination during the last football season, and the&nbsp;re-opening of investigations in relation to 2011's match-fixing scandal, the picture football paints of mainstream society is grim indeed. Many have gone so far as to claim that Italy suffers from a 'culture'&nbsp;problem. But is 'culture' really the problem?&nbsp;</span></p> <h2>Racism and territorial discrimination</h2> <p>Berlusconi has shocked the international public on more than one occasion with his tactless remarks and unsavoury jokes. His characterization of Obama as a 'young, handsome and tanned politician' made the front page, inducing&nbsp;anger and embarrassment amongst Italians. But while Berlusconi may not be a master of political correctness, these backward attitudes and stereotyped approaches to the 'other' are widely common amid Italian politicians and the media. Cecile Kyenge, the country's first black Minister, who recently had bananas thrown at her during a rally, was <a href="">publicly likened to an 'orangutang' by Calderoli</a>, a Northern League Minister. Furthermore, in the past couple of years,&nbsp;the buzzword 'invasion' has often been used by the media to describe the upsurge of refugees reaching the Italian coast by boat.&nbsp;</p> <p>In parallel with these and other developments, the last football season recorded numerous racist episodes, despite <a href="">UEFA' s introduction of a new, anti-racist resolution</a> in March 2013 .The resolution urges referees to stop or even abandon matches in the event of racist incidents, and introduces tougher sanctions for racist conduct, including a ten-match ban for players or officials, a partial stadium closure for a first offence and a full stadium closure for a second offence, as well as a € 50,000 fine .</p> <p>In Italy, the motion was coupled with measures aimed to eradicate so-called ‘territorial discrimination’. In fact, concerned about increasing animosity between Northerners and Southerners, increasingly expressed through football matches, the Italian football federation <a href="">approved stricter rules to tackle abusive behaviour based on parochialism</a>.</p> <p>However, these amendments have not put a cap on discrimination. In 2013, numerous players, including <a href="">Kwadwo Asamoah, Paul Pogba and notably, Milan players Kevin-Prince Boateng and Mario Balotelli have endured racist abuse</a><a href="">.</a> Boateng, a victim of Pro Patria's offensive chants during a friendly in January, removed his shirt and walked off the pitch followed by his team-mates. Super Mario, one of Italy's celebrity players, has put up with boos and monkey noises during various games, and has narrowly escaped scuffles with fans on more than one occasion.</p> <p>Even territorial discrimination has not seen consistent decrease. In the last football season, Milan, Inter, Roma and Torino fans were all reprimanded for discriminatory behaviour. However, the clubs did not receive severe punishment, contra all forewarnings. Milan fans who had earned their team a 50,000 € fine and the closure of their Curva section for a game against Udinese, due to offensive chants such as 'Neapolitans: cholera-sufferers', drew a sigh of relief when, following contestation, <a href="">the Federation reviewed its initial decision.</a> Other teams were also spared the closure of their sections, although the Italian Football Federation might re-consider if episodes of territorial discrimination reoccur.</p> <h2><strong>Corruption phantoms</strong></h2> <p><em>Calciopoli</em>, the betting and match-fixing scandal that plagued Italy in 2006 and involved major football clubs like Juventus, Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio and Reggina, came as a blow to the Italian football world that, at the time, was celebrating its recent triumph in the World Cup. Breaking the spell were phone-taps, which revealed that Juventus Director General Luciano Moggi, and to varying degrees the directors and officials of other teams, had engaged in match-fixing and rigging at boardroom level. They were accused of exerting influence on referees, in order to guarantee favourable outcomes in matches.</p> <p>Moggi, considered as the criminal mastermind of <em>Calciopoli</em>, received a lifetime ban from football, and his team, <a href="">Juventus, incurred severe point deductions, was stripped of its 2005 and 2006 Serie A titles and relegated to Second Division. Milan, Fiorentina, Reggina, Lazio were also docked points, but retained their place in First Division</a>. According to the initial ruling, Juventus was to be relegated to Third Division and Milan to Second Division; however both sentences were reduced on appeal.</p> <p>Incidentally, justice often seems to bend to the will of the powerful and wealthy. It is highly likely that the Agnellis, founders of Fiat and proprietors of Juventus, and AC Milan's proud owner Silvio Berlusconi pulled a few strings to obtain more favourable rulings. In fact, although <a href="">Juventus paid the price for its involvement in the scandal</a>, it was spared demotion to Third Division, which would have resulted in significant economic loss, mostly due to celebrity players transferring to other teams and sponsors ending their deals with the club. Moreover, <a href=",+ecco+l&#039;intercettazione+ingombrante">while evidence finds A.C. Milan's CEO Adriano Galliani deeply implicated in match-fixing</a>, and <a href=";incontro+con+Berlusconi">word has it that, rather suspiciously, Berlusconi was keen on offering Moggi a job at his club</a> back in 2005, Milan suffered from comparatively soft punishments.</p> <p>A few years on, ahead of the 2012 Euro Cup, <em>Calciopoli,</em> almost a distant memory&nbsp;, new allegations of match-fixing and illegal betting amongst Second Division teams<a href=""> led to the arrest of former striker Signori, former Bari captain Bellavista</a>,&nbsp;as well as in a second stage, of <a href="">Lazio captain Mauri, former Genoa player Milanetto and others</a>. More recently, the ongoing investigations&nbsp;in relation to the 2011 scandal led by prosecutor Di Martino, resulted in charges of criminal conspiracy and sports fraud against Milan player Gattuso and Lazio player Brocchi, as well as in the arrest of other four suspects. At the moment of writing, criminal cases have just being opened.</p> <h2><strong>Not a matter of culture</strong></h2> <p>Racism, discrimination and corruption are not exclusive to Italian football. Amongst others, the UK and Belgium recently witnessed cases of rigging and match-fixing, while it is generally acknowledged that efforts to counter racism must be intensified both in Europe and internationally. It appears tentative and somewhat incorrect to point the finger at Italy's supposedly backward culture, in the search for the causes of racism and corruption.&nbsp;In so doing, we risk to oversimplify and generalize matters, whilst wrongly dismissing these problems as “cultural”.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Undoubtedly, Italy's past, in particular its difficult process of unification, testifies to the ongoing divide between North and South, to society's fragmentation and to a generally widespread hostility towards foreigners. Moreover, after World War II, the Italian political system has suffered from various corruption scandals, which prove that corruption is a long-standing issue. But asserting that racism and corruption are rooted in Italian culture is tantamount to claiming that Italy is intrinsically racist and corrupt. This essentialist approach not only denies realistic assessments, but also out-rules the possibility for future improvement and change.&nbsp;</p> <p>With regards to football, it should be noted that the increase in racist incidents bears a close relationship with the rise and spread of right-wing ultras groups. <a href="">Out of 41,000 Italian ultras, a large majority express ideas typical of the radical right, boast a strong local affiliation</a>, are intolerant towards others, in particular foreigners, easily resort to violence and often get involved in scuffles with the police.&nbsp;Thus, racism in Italian football should not be explained in reference to Italy's allegedly racist customs, but rather to a growing right-wing ultras culture, which authorities appear unable to keep&nbsp;in check.</p> <p>Similarly, it is worth mentioning that corruption scandals in football have resulted in society’s&nbsp;widespread disillusionment with the game. While football remains popular, research shows that following 2006's and 2011's prosecutions <a href="///C:/Users/Alex/Desktop/%C2%A0http:/,%C2%A0http:/">many have deserted stadiums,&nbsp;and turned to other sports, seeking genuine fair play</a>.&nbsp;More generally,&nbsp;<a href="">recent statistics by the European Commission demonstrate</a> that only 22% of Italians&nbsp;hold that government efforts to combat corruption are effective and only 27% believe that there are enough successful prosecutions in Italy to deter people from corrupt practices.&nbsp;</p> <p>A more accurate analysis of Italian football highlights that far from blaming culture, the focus of criticism should be on the implementation of sketchy legal provisions and on the paucity of initiatives engaging players and fans, as well as society more broadly. Racism and corruption are inadequately punished. Moggi, who was initially sentenced to 5 years and 4 months, recently had his conviction reduced to 28 months on appeal. The reason for this was the expiration of the statute of limitations for one of the charges, namely sports fraud. Not only will he probably never spend any time in jail, but other sentences may also witness consistent reductions.</p> <p>As for racism, footballing bans such as Gannon's or Anelka's in the UK hardly ever come into force. Usually, football clubs receive fines in lieu of their fans. Since the latter are not affected in first person, this measure falls short of addressing the issue proactively. In addition, Second or Third Division racist incidents almost never make the headlines, and at times are even ignored by referees during First Division games.</p> <p>As sociologist <a href="">Mario Valeri claims</a>, there is also confusion as to actions, behaviours, symbols which are to be considered racist and inadmissible. In order to raise consciences, there needs to be more initiatives organized by anti-racist associations. Data shows that the majority of fans, although faithful to their ideals, <a href="">do not oppose dialogue altogether</a> . If the Italian Football Federation and the clubs are serious about tackling racism and territorial discrimination, they must reach out to football fans. Furthermore, growing public resentment against corruption indicates that football authorities and the government must start cooperating to ensure regulatory compliance, so as to deter future breaching.&nbsp;</p> <p>If the football world engages in deep self-reformation, then it may be able to put a hold on the gradual, but steady drop in the number of aficionados.&nbsp;Sport may even take on some sort of pioneer role, setting examples for society at large. But in order for this to happen, we must stop indicting ‘culture’ and identify and address the real root causes of negative behaviours and practices.&nbsp;</p> <p><em><span>If you enjoyed this article then please consider liking </span><em><strong>Can Europe Make it?</strong></em><span> on </span><a href="">Facebook</a><span> and following us on Twitter </span><a href="">@oD_Europe</a></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/micha%C5%82-syska/commercialisation-and-nationalism-in-polish-football">Commercialisation and nationalism in Polish football</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/edin-dedovic/bosnian-national-football-team-case-study-in-post-conflict-instituti">The Bosnian national football team: a case study in post-conflict institution building</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Italy </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Italy Isotta Rossoni Joining the dots on football in Europe Tue, 25 Feb 2014 16:43:42 +0000 Isotta Rossoni 79686 at Commercialisation and nationalism in Polish football <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Could there be a link between the increasing commercialisation of Polish football and the rise in far-right hooliganism?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class="image-caption"><img src="//" alt="" width="460" height="301" />An anti-racism banner is unfurled at a match between Ruch Chorzow and Legia Warsaw. Flickr/Fare network. Some rights reserved.</span></p><h2><strong>The unfulfilled promises of the Euro 2012</strong></h2> <p>The chance to organise the 2012 European football championship was supposed to be beneficial for Poland in a number of ways. According to representatives from the government, the Polish Football Association and the media, the event was not only going to have a strong, positive impact on the nation's economic development and help promote to Poland on a worldwide level, but also improve upon the organisational and professional level of Polish football.</p> <p>The economic effects of the event proved to be debatable. On the one hand, its organisers point out that Euro 2012 made it possible to build state-of-the-art stadiums and redevelop the Polish transport infrastructure. On the other hand, the event's critics stress that the transport improvements would still have gone ahead in Poland regardless of the tournament, while the newly built arenas have now become a gargantuan financial burden for the local authorities. Virtually unused, they now incur huge maintenance costs, at the expense of numerous indispensable investments in the area of social policy, education etc.</p> <p>Certainly, Euro 2012 did not result in any sport-related success for Poland. The national team exited the competition without even a single victory, despite starting in the weakest group alongside Greece, Russia and the Czech Republic. The qualification matches for next year's world championship in Brazil have also ended in their fiasco. The same could be said of the balance of Polish clubs at European level competitions.</p> <p>Contrary to the opinions dominant before Euro 2012, the event also failed to spur any sport-related or commercial development of the Polish league. According to a report by the Deloitte company, the league currently brings in less revenue than matches played in countries with much less inhabitants, like the Netherlands, Belgium, Scotland or Austria.</p> <p>Also, Poland has its place near the bottom of the European ranking when it comes to the average number of spectators at league matches calculated for the total population of a given state.</p> <p>It seems that all those who anticipated any commercial success in Poland similar to that of the English Premier League or the German Bundesliga underestimated the historical and social aspects of Polish football.</p> <h2><strong>The social determinants of Polish football</strong></h2> <p>&ldquo;Throughout history, the attendance at matches within the Polish league has been lower than at comparable games played in Germany. This is not only a consequence of the size of the general populace,&rdquo; says Prof. Rafa&#322; Chwedoruk, a political scientist from the University of Warsaw, a specialist in the history of social movements and an expert on football.</p> <p>&ldquo;At first, football developed in the 19th century as a pastime for the bourgeoisie, as this particular social class grew richer and enjoyed more free time and funds. Football became a mass sport only as a result of yet another wave of the industrial revolution,&rdquo; he adds.</p> <p>When Germany was undergoing industrialisation, football became a mass sport.</p> <p>&ldquo;Such a thing in a much less developed Poland was impossible even after it regained its independence in 1918. Two ethoi were dominant within the Polish society: the serf ethos, quite distant from mass culture, and the ethos of the nobility, which later gave rise to the intelligentsia, which represented a model that alluded to high culture. Among the intelligentsia, football was viewed more as desublimating entertainment among the rabble, which is why even if any renowned character displayed any interest in football, it was most often treated as an individual oddity,&rdquo; says Prof. Chwedoruk.</p> <p>It is worth noting that sports clubs in Europe and Latin America were often a form of social self-organisation. Even up to this day this is very true for Germany, a country deprived of a strong state for hundreds of years. The Polish society represented a different approach, as for many reasons - mainly poverty or legal-political limitations - it could not become self-organised.</p> <p>The high attendance at matches within many leagues is also a result of a historically strong regionalisation (e.g. Germany, Italy).</p> <p>Prof. Chwedoruk points out that: &ldquo;After regaining its independence in 1918 and after the Second World War, Poland was forced to undergo rapid centralisation processes if it were to survive. Local identification was thus not as important in Poland as it was in Germany, for example.&rdquo;</p> <p>This football clubs' deep social roots and the significant role of the supporters in Germany is incidental to the property and business strategy utilised in the country. In Poland, each club in the Ekstraklasa (the top level of the Polish football system) is obliged to assume the form of a joint stock company, whereas the dominant model in Germany is the association model, according to which the private investor cannot do whatever they want (and - most importantly - cannot be in full control of their club). This philosophy prevents any pathologies, dominant in Poland and related to corruption, bankruptcy or the financing of professional clubs from public, self-government funds, from occuring in Germany.</p> <h2><strong>The market enters the stadiums</strong></h2> <p>Assuming the corporate market model in Poland by football clubs inevitably led to a conflict with supporter circles. Before Euro 2012, the Polish government declared war on hooliganism at Polish stadiums. This is because violence related to the football supporter subculture is a major problem in Poland. The paradox of the situation was that this war had been declared at a time when, according to police reports, this phenomenon was becoming rarer.</p> <p>In the 1990s, football arenas were battlefields for unending confrontations between opposite groups of supporters and the police. The early 2000s brought about a positive change: this violence was to a large degree removed from the stadiums and found its way onto other places (it is typical for the Polish hooligan scene to organise battles between hooligan squads in secluded locations, e.g. forests, according to rules established previously by both sides).</p> <p>The declaration against hooliganism was also accompanied by stricter laws for supporters at the stadiums. These had consequences for all advocates of football, not only the hooligans. There was also a simultaneous effort to socially alter the audiences at football matches motivated by market interests. The stadium was to become a place of recreation for the well-doing middle class, with consumers in the place of supporters. This was attempted by introducing more expensive tickets, for example. This strategy also proved unsuccessful, as it completely ignored the social reality in Poland.</p> <p>&ldquo;The audience exchange idea advocated by the league's authorities and part of the media, who promote it under the veil of the struggle with the often demonised stadium hooliganism, had no chances of success in Poland. First of all, Poland has not yet experienced the rise of the so-called new middle class, typical for globalisation, which would possess the financial resources, the free time and the necessary interest in football to regularly show up at stadiums. The level of Polish football will also make it impossible for the state to compete with financial football superpowers, just as the Polish millionaires are nothing more than poverty-ridden relatives of Abramovic or Berlusconi,&rdquo; says Prof. Chwedoruk.</p> <p>He adds: &ldquo;The audience at Polish stadiums is socially and financially diverse and as a result it generally remains deprived of any alternative. Attendance at league stadiums is based on faithfulness, the temporary hype typical for volleyball or basketball is not enough in the context of football.&rdquo;</p> <p>It is a paradox (though only illusory in the case of Poland, as explained further) that the opposition of supporters against commercialising football in Poland has a radical right face.</p> <h2><strong>The supporters in the hands of right-wing extremists</strong></h2> <p>A certain section of Polish supporters assume an extremely right-wing orientation which is most often why they orchestrate nationalist and racist incidents at the stadiums and participate in political demonstrations organised by neo-fascist groups. Since the early 1990s, Polish football stadiums have been an area for organising the extreme right-wing and the skinhead subcultures.</p> <p>The first years of the 21st century saw the gradual depoliticisation of supporter circles, which also had to do with changes in the manner in which they function (there appeared formal supporter organisations focusing on organising support-related activities, contributing to clubs and undertaking activities aimed at charity).</p> <p>Restrictions by the government against supporters prior to the Euro 2012 championships only strengthened the influence of extreme rightists at Polish stadiums.</p> <h2><strong>Right-wing populism as the language of rebellion</strong></h2> <p>The only available language for the political contestation of the historical discreditation of leftist symbols in Poland after 1989 was the language of the extreme right-wing. It is thus no wonder that many supporters are prone to its influence. The truth is that their problems are not stemming from the patriotism they seemingly represent, but rather from the fact that there is no place for them in the world of football shaped by the logic of the market interest. It sounds ridiculous to hear them shouting &ldquo;Away with the communists&rdquo; knowing that football clubs are in private hands, while the names of stadiums are bought out by global corporations.</p> <p>Numerous sociological studies show that Poland suffers from a low level of social capital. Polish people do not trust each other and have no trust for public institutions. They also prefer competition and rivalry rather than cooperation and joint activity. The neoliberal capitalist model created post-1989 gave rise to social atomisation. </p><p>The commercialisation, which makes it way into an increasing number of areas of human life, is accompanied by a growing social segregation. People representing various classes have less and less channels for communication. They live in different districts, their children attend different schools etc. Football stadiums in Poland serve as some of the last places where it is possible for people representing different economic statuses and cultural capitals to meet. Supporter associations are one of the few symptoms of a civic society, where involvement in group activities is not motivated by individual interests.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>On November 11, 2013 news services all over the world discussed the march of right-wing extremists in Warsaw, during which a number of masked football hooligans assaulted a squat. This event represents a sort of paradox, as it is football fans and leftist freedom of movement activists who stood (albeit separately) in the first ranks of the opposition against Euro 2012 as an event subject to the logic of corporate interest.</p> <p>This event supports a thesis formulated by David Ost in his book <em>The Defeat of Solidarity. Anger and Politics in Postcommunist Europe</em>, according to which the social indignation in Poland after 1989 was formulated using the language of right-wing populism and was directed against the advocated liberal democratic enemies and institutions.</p> <p>David Ost rightly points out that: &ldquo;(...) the condition for the success of liberal democracy is to organise class indignation on a class basis. For the good of a system in which the laws of all citizens are guaranteed and safe, the workers have to accept the narration which explains their indignation as created by economic class divisions, and not national, religious or racial divisions. (&hellip;) Racial conflicts support liberal democracy, as they attempt at solving incongruities through negotiations between various groups of people universally considered as the citizens of the same state.&rdquo;</p> <p>That is why the battle against racism and xenophobia at the stadiums must be inextricably related to resistance against subjecting football to free-market mechanisms and separating it from its social roots. Introducing dialogue instead of repression might serve as one way towards reclaiming football supporters from the hands of political extremists.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/miros%C5%82aw-tryczyk-monika-sp%C5%82awska-murmy%C5%82o/wroc%C5%82aw-is-afraid-experiment-in-european">Wrocław is afraid: an experiment in the European Capital of Culture 2016</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/adam-j-chmielewski/academies-of-hatred">Academies of hatred</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Poland </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Poland Michał Syska Spotlight on what's left in Poland Joining the dots on football in Europe Fri, 20 Dec 2013 11:19:31 +0000 Michał Syska 78001 at The Bosnian national football team: a case study in post-conflict institution building <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Bosnian national football team provides an inspiring example of what Bosnian society could become, given the right conditions.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-caption"><img src="" alt="" width="460" height="301" />The multi-ethnic, multi-religious Bosnian national football team. Wikimedia commons/pogled u nebo. Some rights reserved.</p><p>On Tuesday evening, thousands of Bosnians will flock to Kaunas, Lithuania to fill their allocation of seats at the 8,248 capacity Darius and Girenas Stadium. They will be joined in spirit by hundreds of thousands more, not only in Bosnia but across the global Diaspora spanning from the USA to Australia via Europe. </p><p>They will sit in front of their TVs and computer monitors, streaming the match, flags clutched in their hands, dressed in knock off Bosnia football shirt replicas, eagerly awaiting what could be the defining moment in the history of Bosnian football. Heartbreak is still on the cards, but with a third straight play-off position guaranteed and a national best of thirteenth in the FIFA world rankings en route, the Bosnian and Herzegovinian international football team has thrown off the shackles of the dark horse underdog tag that it held since it came agonisingly close to automatic qualification for Euro 2004, only to lose out during the last match of the campaign.</p> <p>Why is this different from any other qualification or match on Tuesday evening? The primary difference is that this match has superseded the level of &lsquo;just a football game&rsquo; in Bosnia. The fact that the team has reached the playoff stage for both the World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012 qualifiers, only to fall to a strong Portugal side on both occasions, has created not only a sense of hope, but also a sense of expectation amongst Bosnians and Herzegovinians. Whilst fans of England complain about their current crop of highly paid world class players, predicting their inevitable elimination from the competition, across the continent fans of the Bosnian national team believe that the sky is the limit.</p> <p>The importance of the national team&rsquo;s progress however only makes sense when we consider the context the rest of the country finds itself in. The optimism about the national football team is the exception rather than the rule amongst citizens. In fact since the start of the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign back in 2008, the national football team has been the only shining light in the country plagued by high unemployment (currently at 45%) a stagnating economy (Bosnia&rsquo;s main trading partner Croatia has now joined the EU, restricting Bosnia&rsquo;s export market), ever present political corruption, ethnic politics and a dream of EU membership that is just as distant now as it was back in 2008.</p> <p>The performance of the national team has however been in stark contrast to the performance of the country as a whole. While Bosnian political figures were disagreeing over the minor complexities of canton boundaries and <a href="">ID numbers</a> during the first half of the 2013, the Bosnian national team defeated former Euro 2004 champions and group favourites Greece at the Biljno Polje stadium in Zenica with a score of 3 - 1. </p><p>In a week where the prospect of EU membership seemed to become ever more distant as seven Bosnian political figures failed to come to an agreement on constitutional reforms on their visit to Brussels with Stefan Fule, the Bosnian national team hosted Liechtenstein and put them to the sword with a resounding 4 - 1 victory. The consequences of the former? The withdrawal of at least &pound;40 million worth of EU assistance to Bosnia and Herzegovina. While the latter takes the country one step closer to qualifying for its first major international competition in the country's short history.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>The fact is that the national team has not only provided a breath of fresh air but now presents an ideal for the rest of the country, and indeed the international community, to strive for. The national football team represents the image of what Bosnia and Herzegovina could become and should serve as a case study of post-war institution building to the rest of the international community. Much like the rest of the country, the national football team was plagued by corruption and ethnic political disagreements at the higher levels. Because of this, a number of players refused to play for the national team until the problem was addressed. What followed was a string of poor results, culminating in defeat against minnows Moldova.</p> <p>So what changed? It was in fact pressure from both the bottom up and top down, not excluding a certain level of luck, that resulted in the restructuring of the Football Association (FA) and a boom in the form of the national team. The pressure from the top came in the form of UEFA imposed sanctions in April 2011, preventing Bosnia from playing any matches until it changed the governance structure of its football association. The incumbent system was similar in nature to the rotating presidency of the country as a whole, a system that UEFA needed changed to adhere to those across Europe. The suspension gave the FA a strict deadline to implement the reform or face falling behind the rest of the nations in what became a tightly contested group.</p> <p>For a reform to pass however, it needs to be agreed upon by both entities in Bosnia: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska, where the process was being held up. This is specifically where the element of luck came into play. At the end of the Bosnian domestic season Borac Banja Luka (from the Republika Srpska) had won the domestic championship for the first time since the competition's creation in 1995, winning a much coveted place in the UEFA Champions league qualifiers. Without the implementation of the reforms, the club would be banned from competing in the tournament. As soon as this became apparent, the reforms were passed without a hitch.</p> <p>The national team has come a long way since that night in Moldova in October 2007. Qualification for the World Cup will merely cement the progress that has been made. What is perhaps more important about this team is the way it has patched the legacies of the 1992 &ndash; 1995 Bosnian war. In this sense, football has done more to achieve success than many other institutions in the country. While ethnic politics has been the norm in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the national football team has shown that an alternative does exist. </p><p>The power of football, and sport in general to act as a tool towards reconciliation should in no way be underestimated. During a trip to Sarajevo on the 10&nbsp;October 2013, FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter praised the Bosnian national team for becoming &lsquo;<em>a symbol of reconciliation and union for the whole country, thus once again demonstrating the powerful role of football in society</em>&rsquo;. Regardless of your opinion about Sepp Blatter, a man facing his own accusations of corruption, his comment in Sarajevo is not far off the mark.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>It is the multi-ethnic make-up of the squad in particular that serves as proof of the capacity for cooperation amongst the three predominant ethnic groups in the country. It was a sublime over the top ball played by Zvjezdan Misimovic (an ethnic Serb and Bosnia&rsquo;s most capped player) that put Edin Dzeko (an ethnic Bosniak and Bosnia&rsquo;s record goal scorer) through on goal to open the scoring against Liechtenstein on 11 October. It was this same partnership that made Wolfsburg such an attacking force on its way to the German Bundesliga title in 2009. </p><p>The fact is that on the football pitch a pass does not discriminate between a Muslim and an Orthodox Christian. Miralem Pjanic (an ethnic Bosniak) will not refuse a pass from Miroslav Stevanovic (an ethnic Serb) because of events that took place while they were children and were far beyond their control. It is the trust that the goalkeeper Asmir Begovic (an ethnic Bosniak raised in Canada) has in defenders Emir Spahic (an ethnic Bosniak born in Croatia), Boris Pandza (an ethnic Croat) and up until recently Sasa Papac (an ethnic Serb) that has ensured the team has only conceded 6 goals this campaign. For those 90 minutes, any differences are set aside for the good of the team. They may not be forgotten, but for at least those 90 minutes they are not relevant. Maintaining these prejudices would only result in the teams own demise, a lesson that much of the country is yet to learn.</p> <p>We should however not be under any illusions. The national football team does not reflect the Bosnian society that exists today but merely presents an image of what it could become, given the right conditions. The game on Tuesday, win or lose, will not heal old wounds; it will not ease the economic conditions thousands of people in the country find themselves in; and it will not put Bosnia back on the track towards EU membership. </p><p>While the national football team is the dream, club football in the country remains the reality. Club football across the world is by its very nature tribal and divisive, but it is more so the case in Bosnia, where these tribal allegiances with local clubs also become associated with allegiances to ethnic groups. Clashes between fans and supporters of clubs from different ethnic groups are not uncommon. Most recently in April 2013, a large altercation broke out between fans of NK Zeljeznicar Sarajevo (Bosniak) and Borac Banja Luka (ethnic Serb) in which 35 fans and 7 police officers were injured. </p><p>Nazi flags have also been an occasional fixture at Siroki Brijeg (ethnic Croat) over the past few seasons. They have been used as a way to antagonize clubs of ethnic Serbian origin in particular. Events such as these illustrate just how long the country has to go before old wounds are healed.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>What it will do is provide some much needed relief for a country fatigued with the sluggish EU integration progress, the rising food prices and the ethnic bickering that defines daily political life in the country. More importantly however, it will serve as proof that the current status quo in BiH, whereby politics is seen as a zero sum game between the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska is no longer an undeniable fact, but a self sustaining construct that can be altered. </p><p>Only once this truth is realised can the country begin to follow in the footsteps of its national football team.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/edin-dedovic/bosnia%E2%80%99s-baby-revolution-is-protest-movement-coming-of-age">Bosnia’s baby revolution: is the protest movement coming of age?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/igor-%C5%A0tiks/%E2%80%98we-are-all-in-this-together%E2%80%99-civic-awakening-in-bosnia-herzegovina">‘We are all in this together’: a civic awakening in Bosnia-Herzegovina </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Bosnia and Herzegovina </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? openSecurity Bosnia and Herzegovina Reconciliation and Peacebuilding Edin Dedovic Spotlight on Bosnia Joining the dots on football in Europe Peacebuilding Mon, 14 Oct 2013 09:29:05 +0000 Edin Dedovic 76035 at Where Turkish politics meets football: AKP's offside goal against 'Çarşı' <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="FreeForm">ÇARŞI are being painted as the&nbsp;culprits of the&nbsp;pitch invasion and violence of the Sunday game. However,&nbsp;the 'losing side' of the incident is also ÇARŞI and the wider Beşiktaş fan base, a clear contradiction in terms.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="FreeForm">The derby match between Besiktas and Galatasaray that was played in Istanbul was abandoned at the 90+2nd minute after an <a href="">eruption of violence</a> resulted in a pitch invasion.&nbsp;Foreign papers and local news reports alike have concentrated their coverage on the presence of violence without really probing the consequences or the underlying reasons why this event took place in the first place. Conveniently, we have also stopped questioning issues surrounding the AKP's recent conduct or the 'democracy package' that the AKP have been promising to announce for the past 3 weeks.</p> <p class="FreeForm">Right after the game, the social media -&nbsp;including comments from AKP deputies and associates -was riddled with attacks against 'ÇARŞI', the fan group of the Beşiktaş football club. Thus, it is evident that ÇARŞI are being painted as the&nbsp;culprits of the&nbsp;pitch invasion and violence of the Sunday game. However, since Beşiktaş will now be banned from having supporters present at its games,&nbsp;the 'losing side' of the incident is also ÇARŞI and the wider Beşiktaş fan base, a clear contradiction in terms.</p> <p class="FreeForm">To highlight the inadequacies in this account of events, that a bunch of Beşiktaş supporters got frustrated by a player being booked and raided the pitch, you have to appreciate something of the climate in which the football season has kicked off, and in particular, ÇARŞI's centrality in the protest movement against the AKP throughout the summer months in Turkey.&nbsp;</p> <h2>The recent politicisation of sports in Turkey</h2> <p class="FreeForm">In the post-Gezi Park occupation climate, Turkey has truly become a police state. Independent of any argument for or against the need for a police presence and their conduct, their sheer presence and encroachment on daily life in urban Istanbul is a simple fact of life. There are tens of police vans and thousands of riot police stationed 24/7 in central locations around Istanbul. Moreover, they conduct bag searches at will and end up tear gassing up and down residential neighborhoods more often than not.</p> <p class="FreeForm">PM&nbsp;Erdoğan had announced that a series of measures would be taken to prevent stadiums and university campuses from becoming major protest venues as the football season and the academic year was about to begin.&nbsp;In relation to politics and sport, a series of statements were made that announced measures such as; the outlawing of political chants at stadiums; the replacement of private security officers with policemen; breathalyser testing; profiling etc..</p> <p class="FreeForm">Following the crackdown on Gezi Park and the dispersal of demonstrators, as a public space where citizens congregate, football stadiums have indeed become spaces where citizens voiced their support for the Gezi demonstrations and their protest against the AKP regime. The chant "Everywhere is Taksim, everywhere is resistance" was echoed in all first week Turkish league fixtures in late August. To a lesser degree, these chants are still ongoing.</p> <p class="FreeForm">I say to a lesser degree because prior to the start of the season,&nbsp;the Interior Minister <a href=";nid=51773">warned</a>&nbsp;that politically motivated chants were illegal at football games, giving an indication as to what those bold enough to raise their voices in opposition to the AKP publicly could expect.&nbsp;At another point, in the context of politically motivated chants at stadiums, the Minister of Sports <a href="">stated</a> that Turkey had been combating terrorism for 30 odd years and that they would not shy away now. These examples go to show the government's preference for using the stick and treating its own frustrated citizens as terrorists. Very fitting when considering all along the issue has been a lack of democratic governance.</p> <p class="FreeForm">The conservative clampdown of the AKP with regards to alcohol restrictions were also initiated in September, including breathalyser tests at football stadiums that result in the barring of supporters who are 'found guilty' of being over the alcohol limit. A new electronic ticketing system has also been introduced at stadiums which involves the monitoring and profiling of football fans.&nbsp;In sum, football has been a pain to watch (live and on screen) with the ridiculous number of police present at all matches since the beginning of the 2013-2014 league and all the invasive measures taken to 'depoliticise' football.</p> <p class="FreeForm">Most games have created some sort of newsworthy headline one way or another. Either through LigTV's - the TV provider of the Turkish League - complicit support of the AKP government by muting the voice of fans at the stadium chanting against the government, or through reports that highlight the tension amongst supporters that were in support/opposition of the AKP.</p> <p class="FreeForm">All in all, the AKP are indeed to blame for bringing politics into football through measures that they&nbsp; have taken to profile supporters, crack down on the opposition and marginalise opposition groups. This latest incident at the derby game and the scapegoating of ÇARŞI is precisely an attempt at punishing a body that has been vocal against the AKP.&nbsp;</p> <h2>ÇARŞI and the derby game&nbsp;</h2> <p class="FreeForm">The Beşiktaş's supporter group 'ÇARŞI' was one of the most vocal bodies to have stood up in support of the Gezi protests and the whole movement against the AKP from the beginning. Needless to say, the authorities have been eager to contain ÇARŞI. This was already highlighted through the&nbsp;<a href="">arrest of numerous ÇARŞI members</a>&nbsp;in the very first waves when the 'mastermind' culprits behind the Gezi movement were being 'unearthed' in the witch-hunt that started in June.&nbsp;</p> <p class="FreeForm">I wasn't at the football game on Sunday. I wasn't even in Istanbul. However, testimonies from people who were at the stadium and reports from the media highlight very clearly the unique conditions at the game on Sunday. Although security at stadiums have been upped due to a general increase in police presence at public places, only 500 policemen and 1500 private security guards were commissioned for the derby game.&nbsp;In the run up to the game, newspapers reported on a national record high attendance for the game where over <a href="">77,000 tickets were sold</a>.</p> <p class="FreeForm">In comparison, a<a href="">t another derby</a> on August 18 between Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe (played in Kayseri), 2000 policemen and 1000 security officers were commissioned.&nbsp;I'm not trying to defend high levels of police at stadiums as the way to tackle any problem, but I do find it puzzling that the authorities would commission less police for a vastly larger crowd which has been known to be the most vocal critic of the government.</p> <p class="FreeForm">Moreover, whereas the police had taken over the responsibility for physical searches and screenings for football fans entering the stadium in the afore-mentioned derby game in mid-August, searches for the derby on Sunday were lax to say the least. Many first hand accounts mention the surprising lack of any real body searches that have accompanied other league games this season.</p> <p class="FreeForm">Then there was the recent creation of an alternative Beşiktaş supporter group called '1453' (the year Istanbul was conquered - very neo-Ottoman). Mehmet Baransu from Taraf Newspaper <a href="">elaborates</a> on traces on the internet that highlight links between AKP's youth organisations and this new 1453 Beşiktaş group. Moreover, on his Facebook page, one of the AKP's youth leaders is careless enough to boast how he got free tickets for the game and was personally one of the first to invade the pitch.</p> <h2>So what does this all mean?&nbsp;</h2> <p class="FreeForm">On the one hand, a&nbsp;police force that has been extensively used at sports events were withdrawn or 'under-represented' for the most packed game in Turkish football history. On the other, free tickets were given to members of an alternative Beşiktaş supporter group that was formed in opposition specifically in relation to ÇARŞI's Anti-AKP stance. This group was seated right in front of the pitch and were one of the first groups onto the pitch.</p> <p class="FreeForm">What is most important is the apparent link between the AKP and '1453', which suggests that the AKP had a hand in attempts at placing a wedge amongst Beşiktaş supporters. Regardless of '1453', ÇARŞI or any organised group, a football game where over 80,000 people were present was cancelled because there was an invasion of the pitch by men hurling plastic seats and wielding lethal weapons. (Add to the mix the fact that local elections are coming up and that the campaign is well under way with transportation promotion adverts on every billboard)&nbsp;</p> <p class="FreeForm">Beşiktaş will now be banned from playing in front of its supporters, meaning no more anti-AKP chants. As far as the AKP are concerned, this is a positive outcome. There is an upcoming fixture where Beşiktaş play Rize Spor in Erdoğan's hometown. Then there is of course the Istanbul games in Kasımpaşa. Whichever way you look at it , this looks like bending the rules of the game to say the least, and it may still have to be counted as an ‘offside goal’.</p> <p class="Body">&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/aslan-amani/football-in-turkey-force-for-liberalisation-and-modernity">Football in Turkey: A force for liberalisation and modernity?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Turkey </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? North-Africa West-Asia Turkey Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government International politics Turkish Dawn Derya Lawrence Joining the dots on football in Europe You tell us Sat, 28 Sep 2013 19:43:59 +0000 Derya Lawrence 75703 at Proud to be German? Football and the fear of nationalism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Though some fans are enthusiastic, even proud of today's multi-ethnic, multi-racial German football teams, taking pride in Germany is troubled by the historic affiliation of nationalism and racism.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-caption"><img src="" alt="" width="460" height="306" />Germany fans watch a match between their team and Sweden during the 2006 World Cup. Flickr/Lord Khan. Some rights reserved.</p><p>This past weekend, the German national football team won the European Women's Championship for the eighth time. Last week, people crowded around a television screen to watch the semi-finals at a beer garden in Berlin. There were no German flags decorating the garden, the most widely recognisable symbol of newfound German nationalism that becomes a topic of conversation whenever the men's national team plays in a World Cup or European Championship. In contrast to the fan base of the women's team, the fans of the men's national team are pointed to for their burgeoning nationalism, often seen as reason for concern in contemporary German society.</p> <p>Although the stereotype of German aversion to overt symbols of nationalism has become well-known in the previous decades, sensitivity to outbursts of patriotism is evident in the many fan groups and local organisations dedicated to ridding the sport of racism and discrimination. In Germany, where wariness of various strands of discrimination is widespread, racism seems to be a more openly acknowledged counterpart to nationalism. German flags at football games or viewings have become normalised over the past few years, alarming anyone who sees these displays as signs of a growing tendency towards mainstream nationalism. A number of players in Bundesliga clubs, as well as in the national team, are either themselves immigrants to Germany or are the children of immigrants. Though some fans are enthusiastic, even proud of today's multi-ethnic, multi-racial German football teams, taking pride in Germany is troubled by the historic affiliation of nationalism and racism.</p> <p>Andreas Hellstab is director of the German branch of Show Racism the Red Card, a Europe-wide organisation that works with teams and fans in anti-racism workshops. The German flag as an accessory for fans became markedly more present in 2006, the year Germany hosted the World Cup, says Hellstab. &ldquo;It was an orchestrated party event that took place in Germany. People saw it more as a party and less as a sporting event. They wore jerseys and hung flags on their cars.&rdquo; Although flags have noticeably remained a constant at the World Cup and European Championships since 2006, Hellstab and others see Germany's hosting debut as a watershed: before that championship fans who waved or wore flags to watch games in public were not commonplace.</p> <p>During the 2010 World Cup, Berlin media reported that a store owner of Lebanese descent hung a huge German flag outside his electronics store in the working class Neuk&ouml;lln neighbourhood - only to replace it twice after the flag was stolen. The store owner, who was verbally challenged by a number of critical passers-by, referred to the culprits as opponents of German nationalism. For some German leftist movements, epitomised by the &ldquo;Anti-Germans&rdquo; group, German nationalism is a central problem, and the display of the German flag can trigger angry protest.</p> <p>Among the flag-covered items that suddenly show up every two years on television and in public places showing games, party glasses and underwear are now classic instruments of silliness. Though many people concerned by a potential new wave of brewing nationalism take the public display of the German flag seriously, the sheer silliness of some of the flag-covered merchandise has deterred some observers from naming these a real threat. Sports historian Diethelm Blecking calls this kind of display of the German flag a "deconstruction of this symbol," adding, "I wouldn't call that nationalism. Nationalism is activated by a program, a social movement."</p> <p>A bigger threat to football fan culture, as well as to Germany's society of tolerance, is the infiltration of fan groups by far-right extremists in professional German clubs, said Blecking. The far-right NPD party has organised in local clubs and in ultra groups; during the 2006 World Cup, the party sponsored posters attacking non-white players in the German national team. Borussia Dortmund, which came in second place in this year's Champions League final, has recently attracted attention for a prominent group of neo-Nazis in its fan base.</p> <p>Although some fan groups are by now notorious for their far-right members, Blecking argues that German ultras are politically diverse. Fans from far-right groups have increasingly made themselves less conspicuous in stadium crowds. According to Patrick Gorschl&uuml;ter, spokesman for the Association of Active Football Fans (BAFF), video surveillance has virtually wiped out obvious signs or flags from far-right groups at games. "Now there's video surveillance in every large football stadium. Although in the 1980s and 90s it was totally normal for a Reich War Flag to be hanging on a fence in the stadium, people would likely get caught on camera and be written up for showing banned symbols". As a result of surveillance, Gorschl&uuml;ter said, hooliganism has drastically declined as well.</p> <p>The German Football Association (DFB), for its part, has pushed reforms that address intolerance and racism in local clubs and in the national teams. The 2006 World Cup in Germany provided stimulus for a widespread rethinking of how the organisation, the world's largest sports association, might be tainted by decades-old legacies of German nationalism. "After the Second World War, there wasn't a single DFB president who wasn't from the CDU (the moderate-right Christian Democratic Party)," said Blecking.</p> <p>In preparing for the 2006 World Cup, the DFB turned to its early 20th century history, establishing the <a href="">Julius Hirsch Prize</a>, named after the pre-war Jewish footballer who became a star of the German national team before falling foul of Nazi-era racial laws and being deported to Auschwitz where he later died. The prize has been awarded annually since 2005 to groups that work to combat intolerance or discrimination in German football. Among the other DFB-sponsored initiatives leading up to the World Cup was a historical monograph on football during the Third Reich and the DFB's own role in Nazi Germany. "In the last 10-12 years,&rdquo; Blecking said, &ldquo;a national-conservative association has transformed into an association that sees itself as a global player and that presents itself as modern."</p> <p>As the DFB continues to invest in anti-discrimination programs and advertising, the German national team, as well as the Bundesliga's most prominent clubs, have grown more successful, and, as a result, have become more popular among fans. The Euro crisis, which has been blamed for the emergence of a new kind of self-congratulatory German pride, hovered around media coverage of the 2012 European Championship as the German team faced rivals from southern European countries. Next year, when the German team heads to Brazil for the World Cup, interest in the effects of the championship on German fans' self-perception is likely to resurface. Whereas nationalism has for decades been a concern of some fans and other groups within Germany, international awareness of pride tied to German success is growing.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/catherine-stupp/my-turkey-berlin-immigration-and-amateur-football-scene">&#039;My Turkey&#039;: Berlin, immigration and the amateur football scene</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/ivan-djordjevic/red-star-serbia-never-yugoslavia-football-politics-and-national-i">&quot;Red Star Serbia, never Yugoslavia!&quot; Football, politics and national identity in Serbia</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Germany </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Germany Football Politics Society Catherine Stupp Spotlight on Germany Joining the dots on football in Europe Tue, 30 Jul 2013 15:14:25 +0000 Catherine Stupp 74390 at Football in Turkey: A force for liberalisation and modernity? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The relationship between football and society in Turkey is unique and complex. Behind the corruption and fanaticism lies a culture that is challenging outdated social attitudes and leading Turkey's European aspirations.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-caption"><img src="" alt="" width="460" height="259" /><span class="image-caption">More than 41,000 women and children filled Sukru Saracoglu Stadium to watch Fenerbahce play against Manisapor in Istanbul on 20 September 2011. Turkey came up with a radical solution for tackling crowd violence at football matches - ban the men and let only women and children in. Under new rules approved by Turkey's football association, only women and children under the age of 12 will be admitted to watch games - for free - involving teams which have been sanctioned for unruly behavior by their fans. Flickr/Football Gallery. All rights reserved.</span></p><p>The kick-off in an Istanbul derby (between Galatasaray, Fenerbahce, and Besiktas) is said to not just start a football match, but also "pause life for 90 minutes" in the entire Turkey. The passion with which Turks follow football is is well known even beyond the country's borders. From Paolo Maldini to Sir Alex Ferguson, from Pierluigi Collina to Ryan Giggs, the heavyweights of the game have attested to the zeal of Turkish football fans. Giggs, for instance, characterized his appearance against Galatasaray in Istanbul's Ali Sami Yen stadium as "one of those memories that will always stick with you".</p> <p>Football, however, is not just a hugely popular and competitive sport. It is also a major social force transcending, crisscrossing, and at times, reinforcing gender, ethnicity, ideology and other fault lines. The national and international media have widely covered corruption, violence, and other negativities surrounding Turkish football, drawing attention to the dangerous levels of football fanaticism, while the more positive consequences of the game have gone largely unnoticed. In reality, the unruly passion and antagonism of fans, the bickering of club directors and the cacophony of stadiums disguise a force with mindbogglingly complex social effects.</p> <h2><strong>A universalizing and modernizing force?</strong></h2> <p>Caught between its Ottoman roots and European aspirations, Turkey is a country in search of a new identity, a familiar argument goes. If this is true, football could be one of the major forces that tip the scales in favour of Europe. In each football season, the eighteen clubs playing in the top tier of Turkish football (the Turkish Super League &ndash; TSL) compete to earn a place in UEFA competitions. Most people never come into contact with the Customs Union or the EU accession talks, but millions of fans live through their favourite team's journey to succeed at the European stage &ndash; week in, week out. It should not be an overstatement to say that, for many, football is one of their country's most important gateways to Europe.</p> <p>Besides playing a role in the country's integration into Europe, football punctures parochialism in other ways. It erodes regional boundaries if not totally transgress them. Regional rivalries cannot resist the fact that football market is strictly performance and profit oriented. Players who do not do well in Istanbul end up in another part of the country (or vice versa), while there is an even bigger flow of players and coaches between different regional clubs competing in the first and second tiers. Given that Turkey is a country with relatively strong regional identities, the way football moves people around the country &ndash; and with each move alters allegiances &ndash; is remarkable. &nbsp;</p> <p>Football also affects the facts and perceptions of multiculturalism. For instance, the Istanbul three enjoy a Turkey-wide appeal. Particularly, Galatasaray is thought to have a huge level of support in Turkey's fragile South East among the country's Kurdish population. In the late 1980s and the 1990s when the Kurdish insurgency peaked, the government attempted to make the most out of this social capital by hosting some Turkish cup matches in various towns in the South East of the country. Although in the hands of the state, this can turn into a tool for social engineering and manipulation of ethnic sensitivities, on its own, it is an important source of binding ties between different ethnic subgroups. </p> <p>In addition to its universalizing role, Turkish football plays a related modernizing role. The most conspicuous example is the increasing presence of women in Turkey's stadiums. Over the past decade, a TSL match has become an appealing choice for dates and weekend entertainment for families. This has taken football from being a primarily male pastime into a spectator sport both genders can enjoy.</p> <p>The extent of these changes became clear in 2011, when the Turkish Football Association (TFF) introduced "women and children only" matches to penalise clubs whose fans repeatedly violated the fair play code. In several Fenerbahce games, nearly 50,000 female spectators packed the stadium. More recently, Galatasaray chairman Unal Aysal included two prominent women in his re-election ticket, and one of them &ndash; popular soloist, song-writer, and educator Candan Ercetin &ndash; went on to become the club's deputy chair. Given the social stature of football, the improved presence of Turkish women in the stadiums serves the larger goal of improving women's public presence as equals.</p> <p>The incorporation methods of Turkish football clubs also matters. In Turkey, football clubs are not as heavily commercialized as in Europe's other strong football economies. They have a legal status similar to other non-profit organisations, and are mostly responsible to their members who pay yearly dues rather than own shares. Some big clubs such as Galatasaray and Fenerbahce do have a partial presence in the stock market, but even these clubs cannot resist the financial incentives attached to remaining as non-commercial organisations.</p> <p>The clubs' legal status and organisational structure pave the way for two kinds of influence. First, they open up a space for social experimentation. The clubs engage with other parts of civil society &ndash; they run social, educational programs, and become places of social learning in the Tocquevillian sense.</p> <p>Moreover, when organised as non-commercial entities, football clubs are more susceptible to being influenced by supporter groups. Despite the fact that the latter are sometimes internally hierarchical, they can act in ways that puncture hierarchies in relation to the boards of directors and wider social and political structures. For instance, it is common for organised fans to force powerful business tycoons and political families out of club directorship. Also, two years ago Galatasaray drew the ire of the governing AKP after Prime Minister Erdogan was booed in the opening ceremony of the club's new stadium. More remarkably, over the past month, we have seen the fan groups from the Istanbul three play an important role in the organisation of the 'Gezi Park' protests.</p> <p>To be sure, football in Turkey is not bereft of reactionary views such as sexism and homophobia. But the important point to note is that football is not the primary locus of these regressive movements as in many other European countries. Unfortunately, in Turkey reactionary conservatism has other more political channels through which it can be expressed.</p> <h2><strong>Football and the State</strong></h2> <p>The flip side of the coin depicts a nasty entanglement of football and politics. The Turkish political elites' penchant for football peaked following the 1980 coup d'&eacute;tat. One of the first and most eccentric moves of the junta leader turned head of state Kenan Evren was to promote Angaragucu FC to the TSL on the grounds that the capital city "deserved" to have a club in the top tier. Over the next decade, politicians of all stripes were discovering the electoral potential of football &ndash; particularly of being photographed sitting next to the chairmen of the Istanbul three &ndash; and strived to maintain a strong presence in the stadiums.</p> <p>Although the government formally gave up its role in running the TFF in 1992 in order to avoid being banned from international competitions by the FIFA and UEFA, politics and football continue to interact, often illicitly. For instance, it is commonly assumed that to become the TFF chairperson good relations with the political leadership is a must.</p> <p>Football and politics continue to intersect in more subtle, yet unethical ways, frequently breeding clientelism and corruption.&nbsp; Businessmen look to the post of club directorship as a way of gaining political clout and social prestige. Being in charge of a football club is akin to owning a media group; if manipulated in "the right way", it can turn into a noteworthy amount of political capital. Also, chairmen and directors can use their status as a shield against prosecution for financial and other kinds of wrong-doing, and continue to engage in illicit economic activity with a sense of impunity.</p> <p>A new round of allegations concerning the government's intervention in football picked up steam in July 2011, when the Turkish police arrested a group of influential football directors, head coaches, active footballers, and other interested parties in what turned out to be the country's biggest sports-related scandal. Those detained faced accusations of running a criminal network to fix the results of hundreds of football matches.</p> <p>The Fenerbahce chairman Aziz Yildirim &ndash; a controversial figure who has made a fortune in the arms trade, and has long been accused by his rivals of partaking in extra-legal activities &ndash; has been the man at the centre of the match-fixing scandal. In the course of the trial, Mr Yildirim and his defence team argued that Fenerbahce was being singled out by the Erdogan government for being one of the last bastions of Kemalism. The Prime Minister &ndash; himself an ardent Fenerbahce fan and a former semi-professional footballer &ndash; has laughed off the allegations. Yildirim's rivals have not questioned the political overtones of the process, but have claimed that the Prime Minister has intervened in favour of Fenerbahce by installing one of his allies as the TFF chairman to protect the club from relegation.</p> <p>Whether Prime Minister Erdogan has anything to do with the prosecution of Mr Yildirim and his associates, or not, the scandal brings the political undertones of Turkish football to the fore. There seems to be a kernel of historical truth in the alleged connection between the Kemalist camp and Fenerbahce. While their arch-rival Galatasaray has been associated with its Westward looking Lyceum (one of the oldest educational institutions in the country), Fenerbahce has for decades proudly showcased its good ties with the military establishment. One of the first decisions of Mr Yildirim at the helm of the club was to name the Fenerbahce Stadium after the World War II era Prime Minister Sukru Saracoglu &ndash; a popular figure among the pro-establishment forces, also known for his Nazi sympathies and for authoring a wealth tax that disproportionately targeted the non-Muslim minorities.</p> <p>The coming months will test the relationship of football and politics in a more conspicuous way. Now that the UEFA has concluded its own investigation, and has expelled Fenerbahce from the next three seasons of European competitions and Besiktas from the 2013/14 Europa Cup campaign, the TFF will have a lot of explaining to do. For instance, it is strange that despite being subject to one of the harshest penalties in UEFA's history (the three year expulsion announced on June 25 plus the one year ban served in 2011), Fenerbahce has not faced any disciplinary action in the domestic league. Equally bizarre is the fact that Yildirim Demiroren, the chairman of Besiktas when the club committed the match-fixing offences, was abruptly picked for the TFF chairmanship;&nbsp; a move that, some observers thought, was made possible by Demiroren's amicable ties to the Prime Minister.</p> <p>In Turkey football continues to be a social force with a mixed record. It can be a site of ethno-religious bigotry, homophobia, but also it can be a progressive social force with a potential to advance multiculturalism, internationalism and gender equality. It has been witnessed to have a positive influence on political processes and also has become entangled in the more ugly aspects of politics. As a mitigating factor, one should also note that the fierceness of the competition between the Istanbul three and the regional representativeness of most Turkish governments have minimized the impact of the state-football interaction on any one club.</p> <p>To sum up, football deserves some distance and independence from political engineering. The above suggests that many of the progressive effects of football are products of its more spontaneous aspects. Football seems to have some considerable potential as a space of freedom and experimentation. An overzealous football association (which is susceptible to being influenced by the political leaderships) that tries to control every aspect of football, including its unintended consequences, not only risks strengthening the wrong kinds of social impact but also can disrupt the spontaneous good that arises from the game.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/ivan-djordjevic/red-star-serbia-never-yugoslavia-football-politics-and-national-i">&quot;Red Star Serbia, never Yugoslavia!&quot; Football, politics and national identity in Serbia</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/dario-brentin/nations-most-holy-institution-football-and-construction-of-croatian-national-identity">The Nation&#039;s Most Holy Institution: football and the construction of Croatian national identity</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Turkey </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Turkey Turkish Dawn Football Politics Society Aslan Amani Joining the dots on football in Europe Fri, 19 Jul 2013 16:56:58 +0000 Aslan Amani 74178 at "Red Star Serbia, never Yugoslavia!" Football, politics and national identity in Serbia <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In the years before the war football fans from the former Yugoslavia had a sort of premilitary training in the stadia. Soon they would exchange the flags and banners for rifles and bombs.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-caption"><img src="" alt="" width="460" height="345" />A mural outside the Red Star stadium. Wikimedia commons/Darwinek. Some rights reserved.</p><p>As Jean-Paul Sartre observed, &ldquo;In football, everything is complicated by the presence of the opposite team.&rdquo; Applied to the situation in Yugoslavia at the end of the 1980s, football was very complicated indeed.</p> <p>During that period, football stadia across the country became breeding grounds for nationalist conflicts, especially between football fans from Serbia and Croatia. Yugoslavia, at that point, was facing deep internal crises, economic as well as political, while interethnic tensions between the constituent nations were driving the country further towards what seemed like an inevitable dissolution.</p> <p>Like most of Western Europe during the 1980s, Yugoslavia had serious problems to do with hooliganism and football violence. While in Britain, Margaret Thatcher was cracking down on the so called &ldquo;slum game played in slum stadiums watched by slum people&rdquo;, the roots of football related violence in Yugoslavia were of a different nature. </p> <p>Newly formed fan groups, created mostly during that decade, very soon changed their focus from regular football rivalry to national issues. Chants of ethnic hatred echoed around stadia &ndash; more incredible if one considers that overt displays of nationalism were a still a crime in Yugoslavia. The stadium became the &ldquo;national vanguard&rdquo;, a voice amplifier for nationalist rhetoric, creating a vast space for manipulation within the beautiful game.</p> <h2><strong>The war did (not) begin at Maksimir</strong></h2> <p>Things came to a head at the club game between Dynamo Zagreb vs. Red Star Belgrade on 13 May 1990. The venue was Maksimir stadium in Zagreb and the riots began before the match had even kicked off. The game was never finished, and it&rsquo;s a miracle it was even started. The riots set off a chain of events which heavily influenced the ongoing crisis in Yugoslavia on a political as well as symbolic level.</p> <p>The match between Dynamo and Red Star was played two weeks after the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), under the leadership of Franjo Tu&#273;man, won the first free parliamentary elections in Croatia. The HDZ&rsquo;s ultra-nationalistic program, complementary to that of the successors of the Communist Party under Slobodan Milo&scaron;evi&#263;, did not inspire hope for a peaceful solution to the Yugoslav crisis. In this respect, the actions of the two fan groups &ndash; Red Star&rsquo;s Delijes and Dynamo&rsquo;s Bad Blue Boys &ndash; was not the least bit surprising.</p> <p>The war of course did not begin at Maksimir, but the epilogue of this never ended game wasn&rsquo;t just a massive fight between the supporters and the police, but also some important political machinations, most notably Croatian police evicting the Serbian managerial staff from the stadium. The riots on Maksimir stadium just accelerated the on-going process of disintegration, while football - thanks to the phrase &ldquo;The war started at Maksimir&rdquo;, which was coined and heavily exploited immediately after the match - became an inevitable symbolic factor in explanations of the Yugoslav crisis.</p> <h2><strong>Ritual violence goes real</strong></h2> <p>The consequences of this marriage between football and nationalism weren&rsquo;t just symbolic. In May 1991, Red Star Belgrade achieved the greatest success in Yugoslav footballing history, by winning the European Champion Clubs' Cup (precursor to the Champions League). This extraordinary success wasn&rsquo;t perceived only as a huge sporting triumph - the club&rsquo;s outstanding result was actually seen as an accomplishment of the whole Serbian nation, despite the fact that the Red Star squad represented the whole of Yugoslavia, with its team containing star players from almost every nation of the country. </p> <p>However, the Serbian regime and its ideologists used this success as a way to stoke the flames of ethnic nationalism that were pervading the country. It was even claimed that Red Star, together with the Belgrade daily newspaper <em>Politika</em> and the Serbian Academy of Science and Arts, represents one of so-called &ldquo;Pillars of Serbhood&rdquo;. At the same time, and especially after the Maksimir riots, the most extreme parts of Red Star fan group fell under the influence of &#381;eljko Ra&#382;natovi&#263; (Arkan), a notorious criminal later indicted by the International Criminal Court for War Crimes in The Hague. </p><p>Under Arkan&rsquo;s command, the Serbian Volunteers Squad was formed, the majority of which came from the Red Star&rsquo;s Delije group, while a large number of the Croatian football fan groups joined the units of the Croatian army in the making. As noted by Serbian ethnologist Ivan &#268;olovi&#263;, in the years before the war football fans from the former Yugoslavia had a sort of premilitary training in the stadia. Soon they would exchange the flags and banners for rifles and bombs.</p> <p>Hence, starting from the end of the 1980s, the stadia across former Yugoslavia served as a vanguard for the forthcoming eruption of ethnic violence. The virtual shift from ritual violence to real and bloody warfare, and the dominant nationalist politics in the states became social actors with strong political influence. When ritual aggression overflowed from the stadia to other social spaces, violence became socially and politically legitimized. The entire social milieu during the 1990s functioned in this key, allowing for the violence and aggression to become normal social behaviour and a legitimate way of achieving political goals.</p> <p>Croatian sociologist Srdjan Vrcan argues that through a specific synergy of the state, para-state and ostensibly reprivatized violence, fan groups were no longer condemned as hooligans. They deserved a new status; one legitimised through alleged patriotism.</p> <p>However, <a href="">in comparison with similar cases like in neighbouring Croatia</a>, Serbia&rsquo;s unique development during the 1990s prevented the national football team from playing a major role in national homogenization. The national squad during the 1990s actually played under the name and symbols of Yugoslavia, representing the country constituted only by Serbia and Montenegro, but still keeping the symbols of the former state, like the national anthem and the flag, though without the socialist five-pointed star symbol. </p><p>The symbolic heritage of the former state wasn&rsquo;t at all acceptable for the &ldquo;proven patriots&rdquo; of the fan groups, hence the games of the national team were massively boycotted. Even if the crowd was present in the stadium, the obligatory part of the ritual was booing the national anthem, or chanting slogans like: &ldquo;Red Star Serbia, never Yugoslavia!&rdquo; The only exceptions were matches against the &ldquo;old foes&rdquo;, such as a match against Croatia in 1999. </p> <h2><strong>Football fans as a political factor</strong></h2> <p>After the fall of the Milosevic regime in October 2000, the new Serbian government promoted a politics radically different from the old style, officially distancing themselves from former nationalistic projects. These radical changes, though, didn&rsquo;t correspond very much with reality, from everyday politics to football. </p> <p>Actually, the opposite happened. Extreme football fans kept their positions unaffected due to their mythic role in overthrowing Milosevic and his regime. According to legend, the real struggle against the Milosevic regime started at the Red Star stadium after massive riots and fights with the police. </p> <p>The &ldquo;true patriots&rdquo; now gained a new aura of &ldquo;revolutionary heroes&rdquo;, additionally strengthening their legitimacy and authority regarding many political issues, with a special emphasis on topics connected with the question of the so-called &ldquo;national interest&rdquo;.</p> <p>Consequently, the new government continued to treat fan groups as a relevant political subject. As a result, a significant number of incidents happened during the first decade of 2000s, starting with political slogans such as &ldquo;Kosovo is Serbia&rdquo;, and an open support of those indicted for war crimes, such as Ratko Mladi&#263; or Radovan Karad&#382;i&#263;, along with open outbursts of ethnic hatred, including banners with slogans such as &ldquo;Knife, Wire, Srebrenica&rdquo;.</p> <p>None of these incidents have been prosecuted, nor has there been much of a wider public condemnation. Political legitimacy of football fans and their influence on everyday politics could be seen in the case of the banned Gay Pride Manifestation in 2011, when the government, mainly under the pressure of extreme football fans, decided to cancel the event with the explanation that it was not possible to guarantee the safety to the participants. </p> <p>Despite the fact that the publicly proclaimed political goals of the contemporary government in Serbia, to some extent, represents a discontinuity with the former nationalist projects, these narratives are still present in the discourse of football. A good example is a statement given by the former president of the Red Star Football Club: &ldquo;To be a Red Star fan means to be a Serb! They tried to destroy us, to impose some Yugoslav clubs as a Serbian brand, to cheat on people. They didn&rsquo;t succeed, because to attack Red Star means to attack Serbia, and the destiny of those who stormed Serbia is well known throughout history!&rdquo; </p> <p>A similar kind of public discourse can be distinguished in the recent case of Adem Ljajic, a Muslim member of the Serbian national team, whose decision not to sing the national anthem led Serbian coach Sinisa Mihajlovic to ban the player from the squad. Referring to the so-called &ldquo;cult of the national team&rdquo;, Mihajlovic has actually perpetuated a well-known mechanism where ethnic and religious identity is seen as equivalent to citizenship. However, a soft reaction from the public, as well as the prevailing condemnation of the coaches&rsquo; decision, suggest that this kind of aspiration towards national homogenization doesn&rsquo;t have the same public support as it used to.</p> <p>Political and cultural elites in Serbia still carefully listen to the messages coming from the stands, whether they get the etiquette of &ldquo;national traitor&rdquo; or &ldquo;true patriot&rdquo;, and the violence coated with patriotism as a higher goal still represents an instrument of pressure in political struggle. Once released and legitimized, the spirit of ethnic hatred can&rsquo;t be easily brought back in the bottle.</p><p> However, the poor state of Serbian football in the neoliberal world, with clubs living on the edge of existence, and the national team without results and support, gives almost no space for any kind of homogenization, national included. If during the 1990s Serbia didn&rsquo;t have enough bread, but had plenty of games, at this point it seems that the country is left without either.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/dario-brentin/nations-most-holy-institution-football-and-construction-of-croatian-national-identity">The Nation&#039;s Most Holy Institution: football and the construction of Croatian national identity</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/sunder-katwala/football-fascism-and-british-0">Football, fascism and the British</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Serbia </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Serbia Football Politics Society Ivan Djordjevic Joining the dots on football in Europe Tue, 16 Jul 2013 10:44:46 +0000 Ivan Djordjevic 74069 at The Nation's Most Holy Institution: football and the construction of Croatian national identity <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>More than religion or war, it is football that is uniquely shaping Croatian national identity in a post-Yugoslav world</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-caption"><img src="" alt="" width="460" height="345" />Croatia fans. Wikimedia. All rights reserved.</p><p>Following Eric Dunning&rsquo;s and Norbert Elias&rsquo; assumption that it is the &lsquo;knowledge about sport [that provides us with] knowledge about society&rsquo;, the social field of sport can be regarded as an expression of a socio-cultural system and a mirror image of the society in which it is established. In the case of post-socialist Croatia, sport including its interpretations, images, metaphors and actual events proved to be a highly politicised form of national expression over the last twenty years. </p><p>Moreover, Croatian sport can be described as a unique source of social knowledge contributing significantly to the formation, establishment and conservation of the newly emerging national identity after the dissolution of socialist Yugoslavia. It was the country&rsquo;s first democratically elected, yet authoritarian, president, Franjo Tu&#273;man, a man convinced that &lsquo;football victories shape a nation&rsquo;s identity as much as wars do&rsquo;, who exhibited a remarkable awareness of the galvanizing effect sport could have on his country. </p><p>During his ten-year-long presidency, sport would become an object to shameless political exploitation often epitomising central (nationalistic) ideological narratives imposed by the government and functioning as an influential transmitter of political and/or symbolic messages. However, more than two decades after the Yugoslav break-up and more than a decade after the end of Tu&#273;man&rsquo;s regime, sport, and particularly football, has remained a central social field in which Croatia&rsquo;s (national) identity is still intensively articulated, debated and contested.</p><h2>Did a football game start the Yugoslav Wars?</h2><p><span>Even today, popular narratives all over the former Yugoslavia suggest that it had been a football match that symbolically initiated the dissolution of the socialist federation &ndash; &lsquo;the day the war started&rsquo;. In the early summer of 1990, during a phase of general political turmoil and insecurity, football-related violence, which had been a widespread social phenomenon for several years, peaked on 13 May at the game between the &lsquo;eternal rivals' in the Yugoslav football league:&nbsp;</span><em>Dinamo Zagreb</em><span> and </span><em>Red Star Belgrade,&nbsp;</em><span>at Zagreb&rsquo;s </span><em>Maksimir</em><span> stadium. </span></p><p><span>The game, listed by CNN as one of <a href="">five games that &lsquo;changed the world&rsquo;</a>, had to be suspended due to violent clashes between the opposing set of fans, still remembered as the &lsquo;</span><em>Maksimir</em><span> riots&rsquo;. Only two weeks after the election of Franjo Tu&#273;man, the tensely awaited game escalated into wild stadium and street fights, with the club&rsquo;s hooligan groups -&nbsp;</span><em>Delije</em><span>, who were headed by the future war criminal and paramilitary leader &#381;eljko Ra&#382;natovi&#263; (Arkan), and the&nbsp;</span><em>Bad Blue Boys</em><span>&nbsp;clashing. It resulted in the worst football riots in Yugoslav sport history.</span></p> <p>Yet, although being a heavily mythologized event, the &lsquo;war&rsquo; did definitely <em>not</em> start at <em>Maksimir</em>. It was much rather the beginning of an accelerating process during which sport would become an important nationalising and homogenising factor in some of the Yugoslav republics. More significantly, the outcome of the 1990 elections and the successive push for independence promulgated by Tu&#273;man and the newly elected Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) government led to a severe disruption of ethnic understanding in the (still) Yugoslav republic. During the summer of 1991 tensions between the Yugoslav republics of Croatia and Serbia and the Croatian Serbs living in the Krajina region and Eastern Slavonia escalated and developed into a full-scaled war (the so-called <em>Homeland War</em>) which would last until 1995. The <em>Bad Blue Boys</em> and the <em>Delije</em> were amongst those who were leading the charge.</p><h2><strong>Presidential love for sport</strong></h2> <p>As highlighted by Tu&#273;man, sport was the &lsquo;first thing by which you can distinguish nations after war&rsquo;. As such, it needed close monitoring and political guidance. He was adamant in keeping Croatian sport strictly centralized with himself, or politically loyal <em>nomenklatura</em>, in control of sporting associations, clubs, coaches, etc. all the way to sport editors and commentators on national television. Tu&#273;man often emphasized that he was well aware of the importance of sport, especially in times of crisis and conflict. In an interview he asserted that it is politics which should decisively influence sport because &lsquo;everything is politics&rsquo; and a distinction would not exist. The president&rsquo;s extensive personal involvement enabled him to interfere in clubs&rsquo; financial matters and to appoint coaches, reaching almost comic levels at times with him &lsquo;dictating&rsquo; who should play for the national team or indicating what score-line &lsquo;he would like to see&rsquo; for certain games.</p> <p>Tu&#273;man, who had been a high-ranked sport official in socialist Yugoslavia, saw athletes as &lsquo;Croatia&rsquo;s greatest ambassadors to the world&rsquo;. They should be used to promote a certain image of the country, which would be free of stereotypes and fears of a repeating past; a democracy-loving nation under attack from &lsquo;barbaric&rsquo; and &lsquo;backward&rsquo; forces. As &lsquo;Croatians&rsquo;, athletes were obliged to fight a lofty battle for Croatia, it was their way of fighting for Croatian independence and participating in building national identity. Sport adopted the function of a key symbol for creating a distinctive Croatian nationhood with athletes continuously arguing that competing on behalf of the nation was more than &lsquo;just&rsquo; sport.&nbsp; </p><p>As the Croatian sociologist Srdjan Vrcan noted, they symbolically represented a true manifestation and incorporation of almost all positive attributes attached to Croatians and sought to be recognised by their original and true Croatianness. The Croatian national teams became part of the 'national folklore' and a narrative was established which identified representing your country in a red-and-white-checkered jersey as the 'holiest' of all achievable virtues. The success of Croatian sport, most notably achieveing third place at the FIFA World Cup in 1998, was mobilized in order to create a popular homogenizing sense of national pride and portrayed as a sublimation of national character, culture and collective will. The result was not ascribed to actual talent but rather to a unique feeling of togetherness uniting the national team with its people and creating a &lsquo;deep horizontal comradeship&rsquo; (Hobsbawm).</p><h2>Sport as a constructor of 'otherness'</h2><p>The Tu&#273;manist presidential narrative saw and promulgated Croatia&rsquo;s formative years as a time when the nation was denied a peaceful separation from socialist Yugoslavia and subsequently forced into a war triggered by &lsquo;Greater Serbian&rsquo; aspiration to conquer &lsquo;holy Croatian soil&rsquo;. This dominant binary of a &lsquo;peace and freedom loving Croatia&rsquo; and an &lsquo;imperialistic and ferocious Serbia&rsquo; prevailed during the war years and has remained a potent marker of difference ever since. </p><p>Since &lsquo;Croatianness&rsquo; was defined in strict opposition to anything perceived as &lsquo;Yugoslav&rsquo;, the dichotomy between &lsquo;Croatia versus Yugoslavia&rsquo; was determined as a significant element of national self-understanding. This everyday production of collective identity on a &lsquo;We-They&rsquo; boundary was an integral part of the Croatian nation-building process after 1991, while the ideological core of Croatian nationalism was based on an exclusiveness of (a-)historical dichotomies; the construction of insurmountable differences between e.g. Yugoslavia vs. Croatia, barbarism vs. democracy, Balkan vs. Europe, Serbianness vs. Croatianness. </p><p>Sport &ndash; in a Barthesian sense &ndash; prominently contributed to such boundary constructions internally by fostering consolidation and externally by fostering confrontation. Thus whenever a Croatian team faced a Yugoslav/Serbian team, sport transformed into a rallying point reasserting national identity in opposition to &lsquo;them&rsquo;, transferring war cleavages onto the sport field and constructing the games in question as a continuation of the <em>Homeland War</em> by other means. These games, no matter how marginalised the post/discipline was, were always emotionally and nationalistically charged with every defeat being proclaimed as a national tragedy and every victory a symbolic payback for the humiliation endured during the &lsquo;Greater-Serbian aggression&rsquo;.</p><h2>A game like any other?</h2><p>The latest of these occasions came a few months ago when the Croatian national football team played a qualification match for the FIFA World Cup 2014 against the Serbian national team at Zagreb&rsquo;s <em>Maksimir</em> stadium. It was only the third time that these two sides had met in a competitive game, with the last games dating back to 1999, when the countries were still ruled by Franjo Tu&#273;man and Slobodan Milo&scaron;evi&#263;. The two games ended in two draws (0-0; 2-2). Yugoslavia qualified over Croatia for the European Championships 2000 leaving Tu&#273;man and his nomenklatura watching their own symbolic end. &lsquo;If we lose, Tudjman will never be president again&rsquo;, a young spectator said in a short newspaper interview. &nbsp;Two months later, in December 1999, Tudjman died from cancer only a few weeks before the scheduled presidential elections. In January 2000, a centre-left coalition government was elected and set out to change Croatia&rsquo;s political system by reducing presidential powers, introducing economic reforms to combat nepotism and corruption, and pursuing better cooperation with European institutions.</p> <p>Although the political situation in both countries had transformed drastically since then, the encounter was nonetheless under heavy international scrutiny with both governments worried about having yet another football related scandal. In contrast to 1999, when the charged atmosphere was orchestrated and induced from above to serve for political purposes, this time, countless pleas for tolerance and respect were echoed over and over again. </p><p>In the months leading up to the game, the two national team coaches did not necessarily help to mitigate the tense atmosphere. Igor &Scaron;timac (CRO) and Sini&scaron;a Mihailovi&#263; (SRB) have a history that dates back to 1991 when they were involved in a heated altercation during the Yugoslav Cup final resulting in &Scaron;timac allegedly expressing the wish that Mihailov&#263;&rsquo;s family in Borovo would be killed by the Croatian army. Mihailov&#263;, who is from an ethnically mixed family, repaid his dues during the second game in Zagreb in 1999, by almost causing a riot after crossing himself in front of a banner that read &lsquo;Vukovar 1991&rsquo;. The city of Vukovar, a besieged and heavily bombarded Slavonian city during the war still represents one of the constituting myths of post-socialist Croatia and symbolizes a central moment of Croatian resistance, suffering and heroism during the <em>Homeland War</em>. </p><p>In November 2012 &Scaron;timac travelled to the home town of Croatian general Ante Gotovina to celebrate his acquittal from the ICTY for his role in the 1995 military operation <em>Oluja</em>. The national team coach proudly informed the press of his plans to let Gotovina perform the kick-off before the game with Serbia - a proposal he had to renege on very quickly. Ultimately though, the pressure by FIFA and UEFA on both two national coaches paid off and in the weeks leading up to the game they actually tried to foster a general perception that it was just &lsquo;a game like any other&rsquo;.</p><p> The crowd at <em>Maksimir</em> stadium, however, did not seem to want any reconciliation; at least not the Croatian fans. Serbian fans were not allowed to come to Zagreb to watch the game as&nbsp;<span>negotiated by the two Football Associations in order to minimize any potential conflict. The same will apply to Croatian fans when their team plays Serbia in Belgrade, in September 2013. During the game the Croatian fans unfurled a gigantic banner that read &lsquo;through the rough times and through the battles we defended honourably our homes. The ones who defended our land didn&rsquo;t die in vain. Our flag is flying and we don&rsquo;t have to hide it anymore&rsquo;, booed and chanted down the Serbian national anthem whilst some chanted &lsquo;Kill a Serb!&rsquo; during the match. Also, Mihailovi&#263;&rsquo;s &lsquo;provocative&rsquo; gesture from 1999 was not forgotten. &lsquo;Vukovar, Vukovar&rsquo; might have been the loudest and most utilized chant on the night. The game finished with a comfortable 2-0 victory for Croatia and without any major incidents.</span></p><h2><span>Towards a healthy sporting rivalry</span></h2><p>As J.A. Mangan points out in the introduction to his book&nbsp;<em>Tribal Identities: Nationalism, Europe, Sport,&nbsp;</em>there are three main functions of sports in modern societies: Firstly &lsquo;as a mechanism of national solidarity promoting a sense of identity, unity, status and esteem&rsquo;, secondly &lsquo;as an instrument of confrontation between nations stimulating aggression, stereotyping and images of inferiority and superiority&rsquo; and thirdly &lsquo;as a cultural bond linking nations across national boundaries, providing common enthusiasm, shared emphatic experiences, the transcendence of national allegiances, and opportunities for association, understanding and goodwill&rsquo;. In the Croatian case, the first two points are undoubtedly established. How long it will take for the third one become less marginalized, is hard to predict.&nbsp;</p> <p>Still, the emergence of a sport-Yugosphere through the creation of several regional sport leagues over the last decade has shown that a gradual rapprochement is possible even on the sporting ground. Something many would have doubted only a few year back. Whilst acknowledging the different magnitude when talking about football and especially when talking about national football teams, since they represent the main vehicles for the expression of inter-ethnic conflicts, examples from basketball, handball and water polo tell a different story. It may just be the way towards the developing of a &lsquo;healthy&rsquo; sporting rivalry between the post-Yugoslav societies.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>&nbsp;</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/sre%C4%87ko-horvat/why-eu-needs-croatia-even-more-than-croatia-needs-eu">Why the EU needs Croatia (even more than Croatia needs the EU)</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Croatia </div> </div> </div> Croatia Football Politics Society Dario Brentin Joining the dots on football in Europe Sun, 30 Jun 2013 23:22:02 +0000 Dario Brentin 73674 at Football, fascism and the British <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Sunderland manager Di Canio has apparently finally distanced himself from fascism. What can we learn from the furore, about power and sport, politics and the personal, and the UK's relationship to fascist ideology?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Sunderland could hardly have mishandled the surprise appointment of Paolo Di Canio as their manager more catastrophically, seemingly not at all anticipating the storm which would result from appointing a man who had given fascist salutes on the pitch in Rome and spoken of himself as a “fascist, not a racist”. Despite being appointed to lead the city’s most important civic institution, Di Canio was stubbornly unwilling to utter the words “I am not a fascist” in a fractious press conference on Tuesday morning, before finally succumbing to the need to reject fascism as well as racism yesterday. The club’s initial statement had been evasive nonsense. The claim that it was “insulting to the integrity of this football club” to question whether the player had “fascist sympathies” insulted the intelligence of reasonable critics, who rightly feel that pictures of fascist salutes and the personal statement “I am a fascist, not a racist” would seem to rather place the burden of proof on the club and new manager on the issue of “fascist sympathies”.</p><p> The co-author of Di Canio’s biography and his friend, the leading Italian sports journalist Gabriele Marcotti, told me<a href=""> in a twitter conversation</a> on Monday night on this subject that:</p><p> “Its something he said eight years ago in a different country in a different context with a different meaning. I’d agree it would be easier and more convenient to repudiate it. But he’s not going to repudiate what he believes, which is how he sees it … I agree it’s a risk. But he’s a stubborn guy on certain issues. And one he’s willing to take”.</p><p> That proved untenable. The second attempt at a statement, yesterday, did finally repudiate fascism as well as racism, with Di Canio saying: "I am not political, I do not affiliate myself to any organisation, I am not a racist and I do not support the ideology of fascism. I respect everyone."</p><p> This was welcomed by the Durham Miners and the Dean of Durham, Michael Sadgrove, a Sunderland supporter and the son of a Jewish war refugee, who had written a pained and constructive open letter to the club, pointing to the necessity of Di Canio renouncing fascism.</p><p> Should Di Canio’s views about fascism matter to his fitness to manage a Premiership football club? Three main objections have been made: that sport should never be mixed with politics; that, if the issue was not raised as loudly earlier in his time in British football, it is hypocritical to make it an issue now he is at Sunderland; that personal beliefs are irrelevant to the ability to do this job anyway. Each of these arguments is worth considering, but is flawed.</p><p> The cultural and economic power of sport means that sport and politics always, inevitably, do mix. Franco’s Foreign Minister Fernando Maria Castiella called Real Madrid “the best Embassy we ever had”. Sport has been targeted as a forum for political extremism – and has done much to counter it too. In Britain, football was the most important public space in which a strong social consensus on an anti-racist norm was forged over the last thirty years. This issue was both contested – with some intense arguments around the national team, and at particular clubs including Chelsea, Leeds and my own team Everton – and then resolved. As a result, overt public racism, at the very least, is taboo in Britain, as it was not a generation ago (and rather more so than it is in southern Europe, where the same goal remains more a work in progress). These arguments played some role in protecting Britain from an extremist political breakthrough. The National Front’s best ever Parliamentary performance in the West Bromwich West seat in the 1973 by-election, next to Smethwick, site of a notoriously racist campaign in 1964. Nothing else did quite so much as West Bromwich Albion’s pioneering black trio of players – the electrifying ‘Three Degrees’ of Laurie Cunningham, Remi Moses and Cyrille Regis – to transform local attitudes to race as the ‘seventies ended.</p><p> The question “why now?” over the Di Canio row raises a reasonable point, but not a decisive one. A centre-forward is not at all the same type of club ambassador as a football manager. Sunderland is not Swindon Town. There were protests in Swindon – including the withdrawal of the GMB as a club sponsor, and a boycott by some supporters - but the level of media interest is always different for a Premiership club. The politics of the north-east are different to those of Swindon. The Sunderland ground is called the “Stadium of Light” to evoke pride in a labour tradition which is clear about its incompatibility with fascism, symbolised in the request from the Durham Miners Association to remove the symbolic Wearmouth Miners’ banner from the club. The coincidence of a former Foreign Secretary on the club board also raised the profile. David Miliband’s decision to resign over Di Canio’s “past political statements” is perfectly understandable. His own parents fled to Britain as Jewish refugees from fascism, while Mussolini’s earlier responsibility for the imprisonment and murder of socialist and trade union leaders could have offered Miliband another reason to be unable to work with a man who has given the public impression of venerating the Duce. The amateurish response suggests each of these developments took the club by surprise.</p><p> Should personal political views be private? Almost nobody takes an absolutist version of this position. It was Di Canio who made fascist salutes inside a football stadium. And few of those who argue that Di Canio’s politics shouldn’t matter would still defend him if he had said “I am a fascist and a racist”. A football manager needs to be able to treat players equally, and to be trusted to do so. He needs to be able to act as an ambassador for a club committed to anti-racism. So a racist can not manage an English Premiership club, as Di Canio and his supporters would appear to acknowledge.</p><p> The question is not, then, whether all personal political views are irrelevant – if there is broad agreement that expressing actively racist views could not be tenable – but of where to draw the line. If racism is out, could fascism still be in? The Sunderland statement suggested not, but then failed to substantiate the claim that this condition has been met.</p><p> There does appear to me to be a good deal on the public record to substantiate Di Canio’s defence that he is not a racist. He has reportedly taken a full part in anti-racist activities in England, when with Charlton Athletic and West Ham, and in his Italian football columns. (He faced one allegation at Swindon, and was cleared, though the club also apologised to the player slighted). In his biography, published in 2000 (and so unlikely to have been influenced by what would be politic in taking a management role in England) the views which Di Canio articulates about race and integration in Britain fit within the mainstream liberal integration consensus: that a successful multi-ethnic society depends on a shared identity and integration, and that the rejection of racism being an important foundation which makes that possible.</p><p> “Both Italy and Britain are multicultural countries, with immigrants from all over the globe. In many parts of London, there are more blacks and Asians than whites. Yet those blacks and Asians feel British. They have integrated into this country, they are as English, Scottish or Welsh as the next guy, without giving up their own culture”, he writes.</p><p> Di Canio is more worried about Italy – seeing too little effort by either immigrants or “to be fair”, by Italians either to try to make integration work. This leads him to express the somewhat lurid fear that “If we’re not careful, in ten years time, Italy could be a Muslim country” – something which was not in evidence, over a decade later, as the new Pope was invested. These are, again, fairly mainstream anxieties across the culturally conservative mainstream right, particularly in continental Europe, but within Britain too.</p><p> *** So, should a non-racist with some fascination for fascism have been allowed to get on with it?</p><p> “I am a fascist, not a racist” does not translate into English, except in more rarified academic debates. And there are important reasons why we should maintain that incomprehension. </p><p> “No fascism, please, we’re British” is an increasingly important part of the shared identity of a multi-ethnic Britain.</p><p> Of course, there is some element of mythology in this. Appeasement was rather more popular in the 1930s than is now remembered, and Churchill rather less so. But the shared commitment to anti-fascism is one of the important aspects of the glue which helps to bridge old and new Britain, as increasingly inclusive commemorations of Remembrance over recent years capture. Sunderland is no hub for immigration. It was one of those few places where the population fell over the last decade, down by just over 3% from 2001. Sunderland remains 93% white British, only a shade over the north-east average of 92.4%. Yet the strength of its commitment to anti-fascism offers a significant point of connection between the labour traditions of the region – encompassing their internationalist commitment to the anti-fascists of the Spanish civil war as well as to the national effort in the second world war itself – to the idea of Britain as a place of inclusive pride which was on show during London 2012.</p><p> Tuesday’s media coverage also spoke to the breadth of the British consensus on the illegitimacy of fascism. The <a href="">Daily Star and Sun front-pages</a> shows how anti-racism has moved from “political correctness” to “tabloid common sense” in Britain The Daily Mail ran a rather old Labour headline ‘Proud Sunderland fans never dreamt they’d see a ‘fascist’ on Keir Hardie way’ on Michael Walker’s <a href="">balanced report</a> on the controversy. As The Sun’s level-headed <a href="//”">editorial</a> put it: “Di Canio’s notorious straight-arm salute to extremist Lazio fans was vile and his politics are repugnant to most in a nation which fought a World War against fascism. The Italian firebrand is no racist, but a minority of idiots in football crowds, and a majority among fascists like the English Defence League, need no extra encouragement to sow hatred and division”.</p><p> It is true that Italian politics are rather different. The Federal Republic of Germany has very fully come to terms with the holocaust and its Nazi period, but the situation in Italy, like Austria, Greece and Spain, is considerably more complex. The attempts to rehabilitate ‘good fascism’ from ‘bad fascism’, are often about trading the status of co-perpetrators to early victims of Hitler’s Nazism. Di Canio’s past expressions suggest a good deal of sympathy with that strand of Italian thought which sees Benito Mussolini as a good patriot, led astray by the extremism of Adolf Hitler, though he has also criticised Mussolini too.</p><p> Of course, Mussolini’s regime, though a less totalitarian form of fascist authoritarianism than Nazism, was racist as well as fascist, if more strongly motivated by invoking the imperial glories of the Holy Roman Empire through the one-sided conquest of Abyssinia than in the genocidal anti-semitism which motivated Hitler. The politics of the post-fascist Italian right are complex – and this is a more mainstream debate there. But that does not require us to, in effect, now rehabilitate fascism in our public culture here too.</p><p> My elder sister married an Italian in the mid-1990s. Though his English was a bit shaky at first (though much superior to my lack of Italan), I did establish that his sympathies were to the political right, though in his case most closely with the populist separatists of the Lega Nord. So Enrico was quite happy marrying a half-Asian girl from Essex in England, yet it was generally safer to steer clear of talking about politics or, especially, the virtues or vices of Naples. Fortunately, there was football. He was the kind of fanatical supporter who can reassure me that my own sporting obsessions remain, in relative terms, healthily in perspective. He once embarked on a touching pilgrimage to Nottingham, simply to get a photograph with a road sign while wearing the famous black and white striped top which Juventus first borrowed from Notts County more than a century before. Even sticking to football didn’t always work out: my admiration for the Dutch-influenced AC Milan came up against the intensely-held irrationality with which even a Juventus supporter could hold the conspiracy theory that other clubs, especially Milan, had bought the referees. (My sister and he had split up by the time Juventus were finally relegated for match-fixing).</p><p> Di Canio has become the manager of Sunderland, not Lazio. There is little point complaining about what has been lost in translation, even if something probably has been, if it remained a point of personal honour that he should not publicly repudiate fascism.</p><p> This age of English football is very much open to foreign players and managers. There are some basic foundations for success. Understand and love the English game – as Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho clearly do (and former England boss Fabio Capello didn’t ever seem to). Speak the language. (Another Capello failure). Di Canio is well placed in these respects; he was a sublime player, much loved at West Ham for both his commitment and skill. He was responsible, at Goodison Park, for the most surprising act of gallant fair play that any of us can remember, stopping play, rather than scoring a goal against a prostrate and injured goalkeeper.</p><p> “Don’t be a fascist” has a reasonable claim to be a basic requirement of fair play in English football and society too. Finally recognising that can be seen as a foundational part of respecting the host culture of the club that he ought to be proud to manage, though Di Canio’s sense of grievance about being asked the question have fallen shot of understanding why, in Sunderland, as across Britain, people’s sense of pride in the defeat of fascism means that they would find those pictures of their new manager saluting Lazio’s fans offensive.</p><p> So Sunderland became famous this week not for the old glories of 1973 – when they won perhaps the greatest of all Wembley FA Cup finals – but for being the club with the pro-fascist manager. Di Canio may now have just about done enough to try to get on with the job. But football fans are nothing if not superstitious as we head for the season’s final furlongs of April and May. What Sunderland fan will not fear that the vengeance of the fearsome football Gods may have marked the club down for relegation at season’s end?</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> Italy </div> </div> </div> uk UK Italy Signpost Football Politics Society Sunder Katwala Joining the dots on football in Europe Thu, 04 Apr 2013 17:07:29 +0000 Sunder Katwala 72001 at 'My Turkey': Berlin, immigration and the amateur football scene <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Berlin's Turkish football clubs tell the tale of a local struggle for multiculturalism and integration, far away from the politics of migration.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="" alt="Türkiyemspor&#039;s emblem. Türkiyemspor/All rights reserved." width="460" height="224" /><span class="image-caption">T&uuml;rkiyemspor's emblem. T&uuml;rkiyemspor/All rights reserved.</span></p><p>T&uuml;rkiyemspor Berlin is the best-known of Berlin's Turkish-German football clubs. On a recent Sunday, its men's team was set to play Tus Makkabi Berlin, which bills itself as the city's only Jewish club and dates back to the late nineteenth century. According to Murat Dogan, T&uuml;rkiyemspor's chairman, his club only expects a modest turnout of fans at its games, though thousands used to crowd stadiums during the club's peak in the 1980s and 90s.</p> <p>The development of minority or Turkish-influenced football clubs in Berlin points to local struggles for multiculturalism that often elude discussions of &ldquo;integration.&rdquo; While the politicized term has dominated German political debate, targeting immigration on a national scale,&nbsp;in certain neighbourhoods of Berlin the amateur football clubs mirror the city's migration history. In particular, the football clubs that were founded by Turkish immigrants and continue to bear Turkish names have come to represent the ingrained tensions in Berlin's long-established Turkish communities.</p> <p>Some amateur football clubs in Berlin have become iconic symbols of specific phases in the city's history, as well as of the neighbourhoods where they're based. The oldest football club in Germany, BFC Germania 1888, plays in the working class area of Tempelhof. Its name alludes to long-standing Germanic roots. Over a century after BFC Germania was founded, Berlin's football landscape includes clubs whose names refer to Germany's largest immigrant group, among them Hilalspor, and BSV H&uuml;rt&uuml;rkel, with T&uuml;rkiyemspor Berlin being the best known.</p> <p>T&uuml;rkiyemspor was founded in 1978 in Berlin's Kreuzberg neighbourhood, which remains a centre of Turkish life in the city today. Dogan, who grew up in the area, recalls the club's early popularity among Turkish-born Berliners, when thousands of fans would pour into stadiums for T&uuml;rkiyemspor's games. Yet, although T&uuml;rkiyemspor's name is still synonymous with the sizable Turkish community in Berlin, its fan base has diminished over the last two decades.</p> <p><span>Dogan speculates about why fans have lost interest in the club, citing the spread of Turkish television in Germany as one possible motivation. &ldquo;There was no Turkish television back then. People couldn't follow Turkish football and we were the only connection here, so they came to our games.&rdquo; Another reason, he adds, were the social effects of German reunification on Turkish and other immigrant groups.</span></p> <p>When the Berlin Wall opened in 1989, T&uuml;rkiyemspor began playing games in former East Germany, where anti-immigrant sentiment is much more prevalent than in former West Germany. To this day, Germany's radical right-wing party is considerably more successful in eastern German states. The team and its fans were often met with racist remarks or were hit with stones at games. The fans eventually stopped coming. &ldquo;After two years or so, nobody could handle that anymore,&rdquo; laments Dogan.</p> <p>Veysel &Ouml;ner, a trainer for Hilalspor, a smaller team that also plays in Kreuzberg, had similar experiences when he brought his team to games in eastern Germany. He recalls seeing a Turkish flag burnt on the field at one of their away games in the 1990s.</p> <p>While Berlin's Turkish-German clubs may have only a fraction of the fans that they used to, Germany's professional football teams have been lauded over the past decade for attracting more fans to their games on average than any other professional football league in Europe. Tickets are kept affordable, and even the business model of professional teams - fans maintain 51% of shares in teams, setting a limit to corporate shareholders - is set up to make German football &ldquo;for the people.&rdquo; Members of professional and amateur clubs belong to the German Football Association (DFB), which is the largest sports organization in the world. Beyond the dedicated fans of professional teams, football is intensely popular and is played in over 25,000 small amateur clubs throughout the country.</p> <p><span>The DFB has invested recently in anti-racism and anti-homophobia campaigns. In the past few years, ads promoting &ldquo;respect&rdquo; featured prominently in stadiums. Perhaps due to the organization's size and huge outreach potential, or because of a perceived growth in its members who are immigrants or minorities, the DFB has increasingly prioritized fighting discrimination. In sync with the political lingo that has dominated German media for a number of years, the DFB also promotes integration, the term used tirelessly by German politicians. The National Integration Plan, first introduced by Angela Merkel in 2007, included sports as an arena for potential integration work, naming the DFB as an important partner.</span></p> <p>The DFB first created the position of Commissioner for Integration in 2006. Mehmet Matur boasts that he was ahead of the DFB - he became the Berlin Football Association's Commissioner for Integration in 2004. Speaking in the back room of the sporting supply store that he runs with his brother in Berlin's Neuk&ouml;lln neighbourhood, another hub of Turkish life in the German capital, Matur explains why sports are important for integration. &ldquo;With football, you can reach people, spread values that are important for later, for society. Like punctuality and team spirit. You learn the rules &mdash; you have to follow them or you get punished.&rdquo;</p> <p>Forty years ago, when the first football clubs founded by Turkish immigrants were cropping up in areas like Kreuzberg and Neuk&ouml;lln, there was no Commissioner for Integration. The first ever integration work, Matur says, came from the networks of immigrants who met through clubs and helped other members get accustomed to Berlin. Now, Matur focuses on making Berlin's amateur clubs more sensitive to issues that affect immigrants and minorities. He also came up with a qualification programme for directors of the city's &ldquo;ethnic&rdquo; clubs. Matur created a list of around forty clubs that were predominantly Turkish, Arabic, Croatian, Serbian, Albanian and Greek-run and invited their directors to training sessions where they learned how to obtain non-profit status for their clubs and manage finances. They also practised communication strategies with referees.</p> <p><span>While the political agenda driving integration focuses on immigrants learning German and breaking out of what are perceived as isolated migrant communities, Berlin's Turkish-German football clubs are the target group of political debates at the micro level. T&uuml;rkiyemspor, according to Dogan, is deeply rooted in Kreuzberg. &ldquo;Since the club was founded, we've represented the neighbourhood. The neighbourhood represents the club. The club and the neighbourhood belong together, they can't be separated.&rdquo; Dogan rejects labelling T&uuml;rkiyemspor as a &ldquo;Turkish&rdquo; club, arguing instead that it is multicultural, an immigrants' club, that a significant number of players have no Turkish background and that members communicate in German. &ldquo;The club has transformed itself. We went from being a Turkish club to a Berlin club,&rdquo; says Dogan, referencing the club's original name &ldquo;Izmir Spor.&rdquo; &ldquo;We went from Turkish players to German players with immigrant backgrounds. That's why this term 'Turkish club' is relative.&rdquo;</span></p> <p>When Izmir Spor acquired more members who were not from Izmir, the club's name was changed to &ldquo;T&uuml;rkiyemspor Berlin,&rdquo; meaning &ldquo;My Turkey.&rdquo; Other clubs that once presented themselves as distinctly Turkish have more recently changed their names to sound more German, says Mehmet Matur. &ldquo;They used to be called G&ouml;rt&uuml;rksp&ouml;r or SV Galatasaray-Berlin and now they're called Rixdorfer SV, named after the old part of Neuk&ouml;lln. They felt that they were at a disadvantage because of their names, that they were treated unfairly. They want to show that they're a German club, that they belong here.&rdquo; Matur sees name changes like these as a positive development if it makes Turkish-German or &ldquo;immigrant clubs&rdquo; more attractive for German members to join.</p> <p>&ldquo;T&uuml;rkiyemspor is a trademark,&rdquo; says Murat Dogan, adding that the club's Turkish-German appeal attracts members. In a city where some of the century-old football clubs have long claimed connections to the neighbourhoods they call home, Berlin's Turkish-influenced clubs represent both the city's established immigration history and the changing dynamics of neighbourhoods like Kreuzberg or Neuk&ouml;lln, where &ldquo;integration&rdquo; could mean German players joining a club with a Turkish name.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/herfried-m%C3%BCnkler/covert-and-hidden-populism-in-unified-germany">Covert and hidden populism in unified Germany</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/duygu-g%C3%BCrsel/kanak-attak-discursive-acts-of-citizenship-in-germany">Kanak Attak: discursive acts of citizenship in Germany</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/elizabeth-grant/pretzel-swastikas-and-d%C3%B6ner-killings-are-germany%E2%80%99s-best-intention">Pretzel swastikas and Döner killings: are Germany’s best intentions becoming its fatal flaw?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Germany </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Berlin </div> </div> </div> Berlin Germany Football Politics Society Catherine Stupp Spotlight on Germany Joining the dots on football in Europe Wed, 06 Mar 2013 10:11:44 +0000 Catherine Stupp 71327 at Not enjoying the football. But ever interested by it <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="" alt="" hspace="3" width="100" align="left" />Is football racist to its core? The author starts out having thought so, but his experience of a particular group of joyful fans makes him wonder whether an inclusive tribalism might not be possible - even desirable</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>I won’t be enjoying the football [soccer] this evening. Or any evening, really. And that’s not because my team is rubbish and gets nowhere. It’s that I’m just not a supporter. But maybe I should get over my squeamishness about fandom and try it one day.&nbsp;</p><p>I may not be interested in the football, but I’ve certainly for a while been interested by the football.&nbsp;</p><p>My suspicions of fandom come from a sense that following a team, rooting for it, is simply a ritual of atavistic attachment, of immersion of the self into a frenzied whole, that is probably just 2 stops short of the Nuremberg Rallies.&nbsp;</p><p>The BBC’s investigative reporting programme, Panorama seemed to confirm all my prejudices with a broadcast that coincided with the start of the European Championships, co-hosted by Ukraine and Poland, detailing the shocking behaviour of their neo-Nazi fans.&nbsp;</p><p><iframe width="640" height="360" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></p> <p>[YouTube panorama]&nbsp;</p><p>Then, when I got involved in producing and programming an IntelligenceSquared/ <a href="">Versus</a>/ Google debate on<a href=""> racism in football</a>, my research again seemed to only validate my qualms. We decided on the debate motion of: "Balotelli is right - players should walk off the pitch if racially abused.Football has been too tolerant of racism"</p><blockquote><p><strong>Balotelli is right - players should walk off the pitch if racially abused.</strong><br style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; line-height: 10px;" /><strong>Football has been too tolerant of racism</strong></p></blockquote><p>OK - somone with more knowledge about the game than I would surely be found to confront all those issues that were troubling me: the possibility that football fandom is intrinsically racist, that individuals on the inside have a duty to break the rules of the game to make this known, etc.</p><p>As my research progressed, the question of “What’s happened to the racist chanting in England?”, led to the common-place that racism directed at black players had basically disappeared from the English league. Conscious efforts throughout the last 20 years have made racial taunts a thing of the past.&nbsp;</p><p>“But then there’s Tottenham Hotspur,” said one of my sources. Whenever this team, from the North East of London, walks onto an “away” ground, it is, according to him, greeted with the chant of “Yiddos …. Yiiiii…dd’o’o’...s …. &nbsp;Yiddos” - a disparaging English slang for “Jews”. (Tottenham was traditionally a club of Jewish players and supporters - its roots were in the East End that in the first half of the 20th century was predominantly Jewish.)&nbsp;</p><p>Not only does this always happen, he told me, it is always airbrushed out in BBC footage of the games. Reporting on racism among football fans in Poland and Ukraine is investigative reporting for the BBC, while air-brushing &nbsp;the same from transmissions of &nbsp;the home game is good practice, it seems. (I can see the arguments for not giving the racists a platform … but it might have got a mention in the Panorama programme , if only to pre-empt something of a pot &amp; kettle problem).</p><p>My functionalist model of football seemed to be getting comfortably confirmed:</p><p><span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>•<span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>the game, whether club or international, is a <a href="">bahuvrihi</a> for the tribe - “England” both denotes the team, the nationality it is constituted of, and “England” also denotes what the team stands for - the nation</p><p><span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>•<span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>the fans - on the sidelines of action, powerless spectators - are driven to paroxysms of sentiment as they identify with the fate of the totality. In defeat especially, the sentiment and the powerlessness compound into anger and grievance; in victory they turn into entitled, righteous, but undeserved superiority;</p><p><span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>•<span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>threats of bans have made fans behave better in the past 20 years, but maybe that is really about effective repression rather than a deep transformation of the game</p><p><span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>•<span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>no surprise, went my theory, that the crowd should demonstrate either triumphalist or scapegoating racism. The attachment to the totality was, I assumed, at some level the sort of exclusive, other-defined attachment that is the core of ethno-nationalism. So what might be a safe playground for those sentiments in some fans would inevitably bubble-over into their primitive, violent form for others.</p><p>Then came the debate itself.&nbsp;</p> <iframe width="640" height="360" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe> <p> [The Versus debate, uncut] </p><p>We’d assembled a stunning group - French-Guadeloupean footballer, Louis Saha, football writers Musa Okakwanga, Philippe Auclair and Antony Clavane, equality activist Femi Otitodju and Ukrainian author Andrey Kurkov … Here was a group of joyful, utterly anti-racist football lovers. Their debate simply took it for granted that there could be a non-exclusive, and certainly non-ethnic foundation of tribal attachment, that nothing made them inextricable companions.&nbsp;</p><p>Their implicit critique of my model was that those fans who do become racist are simply the ones who - unfortunately - do have an ethnicist conception of attachment; those who don’t are not simply repressing or somehow civilising it, they really have a different conception of meaningful identities - an elective tribalism that feels no need to demonise the other.</p><p>If that’s the case, then &nbsp;the beautiful game may indeed be that - a game that has the power to bring together (almost) all of humanity in a joyful expression of the competitive spirit. The metaphor of a multi-cutlural team coordinating superlative skill to work towards a socially defined goal and bringing along with them, in that endlessly repeated narrative, a cheering, engaged crowd. What more attractive and optimistic picture of how enlightened humanity and modern nations ought to conduct their affairs? So maybe I really should give fandom a go.&nbsp;</p><p>Maybe. And when the crowd starts chanting “Yiiiiid’o’o’”? A curio from a different age? Really?</p><p>&nbsp;</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ukraine </div> <div class="field-item even"> Poland </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> </div> </div> Poland Ukraine Culture Equality Football Politics Society Tony Curzon Price Joining the dots on football in Europe Sun, 01 Jul 2012 18:25:11 +0000 Tony Curzon Price 66765 at Football & politics: the legacy of Euro 2012 in Ukraine <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="" alt="" width="160" align="right" />Ahead of the Euro 2012 football championships, media attention on political scandal and excessive profiteering has undermined Ukrainian attempts to raise prestige in the eyes of the world. Janek Lasocki and Łukasz Jasina wonder if the hosts will eventually be able to defy critics and secure a positive legacy from the tournament.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>On 1 July 2012 some 60,000 fans and officials will fill Kyiv&rsquo;s Olympic Stadium for the culmination of the Euro Football Championships. With just a few weeks to go, media coverage has turned uniformally negative. Perhaps unsurprisingly, headlines have focused on a growing boycott of the Ukrainian half of the event by foreign dignitaries, who protest at the treatment of imprisoned opposition leader Yuliya Tymoshenko. Yet beyond the question of sport and current politics lies an equally important question of legacy: What is likely to happen to Ukraine and Ukrainians once the euphoria of final day has worn off? </p> <h3>The benefits to a host nation</h3> <p>There is a lot of cynicism that inevitably accompanies large multi-annual expenditure on a single event, but it is possible to show that on many levels, international sports events can deliver real benefits for host nations. On a practical level, they can help bring forward capital spending and attract large scale outside investment to construct key facilities and, more importantly, to improve infrastructure like transport, accommodation, border control and the service industries. Nowadays few tournaments or Games actually make a profit (indeed Ukraine is not expected to) so it is this long-term investment that is sold to taxpayers as the key economic benefit. </p> <p><img class="image-left" src="" alt="Donbass_arena" width="357" height="297" /></p> <p class="image-caption">The Donbass Arena Stadium, one of the top two sport facilities in Ukraine, was reconstructed at a cost of 300 million Euro (thanks in great part to the financal support of Ukraine&rsquo;s richest oligarkh Rinat Akhmetov).The stadium will host group D stage games and one quarter-final and one semi-final game. Photo:</p> <p>Sports events can also be important political symbols, such as the Olympic Games in Berlin in 1936, and in Moscow in 1980, or more recently the Olympics in Beijing and football World Cup in South Africa. All of these events looked to spin positive stories of expanding economies. Today, the huge influx of extra tourists and journalists, visits of foreign governments and billions of television viewers, means these are also a unique opportunities to affect the global brand of a country for years to come.</p> <p>With high hopes from both outsiders and taxpaying locals, a major problem comes in expectation management. While projects, laws and attention can be linked to these huge endeavours, the goal of host nation and organisers is ultimately more limited: to hold one successful event, not change a government or people. There are no political conditions attached to the role of host, nor obligations to improve anything for the long-term.</p> <h3>Ukraine&rsquo;s 2012 successes</h3> <p>From the very beginning of the bidding process for Euro 2012, many openly doubted whether Ukraine would be able to pull the tournament off. Reports regularly spoke of the threat to take it away from the country for its slow progress (and not on human rights grounds). In the end, however, the pessimism proved unfair. After a slow start, Ukrainians have achieved enough to confidently host all their matches as intended, with four stadiums ready in good time. There are new arenas in Kyiv and Lviv; while major renovation took place in Kharkiv and Donetsk. Unlike stadiums after the South Africa World Cup or Olympic facilities in Athens or Barcelona, these parks aren't expected to end up as white elephants, empty and unused (Lviv being the possible exception), but will survive as busy football stadiums for already established teams.</p> <p>Ukraine has for a long time lacked the basic tourism infrastructure that previous host countries have taken for granted. Euro 2012 has therefore been used as a pretext to bring forward investment that otherwise would not have been spent. Transport and hotels have been improved. Air passenger capacity at the host city airports has been doubled following significant reconstruction work that includes new runways and control towers in Donetsk and Kharkiv, and new terminals at each of the four airports. After all this work, the capital's main airport at Borispol now resembles other modern European hubs. Apart from increased passenger capacity, this has opened up access to new airlines including low-cost Wizz-Air and RyanAir, and connections to a host of new European destinations, all of which are expected to stay in place after the tournament. </p> <p>Other transport upgrades have included new roads (in 2011 alone, over 2000km of roads were renovated), new buses for host cities and, significantly, the implementation of new 160km/hr superfast Hyundai trains on routes from Kyiv (a development that will see journey times halved). Over &euro;2 billion has also been spent on building or rebuilding 80 hotels of all types, from budget to luxury. All this has provided a boom for the Ukrainian construction industry, which registered 10.7% growth In 2011, providing additional jobs for approximately half a million people (according to official statistics).</p> <p>A conscious effort was also launched to improve English language provision with <a href="">lessons provided</a> to border staff, medical personnel and police (the interior ministry aimed to have <a href="">27,000 police officers speaking English</a> by June) as well as new signage and tourist routes prepared in English.</p> <h3>The disappointments</h3> <p>For all the successes, investment has not resulted in the massive transformation of infrastructure that some might have hoped for. Major investments have neglected non-host cities, and businesses not directly involved in the tournament complain without hesitation that money has been redirected away from important projects. Ukraine doesn't need another airport terminal, they say, and the money could have been better spent on building inter-city roads. Key roads, such as that from Lviv to Krakovets on the Polish border, remain unfinished. Many of the successes of the renovation programme also suffer from poor service support and communication. The much talked about fast trains, for example, may be running in time for visitors, but there is still no easy way to find out timetables or prices.</p> <blockquote> <p><em>&lsquo;Corruption remains a big issue in Ukraine [...] It is reasonable to assume that the considerable growth in the cost of Euro 2012 projects above budgeted sums had a lot to do with </em><em>kickbacks for tenders and contracts.&rsquo;</em></p></blockquote> <p>Many of Ukraine&rsquo;s investment decisions have been secretive, intransparent or made without the long term in mind. In Lviv, for example, a decision was taken to build a second, new stadium, rather than renovate that which was already being used. A second arena on this size will end up an economic burden for the town, and most people <a href=";objectId=1247988">doubt its future viability</a> (link in Ukrainian).</p> <p><img src="" alt="Kyiv_banner_euro" width="450" height="309" /></p> <p class="image-caption">Host city streets are full of banners displaying the championship&rsquo;s official logo. Photo: flickr/Timon 91</p> <p>The wisdom of the level of this spending (estimates vary between &euro;4 - 10 billion) is also particularly questionable. Ukraine, already a poor country (average wages total around <a href="">&euro;290 a month</a>), was one of hardest hit after the financial crisis, with industrial output sliding by more than 30% in 2008. $8.2 billion of domestic and external debt (4.5 percent of its GDP) is due to be repaid in 2012, for which Kyiv will need to turn to international financial institutions. But Kyiv seems more interested in trying to negotiate cheaper gas from Russia than cooperating with the IMF, which has frozen support because of <a href="">the lack of political will</a> to implement reforms. </p> <p>On top of these real economic concerns, corruption remains a big issue in Ukraine (ranked 152nd in Transparency International's 2011 Annual Index). It is reasonable to assume that the considerable growth in the cost of Euro 2012 projects above budgeted sums had a lot to do <a href="">with kickbacks for tenders and contracts.</a> It does not help the government's defence that procurement was not competitive - excused by lack of time. Many openly accuse the authorities of corruption. For example, the opposition MP Ostap Semerak has <a href="">charged the government</a> with embezzling up to $3.7 billion by subcontracting friendly firms at inflated prices and receiving kickbacks. But such claims are mostly difficult to prove definitively.</p> <h3>Rebranding Ukraine?</h3> <p>Local opinion polls and promotional material from Kyiv underline the importance Ukrainians place in improving international prestige of their country. Great efforts have gone into making Ukraine both an attractive and 'normal' European country worth visiting for tourists, not to mention one worth investing in and developing business relations with. On both counts, Ukraine may well disappoint.</p> <p>For Ukrainians themselves, the symbolism of this year's tournament is unquantifiable. It has not been easy to build an identity for modern Ukraine, stuck between an integrating Europe to the West and a Soviet legacy difficult to shake in the East. Victor Yushchenko tried, somewhat controversially, with his historical policy building a national myth of the 'Holodomor' (forced famine in the 1930's), and the Ukrainian National Army of the 1940's. The football championships, offered a less divisive opportunity to work together and try to shine as a modern, European Ukraine. It was, at least in theory, something that could be accomplished by the whole country without Moscow or the West (co-host Poland had, in contrast, the distinct advantage of EU structural funds). And if things go well, so the logic goes, why not bid for the Winter Olympics?</p> <blockquote> <p><em>&lsquo;Kyiv will be envying the experience of World Cup host South Africa, able to portray itself as a country emerging into the international community, having successfully faced its internal struggles. Yet if there's one face you remember from that tournament it is that of Nelson Mandela; this year, the face people will remember will be Yuliya Tymoshenko&rsquo;</em></p></blockquote> <p>Up to a million tourists from over 100 countries are expected in Ukraine. Most have by now received their tickets in the post and are preparing their itineraries. The new airports and modern stadiums, comparable to any in Western Europe, are meant to impress, as are the unprecedented amount of enthusiastic volunteers (over 6000), and the fan zones and festivals on the margins of the tournament. There will be a &ldquo;Dance of Fire&rdquo; in Donetsk, and a &ldquo;<a href="">Kiev Beach Club</a>&rdquo;, with space to accommodate 3,000 campers and 20,000 festival-goers for live music and entertainment. For all these preparations, however, Ukraine's problem is that it is yet to prove itself for tourists, and having to disprove prejudice is not an easy task. 13 of the 16 national teams competing in the tournament have decided to set up their home base camps in Poland rather than across the border, some setting themselves up for long journeys by air. </p> <h3>Ukraine&rsquo;s big PR test</h3> <p>The test for visitors will be in governance capacity: How effectively can local administrations cope with the influx of people? Will the police be able to maintain order peacefully? Will there be enough information and ability to communicate? There is an understandable worry that the visitor experience will be ruined <a href="">by any number of social problems</a> one sports tournament could not hope to address: from bad service, dirty and poor infrastructure, to petty corruption from police and <a href="">border guards</a>.</p> <p>Preparations have been plagued by a number of unhelpful tabloid headlines &mdash; from alarmist <a href="">reports about Ukrainian nationalists</a> and the <a href="">culling of stray dogs</a>, but perhaps the loudest scandal involved the inflated price of hotel rooms in host cities. Michel Platini of UEFA himself was quoted saying that "<a href="">bandits and swindlers</a>" have undermined Ukraine's efforts by hiking up prices to exorbitant levels. Ukrainian organisers have repeated assurances about the availability of affordable hotel rooms, and hoteliers have been publicly reprimanded. Yet some football associations &mdash; including the English FA &mdash; have had to return part of their ticket allocation after being unable to sell their full share in cities with such problems of cheap accommodation. And rather than renting rooms in Ukraine&rsquo;s most westerly host city Lviv, some fans have been booking in across the border in Polish Przemy&#347;l instead.</p> <blockquote> <p><em>&lsquo;Angela Merkel</em><a href=""><em> has </em><em>compared Ukraine to Belarus</em></a><em>&hellip; Even with the backslide to authoritarianism under Yanukovych, Ukrainians find it hard to swallow being compared to their ex-Soviet neighbours&hellip;&rsquo;</em></p></blockquote> <p>And then there is the political brand of Ukraine. For all the talk of the need to separate politics and sport, that was always a fallacy. Bidding to host such an event is intrinsically political and is in effect inviting the world to spend months examining the country and what it has to offer. If done successfully the rewards are great - a unique and massively positive PR exercise - but there are equally high risks, which in this case meant a spotlight on a deteriorating situation as regards human rights and rule of law.</p> <p>When Ukraine won the joint-bid it was considered to be on its way, albeit on a bumpy road, to democratic transition and Euro-integration. Undoubtedly Kyiv will be envying the experience of World Cup host South Africa, able to portray itself as a country emerging into the international community, having successfully faced its internal struggles. Yet if there's one face you remember from that tournament it is that of Nelson Mandela; this year, the face people will remember will be Yuliya Tymoshenko.</p> <p>The story of the fallen opposition leader &mdash; imprisoned after losing an election, and allegedly beaten while imprisoned in Kharkiv &mdash; is now known worldwide following comprehensive <a href="">media coverage</a>. The case of Tymoshenko is not an isolated case, however, but the final straw confirming a Ukrainian stereotype. Ukraine will now be illustrated with stories of growing corruption and authoritarianism - a failure on Kyiv's part to convince the outside world that they adhere to different standards than Russia or Belarus. Angela Merkel herself <a href="">compared Ukraine to Belarus</a>, which according to her are "still living under dictatorship and repression."</p> <p>The tragic thing for organisers is that for Kyiv this was a PR battle that could have been won. Even with the backslide to authoritarianism under Yanukovych, Ukrainians would find it hard to swallow being compared to their ex-Soviet neighbours. Repression of opposition groups is considerably less in Ukraine, where they hold seats in the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) and appear on television, and are an electoral force to be reckoned with. Tymoshenko herself seemed a spent force after her 2010 electoral defeat and her party weakened - she has now been elevated to martyr. President Yanukovych has seemingly sleepwalked way out of his depth and it's clear there was never any clever medium term strategy - acting rather out of a personal vendetta, when the benefits of acting differently were so logical.</p> <p><img class="image-left" src="" alt="Kharkiv_hotel" width="360" height="255" /></p> <p class="image-caption">In Kharkiv&nbsp;local oligarkh Olexandr Yaroslavsky&nbsp;has built the&nbsp;Palace Hotel &mdash; a&nbsp;state of the art 5-star facitility &mdash; specially for Euro 2012 guests.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Meanwhile, the rolling news has moved to how widespread the political boycott will be. A variety of ministers, presidents and whole European Commission will demonstrably not be going to Ukraine. For all the arguments for and against a boycott and its effectiveness, the key thing is that Kyiv has lost this PR war.</p> <h3>All to play for? </h3> <p>For all the complications ahead of the tournament, however, Euro 2012 will help many Europeans place Ukraine on a map for the first time. This will mean unprecedented attention from both tourists and the international political community, both of which potentially bring big benefits &ndash; although perhaps not as the organisers expected. While the efforts to build modern tourism infrastructure should not be overlooked, it is also clear ambitions to rebrand Ukraine will not be fulfilled as some may have hoped. Headlines are clearly not encouraging investment or political cooperation, nor proving the country&rsquo;s European credentials. That said, perhaps renewed international interest and pressure will continue into the autumn and bear fruit as October&rsquo;s parliamentary elections approach.</p> <p>In just a few weeks&rsquo; time Ukraine will face one its greatest logistical challenges since independence. The question of legacy is especially important for Ukraine, and it will be a question that people will return to in the coming years. A lot now rests on how the country copes, and what will be the government&rsquo;s next move. Whatever happens, this European Championship will certainly not be forgotten in a hurry.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/sergei-zhadan/ukraines-euro-2012-carnival-for-prostitutes-and-politicians">Ukraine&#039;s Euro-2012: a carnival for prostitutes and politicians</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/valery-kalnysh/are-european-calls-for-euro-2012-boycott-meaningless">Are European calls for Euro 2012 boycott meaningless? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/david-marples/is-ukraine-heading-east">Is Ukraine heading East?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/natalia-sedletska/tymoshenko-case-appeal-all-escape-routes-blocked">Tymoshenko case appeal: all escape routes blocked?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/denis-macshane/tymoshenko-matter-for-people-not-courts">Tymoshenko: a matter for the people, not the courts</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/aleksey-matsuka/i-choose-truth-confessions-of-%E2%80%98improper%E2%80%99-journalist-in-donetsk">I choose the truth: confessions of an ‘improper’ journalist in Donetsk</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/aleksey-matsuka/dispatch-from-donetsk">Dispatch from Donetsk</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/mykola-riabchuk/viktor-yanukovych-pandora%E2%80%99s-box-and-moscow-orchestra">Viktor Yanukovych, Pandora’s Box and the Moscow Orchestra </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ukraine </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Ukraine Democracy and government Economics International politics ukraine russia & eurasia russia Football Politics Society Łukasz Jasina Janek Lasocki Joining the dots on football in Europe Euro 2012 Politics Foreign Economy Fri, 18 May 2012 09:39:11 +0000 Janek Lasocki and Łukasz Jasina 65947 at Dangerous allies: when football hooligans and politicans meet <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="" alt="" width="160" align="right" />Football hooliganism occurs in societies all over the world - even in the Soviet Union, however much that was officially denied. In today’s Russia, however, football fanaticism has developed clear political undertones, with evidence that some groups have been colluding with the Kremlin against its opponents. Is this a ticking timebomb? wonders Mikhail Loginov</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Soviet propaganda used to make much of the fact that Western society was on the downward path. Football hooligans, usually British or Italian, were quoted as an example of this disintegration and blamed for unrest at stadiums. But a serious problem was incubating within the Soviet Union, and eventually, in the early 1980s, it was recognised as such. Authorities began to group young people and teenagers into special sectors in the terraces &ndash; the first Leningrad fan mob was called 'Sector 33'. When fighting between rival fans looked as though it was getting out of hand, the militia used rubber truncheons, even though officially these did not exist in the USSR.</p> <p>Komsomol propaganda found fault with the fans for submitting to Western influence. Soviet poets were even more trenchant in their criticism. Yevgeny Yevtushenko expressed his outrage with the line 'The fans have gone and in their place we have fanatics.'</p> <h3>Kol the Tramp</h3> <p>Nikolai is 18 and lives in St Petersburg. His friends from the Kup group of fanatics call him Kol. The name of the group comes from the first 3 letters of a Petersburg district, Kupchino. Kol always wears a 'rose' &ndash; a scarf in the colours of&nbsp; Zenit FC. He goes to all the home matches and to the away matches across Russia.</p><blockquote><p><em>'Soviet propaganda used to make much of the fact that Western society was on the downward path. Football hooligans, usually British or Italian, were quoted as an example of this disintegration and blamed for unrest at stadiums.'</em></p></blockquote> <p>Zenit fans are nicknamed the 'homeless' or tramps. The club used to be poor and its fans were too, often sleeping at railway stations. Now that Gazprom has become its sponsor,&nbsp; fans travel in hired buses and stay in hotels, but the nickname has stuck.</p> <p>The Kup group, or in the fans' slang, &lsquo;the firm', meets 2 hours before the beginning of a match. Temperatures are often sub-zero, so Kup members either drink vodka before the game or take it into the ground in plastic bottles strapped to their legs. They also take in flares and smoke canisters which they light when their team gets a goal, or throw on to the pitch. Sometimes they bring other objects in to the stadium. At a match with Anzhi <a href="">Makhachkala FC</a> a banana was brandished at the Brazilian Roberto Carlos, hinting at his African roots.</p><p><img src="" alt="Zenit_fans" width="460" /></p> <p class="image-caption">Each time Zenit St. Petersburg wins a match at home, crowds will head to the city centre. Unlike Moscow the northern capital has only one club playing at the highest level, so its fans do not have local enemies to fight with (photo, Incandenzafied's photostream)</p><p>Kol says he has no time for this kind of thing. 'The bloke who did that was an idiot and Zenit got fined 300,000 roubles. But I'm still glad there are no negroes in our club.' Kol is unable to explain why he feels like this.</p> <p>If Zenit win the match, Kol and his mates will go out on the town in St Petersburg. This sometimes ends in fights with the police or with other fan mobs, but the city has only the one club, so this doesn't happen too often.</p> <h3>Away matches</h3> <p>Going to matches in other cities is much more dangerous, like a military expedition with an unpredictable outcome. Kol divides cities into 3 categories according to whether they have i) aggressive police, ii) aggressive fans or iii) both. Moscow fans, particularly Spartak FC supporters, are dangerous, but the police are reasonably polite. In Nizhnii Novgorod and Samara the main danger is the police. Cities in the Caucasus have equally dangerous police and fans.</p> <p>The fights in Moscow usually take place before or after the match. Sometimes they just flare up, other times they are planned for a set time on wasteland or in a park. The code of honour accepted by fans allows only for fighting with hands and feet, though some 'firms' carry knives, steel rods and knuckledusters. The weapons are called 'arguments'. Most commonly, fights are with Spartak or CSKA fans</p> <p>Fighting the police is frowned on by the most respected fans, if only because it usually ends badly &mdash; with mass beatings and arrests of supporters who were not involved at all. If a fan threatens a policeman or rips out a seat to throw it at him, then it'll be his own comrades that prevent him by grabbing holding of him. &nbsp;</p> <p>The most difficult away matches are in the Caucasus. Local supporters hurl stones at the away team supporters' buses long before they get to the stadium. They attack them near the hotels and have no problems with using knives or even firearms. If a fight breaks out in the stadium between local supporters and away team fans, the local police make no attempt to separate the fighters. On the contrary, they support the local lads.</p> <p>Kol was in Makhachkala in 2011, when the local police and supporters beat up the visiting Zenit fans. 'I didn't think we could survive&rsquo;, he recalls. &lsquo;The police didn't even try to arrest us. They did us over good and hard right where we were'. Kol has no intention of ever going back to the Caucasus.</p> <h3>That swine Drew</h3> <p>Spartak Moscow is the main rival for Zenit fanatics. The clubs' supporters cordially loathe each other and have no mercy on players who move from Zenit to Spartak. When <a href="">Vladimir Bystrov</a>, for example, returned home from Spartak, the fans whistled at him for more than a year whenever he appeared on the pitch. They called him a swine and once they let a live piglet loose on the field; another time they left a pig's head near the Zenit ground. Spartak fans are known as Swine or Meat because when the club was founded it was sponsored by the food industry union and the Spartak kit, which is red and white, could be said to look like dressed pork.</p> <p>Andrew, or Drew, belonged to Gladiators, a 'firm' considered to be particularly aggressive. He followed Spartak home and away, was involved in a dozen fights by metro stations and in parks, was badly injured several times. These days he goes to the matches, but has nothing more to do with the Gladiators. 'I don't like seeing some of the lads taking on &ldquo;political&rdquo; commissions from the authorities,' he says.</p> <p>Andrew lives in Moscow. He is 35 and has been supporting Spartak since he was in senior school. Unlike Petersburg, Moscow has always had at least four top division clubs, so even at school Andrew often had fights with fans of other clubs. Initially he didn't like being called swine or meat, but then started using these terms with pride.</p> <p>For about 10 years Andrew, or Drew, belonged to Gladiators, a 'firm' considered to be particularly aggressive. He followed Spartak home and away, was involved in a dozen fights by metro stations and in parks, was badly injured several times. These days he goes to the matches, including matches abroad, but has nothing more to do with the Gladiators. 'I don't like seeing some of the lads taking on &ldquo;political&rdquo; commissions from the authorities,' he says, though he didn't explain whether he had his own personal friends in mind.</p> <h3>The Opposition</h3> <p>In 2005 and 2006 members of Eduard Limonov's <a href="">National Bolshevik Party</a> were attacked several times. The attackers were detained and taken to the police. They were discovered to be the same Gladiators, who acted as guards at demonstrations organised by the pro-Kremlin Nashi group.</p><p><img class="image-left" src="" alt="CSKA_Sparta" width="360" height="250" /></p> <p class="image-caption">CSKA-Spartak match in 2009. The matches of two greatest rivals in Russian football always &nbsp;require maximum security preparation by the Moscow police (photo:, Kate Lokteva)</p><p>In November 2010 the journalist <a href="">Oleg Kashin beaten up</a> brutally. It was not known who had actually initiated the attack, but the Gladiators were one on a list of possible suspects. On 26 February 2012, when opponents of Putin organised a flashmob on Revolution Square, they were attacked by about 50 beefy fighters. They covered their faces, but some were identifed as Spartak Gladiators.</p> <p>Football fanatics are not always government supporters, however. Sometimes they can make the Kremlin really quite nervous.</p> <h3>The Manezh incident</h3> <p>In early December 2010 a Spartak fan, Yegor Sviridov, was killed in Moscow during a fight. Only one side used a gun &ndash; some lads who had come to Moscow from the Caucasus.&nbsp; Under pressure from the relatives, the police let the killer go, but they soon had cause to regret this decision. The next day the union of Spartak supporters, Fratria, called its members out on to the street to protest. More than 2000 fans and activists of nationalist organisations blocked Leningrad Prospekt. They demanded that the murderer be arrested and punished. He was arrested on 8 December, but it was too late to prevent events coming to a head.</p> <blockquote><p><em>&lsquo;After the Manezh incident an unofficial pact was concluded between the fans and the Russian government: we respect and support you, you are outside politics. Characteristically, one of Putin's first election campaign meetings was held in St Petersburg with the Zenit fans&rsquo;</em></p></blockquote><p>On 11 December more than 6000 young men gathered on Manezh Square, practically at the Kremlin walls. They beat up several young Armenians and then started fighting with OMON [special purpose police unit]. The fanatics were only repulsed when heavy reinforcements came to the aid of the police. This was the first disturbance in Moscow for five years when not only demonstrators but policemen too were hurt.</p> <p>The leaders of the fans' movement announced that this riot on Manezh Square had been started by 'political forces'. On 21 December Vladimir Putin had a meeting with the Spartak fans. He expressed his sympathy for them, then put flowers on Yegor Sviridov's grave.</p> <p>Another conflict almost flared up in the summer of 2011 when Zenit fans were beaten up in Makhachkala. Fans of various clubs got together to discuss a joint manouevre against the Caucasus fans. However, just before the next Zenit match in Moscow a bus carrying Zenit fans was shot at from a hunting rifle. Although this happened in the Tver Oblast, i.e. outside Moscow, suspicion fell on Spartak fans and the joint action didn't happen. The people who fired at the bus were never found.</p> <h3>Dangerous allies</h3> <p>After the Manezh incident an unofficial pact was concluded between the fans and the Russian government: we respect and support you, you are outside politics. Characteristically, one of Putin's first election campaign meetings was held in St Petersburg with the Zenit fans. It was in a restaurant and Putin didn't talk about sport, but about the need for peace between the various nations within Russia.&nbsp; The fans promised to vote for him in the election.</p> <p>At the same time, however, there was another protest, unplanned. More than 3000 fans from various clubs converged on the small town of Maloyaroslavets, in Kaluga Oblast, SE of Moscow. They marched through the town to protest at the grievous injury inflicted on a Spartak fan in a fight by a man from the Caucasus, and the authorities' reluctance to investigate the crime. The demonstrators accused the police and the court of corruption.&nbsp; Less than two weeks later the trouble-maker received a lengthy prison sentence.</p> <p>Among the Russian fans there are quite a few for whom the street violence is inseparable from football culture. The desire to fight is combined with right-wing ideology and some of the street soldiers work with the Kremlin youth movement Nashi. But the next time someone from the Caucasus kills or wounds a fan and the law enforcement bodies fail to punish the murderer, the fans will come out on the street again.&nbsp; Perhaps peacefully, perhaps not.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>‘Football Dynamo’, by Marc Bennets, Virgin Books, 2008</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/irina-borogan-andrei-soldatov/police-international-vs-russia%E2%80%99s-football-fans">The Police International vs Russia’s football fans</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/article/russia-theme/football-as-a-catalyst-for-patriotism">Football as a catalyst for patriotism</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/article/russia-theme/the-rise-of-russia-and-its-football">The rise of Russia and its football</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/oleg-kashin/russian-protest-movement-why-my-optimism-was-misplaced">The Russian protest movement: why my optimism was misplaced </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/andrei-loshak-svetlana-reiter/decency-hope-friendship-real-story-from-moscows-race-riots">Decency, hope, friendship: the real story from Moscow&#039;s race riots</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Russia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Copyright </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Russia Civil society Conflict conflicts russia & eurasia russia Football Politics Society Mikhail Loginov Joining the dots on football in Europe Internal Conflict Wed, 28 Mar 2012 15:57:23 +0000 Mikhail Loginov 65086 at The Police International vs Russia’s football fans <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="'s_fans_anthem_1.jpg" alt="" width="160" align="right" />As Russia’s largest and best organised ‘horizontal’ community in Russia, football fans have found themselves at the centre of governmental attempts to control informal groups, write Irina Borogan and Andrei Soldatov. Perhaps more surprisingly, they have also become guinea pigs for international data exchange programmes, with Russian authorities picking up the very worst of surveillance practices from their foreign colleagues.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="a">Back in April 2002, Europe took a key step towards creating a pan-continental&nbsp; system of keeping track of fans&rsquo; movements. The Council of the European Union decided that <a href="">National Football Information Points</a> (NFIP) should be established by national police forces within each member state. The purpose of these NFIPs was be to facilitate information exchange on football supporters and fans who supposedly present a high level of risk. These include those individuals who might set off flares in the ground, those who shout politically incorrect slogans or those who have been involved in disturbances. </p> <p class="a">The main goal of the data exchange was to prevent such fans from attending international sporting events by banning their entry into the country concerned. To this end European countries compiled registers of supporters who have come up on their radar, updated in advance of every championship.</p> <p class="a">Russia is neither a member of the EU nor has an NFIP been located within its borders, but this has not prevented it becoming an active participant in the data exchange scheme. Indeed, information about Russian fans has already been distributed across the globe via international police networks.</p><p class="image-left"><img src="" alt="" width="270" /><span class="image-caption">The upcoming Euro 2012 where Russian national team <br />qualified is likely to lead to even more scrutiny of the <br />Russian football fans movement and updated blacklists.<br />Photo: Petar Milosevic</span></p><p>On 19 October of this year, for example, seven <a href="">Zenit St. Petersburg</a> supporters were banned from crossing the Ukrainian border while on their way to Donetsk for a match with the local club <a href="">Shakhtar</a>. They had yet to commit an offence of any kind. Ukraine is, of course, not the first country to have banned Russian fans. For some years now Russian fans travelling to their favourite clubs&rsquo; matches abroad have had problems crossing state borders. Until recently, however, these were individual cases affecting a handful of people at most. In this case, it transpires that the blacklist Ukrainian authorities received from Russia stretched to 100 supporters. </p><p><strong> </strong></p><p class="a">According to Alexander Birsan, the first Deputy Chairman of Ukraine&rsquo;s Euro 2012 National Agency, this shows the system is working well. &ldquo;Troublesome supporters now understand that Ukraine has a working database&rdquo;, he said. The official confirmed that football hooligans from various countries are listed in databases by UEFA uses this information whenever it considers it necessary to limit such supporters&rsquo; access to matches. </p><h3 class="a"><strong>The fan</strong></h3> <p class="a">Maxim Korotin, a.k.a Rabik, is a former leader of the &lsquo;Yaroslavka&rsquo; CSKA fan group. Described by some supporter as a notorious enough figure on the terraces, his image belies the image most middle class Muscovites would have of a hardened fan: aged around 30, he is of average height and completely average stature.</p> <p class="a">At a late night meeting with us in a Moscow pizza restaurant, Maxim introduces himself as a former member of Russia&rsquo;s National Supporters Club (VOB). He talks about the difficulties he has encountered &mdash; especially in travelling &mdash; as a result of his involvement in football supporter activism:</p> <p class="a">Korotin: &lsquo;In 2007 I travelled to Tel Aviv, as our national team was playing a match there. When I arrived at Ben Gurion airport I was stopped at immigration (even though I had a valid visa). I was finger-printed, photographed and told that according to their information I had organised football disturbances and would be deported back to Russia on the next day, as indeed I was. </p> <p class="a">Authors: 'Why do you think you have ended up on the football supporter blacklist?'</p> <p class="a">K: &lsquo;I don&rsquo;t know exactly why. I can only guess. I think it&rsquo;s because of a scores being settled on the VOB Central Council, where I used to be the CSKA representative. The Council had started getting cheap match tickets to sell to supporters, which made it enemies among those who had used to run the sales racket. They were the ones who entered my name into the database and subsequently passed it on to Israel via international channels. After that I was refused a Schengen visa on several occasions.&rsquo;</p> <h3 class="a">Walls of silence</h3> <p class="a">Getting information from Russian officials about how the data exchange works on the ground is a near impossible task. When we submitted our questions the appropriate department within the Moscow Directorate of the Interior ministry, the deputy head of that department, Yekaterina Khrenova, refused to talk to us, citing a ban on communicating with the media. Interpol&rsquo;s National Central Office in Russia also refused to provide us with information, while the MVD Directorate for Cooperation with the Media has not yet responded to our request.</p> <p class="a">We did, however, manage to exchange emails with Tony Conniford, a British NFIP representative and Assistant Director of the UK football policing unit. He explained how the data exchange with Russia had evolved. Conniford said that his unit had established contact not with the federal Ministry for Internal Affairs (MVD) but with the Department for Coordination and Cooperation with Foreign Law Enforcement Agencies at MVD&rsquo;s Main Directorate for the city of Moscow:</p> <p class="a">Conniford: &lsquo;Our recent contacts with Russia began in 2007 when we hosted an eleven person multi-agency delegation in London, organised by the Football Union of Russia. This visit enabled us to form good relations with colleagues in Moscow which were enhanced later that year when the English national team played Russia in Moscow in a Euro 2008 qualifying match.'</p> <p class="a">Authors: 'Are there any specific procedures for exchanging personal data on football fans with the Russian police?'</p> <p class="a">C: &lsquo;All the relevant rules are set out in the EU Football Handbook, in the section dealing with the National Information Football Points. We would apply the same principles to countries outside of the EU and in fact did in 2007/8 when we dealt with the Russian authorities in Moscow.&rsquo;</p> <h3 class="a">Ever increasing collaboration</h3> <p class="a">The &lsquo;Football Handbook&rsquo; is a voluminous manual that defines how EU countries should cooperate to prevent football-related violence at matches with an international dimension. In accordance with this document, any exchange of information with countries without NFIPs such as Russia has to be handled by specially established contact points.</p><p class="a"><img src="" alt="" width="530" /></p><p class="a"><span class="image-caption">Because football hooligans are widely seen as presenting a high risk to securtiy by the authorities, this can easily be exploited by nationalists and other radicals to promote their causes under the cover of the footbal fan movement. The infamous event on Manezhnaya Square in December 2010 is the case in point. Photo: Ilya Varlamov</span></p><p>The Football Handbook distinguishes ordinary football supporters from those who pose a risk of violence. For ordinary supporters it proposes exchanging data on their number, identification, banners, involvement in speculation, information on bookings at hotels where they intend to stay before the matches and the forms of transport they intend to use to enter the country.&nbsp; </p><p class="a">Where, in the eyes of the police, fans may pose a risk, this list expands to include information on tattoos, nicknames, alcohol abuse and patterns of behaviour, right up to potential response to their team&rsquo;s victory or defeat, behaviour during interrogation and their attitudes towards representatives of various football clubs. We don&rsquo;t actually reproduce this list in its entirety, but suffice to say that it resembles the Soviet-era check-list that people were tested against in order to get a job or university place. Here, however, the standard measure of that era &mdash; being &ldquo;morally robust&rdquo; &mdash; is replaced by &ldquo;providing dignified answers when interrogated&rdquo;. </p> <p class="a">The level of data exchange varies with country. A questionnaire we sent out suggested that some thirteen members of the scheme &mdash; Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Estonia, Switzerland, Spain, Germany, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Great Britain, Serbia and Ukraine &mdash; had exchanged information on football supporters with Russia, Belarus, Japan and other countries. But each country only seems to provide as much data as it has been able to gather: some countries such as Belgium, Bulgaria, Serbia and Sweden only rarely exchange information on supporters&rsquo; nicknames, for example. </p><blockquote><p class="a">'Where, in the eyes of the police, fans are deemed to pose a risk, [the data collected] includes information on tattoos, nicknames, alcohol abuse and patterns of behaviour, right up to potential response to their team&rsquo;s victory or defeat, behaviour during interrogation and their attitudes towards representatives of various football clubs.'</p></blockquote> <p class="a">Active negotiations are currently underway to secure a new and expanded agreement between Russia and Europol, since the current agreement, signed on 6 November 2003 is considered &lsquo;insufficient&rsquo;. According to Soren Kragh Pedersen, Europol&rsquo;s Media and PR Director, the document only allows for the exchange of &lsquo;strategic information&rsquo; on football supporters. That is why active negotiations are underway to sign a new agreement, which would cover both strategic and operational cooperation. The Russian delegation at the third round of these negotiations, which took place in The Hague in July of this year, included officials from the Ministry for Internal Affairs, Ministry of Justice, the Foreign Ministry, the Federal Security Service FSB, the Customs Office, the Procurator General&rsquo;s Office and the Investigative Committee.&nbsp; </p> <h3 class="a">Suspicion by association</h3> <p class="a">Russia&rsquo;s football supporter community is a huge movement that relies on &lsquo;horizontal&rsquo; links between supporters, who gather voluntarily in official fan clubs and a plethora of informal groups. Their participants vary widely &ndash; from ardent supporters attending all their favourite teams&rsquo; away matches to thugs who organise attacks on members of the political opposition. The football fan movement has continued to attract the attention of the authorities by organising campaigns in support of an impartial investigation into the Moscow murder of football supporter Yegor Sviridov, which led to <a href="">mass protests in Manezhnaya Square</a> on Dec 11 of 2010 (resulting in 10 people being injured). The situation had become so heated that Vladimir Putin met with leaders of football associations in order to urge them not to participate in disturbances. </p><iframe src=";byline=0&amp;portrait=0" width="530" height="305" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe><p class="image-caption">The video is shot by Owl Computing UDP systems, and show supporters of the Dagestan team on 27 May 2011 entering the stands before the match between Anzhi Makhachkala and Locomotive Moscow at Locomotive&rsquo;s stadium in the capital. Faces of some fifteen hundred Anzhi supporters were recorded, with their identities established by comparing the images taken by the cameras with photographs from passport application forms. </p> <p class="a">The number of such committed fans in Russia as a whole is estimated at a minimum of 100,000. According to fans themselves, Spartak Moscow has the largest following, with some 40,000. CSKA has 17,000, Dynamo Moscow 5,000 and Locomotive Yaroslavl 8,500, in addition to several other clubs, all of which are informally linked with one another.</p> <p class="a">Fans report that these supporter networks - especially its leaders and more active members - have been long subject to police surveillance. It is no longer such a surprise, for example, for them to receive visits from the local police, for example, or to be summoned to the infamous Moscow Police HQ on 38 Petrovka Street. Newspapers and bloggers periodically publish documents suggesting that teachers in schools and colleges are being forced to compile lists of students who &lsquo;belong to supporter groups&rsquo;. </p> <p class="a">Oleg Semyonov, director of the official Spartak fan club, told us in a telephone interview that he knew of undercover police attending matches around Russia in order to obtain video footage of the stands. All the information they gather is, it would seem, entered into a special police database, which first Deputy Minister for Internal Affairs Aleksandr Chekalin admitted to back in 2005. According to Chekalin, the unified database was a &lsquo;purely preventative&rsquo; measure; even back then, the database contained some 1500 names. Now, it is likely to number substantially more. </p> <p class="a">Moreover, our sources report that the Interior Ministry have actually stepped up efforts to gather information on football fans and have recently adopted modern technology, in particular biometric facial identification. We also learned that before key matches, video streaming systems (UPTS) and digital cameras are set up near the turnstiles, and that the Interior Ministry then uses it for biometric identification and to search for offenders. When supporters pass through metal detectors, their faces are caught on camera and the image is processed by the system comparing it with the database that has been specially uploaded by the police (see our previous <a href="../../../../../../../../od-russia/andrei-soldatov-irina-borogan/face-in-crowd-fsb-is-watching-you">article</a> for an explanation of how this works). Within the police force this biometric database has become known as fanaty [&lsquo;The fans&rsquo;].</p> <p class="a">Given the scope of surveillance and intrusion, the European approach is itself hardly a model for observing democratic norms. Nonetheless, innovations such as this database, combined with the usage of Europol's approach, helps Russia to proceed further in its way to monitor closely groups of activists of any kind, and as a result deserves to be monitored very closely in the months and years ahead.</p> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Russia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Russia Civil society Democracy and government Football Politics Society Andrei Soldatov Irina Borogan Joining the dots on football in Europe Project_ID Internal Thu, 05 Jan 2012 12:05:51 +0000 Irina Borogan and Andrei Soldatov 63533 at Football as a catalyst for patriotism <p align="justify"> Russia has never seen such an explosion of interest in sport broadcasts as it did during the Euro-2008 championship. Hundreds of thousands of mainly young people took to the streets in the capital. People were talking of nothing but football. In Moscow, 63% of the television audience watched the final match between Russia-Netherlands. In the semi-final between Russia and Spain it was higher still at 70%. These figures are unprecedented. The only possible exception is the New Year message of greetings by the Russian president. </p> <p align="justify"> At the same time, viewing figures were modest for the championship round when the Russian team did not play. They were even lower than the Euro-2004 championship, in which the Russian team did not qualify. Other striking events included a speech by the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church in Russia about football on 22 June, and a debate about whether Channel One could show broadcasts of football matches with the Russian team. </p> <p align="justify"> You may be tempted to say it&#39;s only sport, only football. But you can learn a lot about a society through football. What we were watching during those three weeks in June 2008 were not just sporting events. They were significant striking social events. For sport is a celebration of patriotism. </p> <p align="justify"> Russian commentators used to call major competitions ‘celebrations of sport&#39;, especially in the Soviet Union. This maybe a cliché, but it contains a good deal of truth. In television broadcasts of the Euro championship, we saw carnival elements on display: fans&#39; faces painted in national colors, carnival clothing, and behaviour that would be impossible under normal circumstances. And it was not just a carnival, but a patriotic carnival: with national flags, clothes of the same colours etc. During the championship, football becomes a national idea, a symbol of national unity for all the participating countries. Victory becomes proof of the value of the nation, the flag and the national identity. There are traditional models of behaviour, ways of reacting to both victories and defeats. </p> <p align="justify"> In most countries, these symbols, models and rules of behavior evolved long ago and became part of culture. In Russia, for various reasons, it&#39;s quite different. Firstly, in Soviet history sport was seen for too long not as a celebration, as a patriotic game, but almost as war, even if it was a sporting war. Secondly, our society is now divided, and contains very few common national values. We don&#39;t know how to react to sporting events. Above all, we don&#39;t know how to show our patriotism, our love for our country, when an occasion arises that brings us together. </p> <p align="justify"> In recent years, in what they&#39;re nowcalling this ‘age of stability&#39;, we&#39;ve started to feel an urgent need for a national idea round which we can rally. Patriotism is obviously important for any society today, but we have not been able to find anything that brings us together. To some extent xenophobia has fulfilled this role: the idea of us being ‘good&#39; and them, ie everyone else, being ‘bad&#39;. We&#39;ve scoured our ‘great history&#39; for a national patriotic idea to gather round. But we haven&#39;t even been able to find any historical figures to unite us. </p> <p align="justify"> If Pushkin really is ‘our everything&#39;, then our attitude to Lenin, Stalin and other significant historical figures is divisive. They may be geniuses for some, but for others they are villains. Pride in our victory in the Great Patriotic War is probably the only completely shared basis for patriotism. But as time goes by, the role of that victory as the foundation of national pride and patriotic feeling will inevitably fade. This would probably already have happened had the importance of that victory not been upheld by the institutions of the state- from school to the media. </p> <p align="justify"> For Soviet propaganda sport, played an important role as the bedrock of patriotic feeling. The ‘outstanding success of Soviet sportsmen&#39; was supposed to (and for many people really did) prove the pre-eminence of the socialist system, which created all the necessary conditions for human development. </p> <p align="justify"> As the main rivals of Soviet sportsmen were Americans, the battle between them became part of the Cold War. On Soviet television, sport was accorded a place of honor, and the streets really did empty during broadcasts of figure skating or hockey, so beloved by Leonid Brezhnev. But as sport was promoted by the state as an ideological activity, there were groups of people who did not agree with this approach and ideology, and watched competitions in order to root symbolically for the other side, and support their rivals from the capitalist world. </p> <p align="justify"> <em>Russians lose interest</em> </p> <p align="justify"> From the late 1980&#39;s to the early2000&#39;s, interest in sport dropped off in Russia. There were many reasons. For a start, sport just did not seem serious to people struggling to come to terms with their changed circumstances. When life was so hard, it seemed like a lot of childish games. </p> <p align="justify"> There was also the feeling of envy. People were outraged by the colossal sums sportsmen earned. It was not fair that they should get so much while ordinary people earned so little. The media was forever telling people how many millions of dollars a footballer or hockey player had been bought for. </p> <p align="justify"> In the Soviet period, sportsmen were called amateurs. People couldn&#39;t understand it. What right did amateurs have to earn so much more than we professionals who are doing something that really is important? Sportsmen were accused of being unpatriotic. They would leave poor Russia for the West in pursuit of their millions in the West, then not want to play for their home team or play half-heartedly, because they had stopped being true Russians. </p> <p align="justify"> This was what people thought of the tennisplayer Anna Kurnikova, and to some extent of Maria Sharapova too, who both live in the West. When Sharapova played at the Kremlin Cup, many fans threw their support behind the ‘real&#39; Russian players, and saw her as a millionaire with an American passport. </p> <p align="justify"> One of the main reasons why people lost interest in sport was that Russian sportsmen performed so much worse than they had in the Soviet period. When things get tough, you only cheer for winners - real or potential ones. If a sportsman or team has little chance of winning, you lose interest: everything&#39;s bad enough as it is, without them losing all the time. It did not matter what kind of sport it was: all that mattered was winning. </p> <p align="justify"> Take hockey - one of the most popular sports in the victorious Soviet period. In 2000, the World Hockey Championship was held in St. Petersburg. The so-called ‘dream team&#39; was made upentirely of Russian players from the US National Hockey League. The media kept talking up the strength of the team as the favourites to win. President Putin came to the championship, and the honour of the country was hanging on this team now playing in their home turf. But the team lost and left the field in shame. </p> <p align="justify"> After that, interest in the hockey championship plummeted - to such an extent that for several years, Channel One and Rossiya television did not even bother to buy the rights to the World Hockey Championships. They knew these broadcasts would cause their ratings to fall,and give their competitors the edge while they were on. </p> <p align="justify"> <em>Searching for national identity</em> </p> <p align="justify"> Then, after a decade and a half, at the beginning of the 2000&#39;s, people started becoming interested in sport again.They were still only interested in success, of course. But as living standards began to rise, people started to feel the need of a patriotic idea. The search for a national identity was part and parcel of the re-establishment of a normal way of life. People looked for it in old Soviet values, and in new achievements. Sport was in many respects a suitable vehicle for these sentiments. </p> <p align="justify"> For example, for a long time people showed no interest in a figure skating, a sport really popular during the Soviet period. The stadiums were empty, and broadcasts of the World and European Skating Championships got low ratings. So television only showed these competitions at night, if at all. This was despite the fact that Russian figure skaters were achieving excellent results, and winning time and again. </p> <p align="justify"> A few years ago, things changed. Public interest suddenly rose dramatically. No one expected this, least of all the trainers and skaters. It was not the sport that changed - the athletes continued to perform as well before. The audiences had changed. Now they were seeking an outlet for their patriotic pride. If interest has fallen away recently, it isonly because Russian figures skaters have stopped winning so much. </p> <p align="justify"> An even more telling example of the link between sport and patriotism is the winters sports biathlon, which combines cross country skiing and rifle marksmenship. Unlike figureskating, this type of extended winter sport was not previously popular with audiences. But in recent years the audience for this biathlon has increased considerably. </p> <p align="justify"> It became popular for two reasons. First,the Russian team was performing impressively. Second, it lasts a long time and can build public support. The stages of the competition are shown regularly over the course of almost half a year. Viewerscan root for potentially successful sportsmen over an extended period, rather than just for a couple of short matches. Biathlon also became a television fixture because of its regularity. Viewers became familiar with the sport and its people.The broadcasts were watched like soap operas. </p> <p align="justify"> It is also no coincidence that at the 2004 Summer Olympics synchronised swimming drew large audiences. This was a sport many viewers had never suspected existed until Russian women began winning one medal after another. </p> <p align="justify"> Thanks to these sporting victories people began feeling that they belonged to a great, victorious power. Watching them on television is therapeutic. It heals social complexes - Russia is strong, we are strong, we are winning. ‘We can do it!&#39; This has become one of the foundations of patriotism. </p> <p align="justify"> <em>‘The world is against us&#39;</em> </p> <p align="justify"> But Russian competitors and teams did not always win. In fact they have often lost. Unsuccessful competitions are not popular. They do not collect large audiences. But they provoke lively arguments. People say: they&#39;re beating us! They&#39;re inspired by negative patriotism, the familiar search for enemies. When our athletes are judged, and accused of taking drugs - they are `being prevented from winning&#39; on the international arena. </p> <p align="justify"> This is essentially an aggressive form of comfort for people who dream of the continuous victories of Russian players. Unfortunately, the media actively encourages these xenophobic impulses- the idea that hatred of Russia, an international conspiracy, lies behind any loss or shame. </p> <p align="justify"> There are two kinds of patriotic rhetoric.On the one hand, our people are winning because Russia is ‘rising&#39;. On the other, our people are losing because the whole world is against us. Until 2008,the second discourse predominated, as there were not many successes. But this year the situation changed. </p> <p align="justify"> As we all know, first the Petersburg team Zenit won the UEFA Cup in football. A few days later Russian hockey players became world champions. Then the singer Dima Bilan won the Eurovision Song Contest. It is not important what Bilan did to win. He took part in a competition, and brought victory to Russia. The social function of a musical competition like this perfectly fits the criterion of sport competitions. </p> <p align="justify"> Happening as they did over a veryshort time, it became clear that this was no accident. If they have stopped ‘holding us back&#39;, then Russia really has risen, become a great power. Nowbeing a patriot is not only necessary, it is a matter of honour. The fact thatall these events are unconnected is not important. Victories are good anyway. Indeed,it is even better that they happen in different fields: Russia is not just strong, but strong in everything. This was the national mood at the start ofthe 2008 European football championship. </p> <p align="justify"> <em>Football as a national idea</em> </p> <p align="justify"> Thousands of Russian fans went to the matches in Switzerland and Austria. Sports bars in Russian cities were packed, everyone rooting for the team together. After a victory by the Russianteam, people took to the streets. Cars were draped in Russian flags, and young people painted their faces in its colours. Flags, caps and badges with Russian symbols were sold in shops, in the metro and on the streets. </p> <p align="justify"> The Russian integration into European style football rituals is not equally distributed across the country. It has become firmly entrenched in Moscow, somewhat less so in Petersburg and other large cities, and much less in the provinces. Once again, Moscow occupies a special place in the landscape of Russian culture. It is a rich European capital. After Russia&#39;s victories against the Greek and Dutch teams, hundreds of thousands of people, mainly young, took to the Moscow streets. And the crowd was jubilant, not aggressive. This did not happen in other cities. Lacking the experience, people showed their enthusiasm more locally. </p> <p align="justify"> The Russian team got into the championship partly by accident, a lucky turn of events that did not depend on the team. So at the start of the championship neither the fans nor the media knew quite how they should feel about it, or how to root for the team. Werethey outsiders who had got into the championship by accident, or full members of the European football process? People needed to know. For football is not just a game. How should we behave before the first match, and during it? How should we take the first results? </p> <p align="justify"> At first, no one saw the football championship as another link - potentially the most important - in the chain of our victories from Zenit to Bilan, as a new sign of the rebirth of Russia. It&#39;s easier in other countries where people just cheer for their team, and see what happens. This is fine as long as your country does not have an inferiority complex. If it does, then it is hard to back your team wholeheartedly. Afterall, you might be backing losers. Then what would you do? How would you explainwhy things had gone wrong? And who was responsible? </p> <p align="justify"> The fans were disappointed by the team&#39;sfirst game - Russia lost to Spain 1:4. Youcould tell by the betting, the way people talked, the discussions on the internet. The state media was still optimistic, though this was clearly notsincere, just part of their job. But because of the way sport is used by the state (victory being confirmation that a policy is correct, defeat that it isnot), the liberal press, the opposition, gloated over the defeat. </p> <p align="justify"> <em>The victory chorus</em> </p> <p align="justify"> Then came the three victories in a row, each more impressive than the last. And each match proved further confirmation of political and patriotic victory. For the people, each victory meant the success of Russia, not just in sport, but in the widest context. </p> <p align="justify"> The country was moving in the right direction, becoming stronger. And for the opposition media, it was a chance toshow their patriotism, their closeness to the people. For them it was important to be able to show their ‘pure&#39;, non-ideological patriotism. They were not ‘western mercenaries&#39;,‘traducers of all things Russian&#39; but patriots, cheering for its future, happy for its success. It was, in a word, a way of being able to ‘wriggle out&#39; of traditional accusations. </p> <p align="justify"> Only a marginal politician like Valeria Novodvorskaya could make an anti-sport statement during this time. This confirmed her marginal status, which is part of her image: ‘In my view, it&#39;s not a rise in patriotism, but in idiocy. If anything in our country is rising, it is idiocy. And in the most vulgar and strident form. To start with, I reallydon&#39;t like football. And I really don&#39;t like sport. People are no longer individuals. They become part of a screaming crowd. They&#39;reprepared to kill for their favorite team, and destroy half of London or Paris. If it goes on like this, I think sport should be banned.&#39; </p> <p align="justify"> People of every political hue competed to demonstrate their sporting and patriotic feelings. They had to work quickly, as the championship did not last long. What&#39;s more, sport is unpredictable and every victory could prove to be the last. So everyone declared their love for football, the Russian team, and thus for Russia - State Duma deputies, members of government, media representatives, athletes from all other sports, representatives of different religions and artistic figures. Never before had almost identical statements been heard from people of opposing political views, regardless of gender, age, education, income, ethnicity or religion. </p> <p align="justify"> Almost every media report began with an announcement that people were watching football, unable to tear themselves away, screaming with delight when a goal was scored. An official who came onthe radio to talk about a state exam began started by apologising that she had lost her voice while watching the football match. It was important to show she belonged to the people, as the state exam had been seriously criticized. How can you do this without mentioning football? </p> <p align="justify"> While the competition continued, everyone from politicians to artists wanted to get in on the act. Anyone taking part in a radio or television programme felt obliged to prove their patriotism by saying they had lost their voice, that their entire family was talking about nothing else over breakfast, lunch and dinner, about Gus Hiddink and Andrei Arshavin. If they could name names it was even better, as it proved that they really were watching with the entire Russian people. </p> <p align="justify"> On 21 June, the Russian team won the quarter-final against the Netherlands, and was considered one of the favorites of the championship. The next day, 22 June, Patriarch Alexei found himself in adifficult situation. </p> <p align="justify"> On the one hand, the Day of Memory and Mourning was being celebrated in a country where the Great Patriotic War is revered. On the other hand, the church could not ignore the sensational victory of Russian footballers, especially as it had not happened 67 years ago, but the day before. The Patriarch was at a loss: how could he talk about two quite different events, when they were both so valuable? How could he say the right words about one event, but tactfully mention the other as well? </p> <div align="justify"> A compromise was found, combining the two events in one phrase: ‘The mourning today that we feel on the anniversary of the outbreak of the Great Patriotic War is mitigated by our joy over yesterday&#39;s victory by the Russian team,&#39; said Alexei II, speaking to soldiers at the Moscow military district, after a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier by the Kremlin wall. </div> <p align="justify"> This statement produced contradictory reactions. Some said sporting victories and mourning for the dead were completely different and should not be combined in the same phrase. Of course this is true. But after a match which had such incredible public resonance, he couldnot avoid mentioning it. Two boys who were born after the victory match were called Gus by their happy parents, in honor of Gus Hiddink. Perhaps now that the euphoria is over, the parents have changed their minds. </p> <p align="justify"> There is another very striking example: Gus Hiddink was declared the winner... of the Moscow international film festival. The president of the festival, Nikita Mikhalkov, founded a special prize for him, ‘For best direction of Euro-2008&#39;. And the prize was not given directly to the winner: Mikhalkov handed it over to Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov to give to Hiddink. </p> <p align="justify"> The victories of the Russian team played a very important social function. But the team did not win the gold medal. They lost to Spain in the semi-final. It is symbolically significantthat the first and last games in the championship for the Russian team were against the same team. The bitterness of defeat was relieved because the Spanish team proved the strongest on the continent. </p> <p align="justify"> Before the last match of the Russian team, fans prepared thoroughly: two hours before the start of the match young people with flags began gathering in the streets of Moscow, wearing appropriate clothes. Flags were on sale literally on every corner, at every metro station. All these plans were built on the experiences of the previous two winning matches. </p> <p align="justify"> But the team lost 0:3. This couldhave led to violence, fights and broken windows at least, as often happens on such sad occasions in some parts of Europe. Yet none of this happened in Russia. It turned out that the two weeks of patriotic spirit were not connected with the opposition of ‘us versus them&#39;. It was simply a mass display of positive, not negative, patriotism. </p> <p align="justify"> &#160; </p> <p align="justify"> But the next day, there were very few people to meet the losing footballers at the airport. It was in marked contrast to the large jubilant crowd that was seen when the hockey players returned to Moscow as world champions. With their loss, even in the semi-final, the footballers destroyed the fragile idea that ‘we can do anything&#39;. It turnedout that we (or the footballers?) can do many things, but not everything. </p> <p align="justify"> Two years ago, when the German footballers who came third in the World Championship returned home, they were met by a crowd of 100,000. These people did not so much want to congratulate them on their victory, as support them after their loss in the semi-final. Russian fans have learned to enjoy victory, but cannot provide real support after a defeat. </p> <p align="justify"> This is no accident, becausefootballers have raised the social and emotional feeling of the country to such an extent that it seemed if they had won the championship, the nation&#39;s capabilities would have become unlimited. But this was not to be. A few days ago, football was the national idea of the country, but it is an idea too fragile and dependent on events. </p> <p align="justify"> In any case,the European Championship showed that thanks to sport, people in Russia can feel their unity and be proud of the country, in most cases quite sincerely. And this is a result no less important than a bronze medal. </p> <p align="justify"> &#160; </p> <p> &#160; </p> <p> &#160; </p> <p> &#160; </p> <p> &#160; </p> oD Russia oD Russia russia & eurasia russia Football Politics Society Lyubov Borusyak Joining the dots on football in Europe Creative Commons normal Thu, 10 Jul 2008 11:47:11 +0000 Lyubov Borusyak 45394 at The rise of Russia and its football <p> Following <a href="">Zenit St. Petersburg&#39;s stunning victory</a> in the UEFA Cup final in Manchester in front of hordes of howling Glasgow Rangers fans, and the upcoming Champions League final in Moscow between those two giants of English football - Manchester United and Chelsea - the football world has fixed its attention firmly on Russia. And it has realised that it knows next to nothing about the subject.<em> </em> </p> <p> While the world&#39;s media has long been full of tales of Russian spies, politicians, and oligarchs, the country&#39;s football still remains the Great Unknown, isolated by politics and geography, culture and history. </p> <p> <strong>The break-up of Soviet football</strong> </p> <p> Sport in the former Soviet Union, as in many other communist and totalitarian states, was considered hugely significant for international prestige. Victory was proof of the wonders of socialism; defeat was a disaster, a disgrace to the ideals of Lenin and Marx. As a result, huge amounts of resources were poured into the USSR&#39;s sporting infrastructure, and talented youngsters were encouraged, nurtured and provided with the very best in terms of facilities. </p> <p> However, the collapse of the USSR in 1991 meant more than just the end of the world&#39;s first socialist state; it also signalled the break-up of Soviet football. Overnight, the Soviet Union&#39;s players found themselves deprived of the centralised state system, and thrust into a new and sometimes frightening world. </p> <p> The realities of post-perestroika Russia meant that the ruling powers, indeed the general population, had little time for any form of sport. In the 1990&#39;s, Russia was in real danger of ceasing to exist as a fully functioning state. The world&#39;s largest country was being ripped apart by a brutal separatist war in Chechnya, a vicious crime wave, and the incompetence and corruption of the Yeltsin regime. Football was the last thing on most people&#39;s minds. </p> <p> The first games I went to in Russia in the mid-1990s were characterized by extremely low crowds, players whose only desire was to sign with a foreign club, and an overwhelming sensation of sadness as once great football was brought to its knees. Turnstiles were often opened at half-time to let fans in for free, such was the lack of interest. </p> <p> <strong>The oil dollar effect</strong> </p> <p> Now, however, everything has changed. Oil dollars have transformed Russia, and its national game along with it, making its Premier League football the fifth richest in Europe in terms of turnover. The crowds have come back, and the quality of both the domestic players and the imports, or ‘legionaries&#39; as the Russians say, has risen dramatically. </p> <p> The ‘player drain&#39; has been well and truly plugged, with average wages looking increasingly generous and top players regularly claiming that they see no point in leaving Russia to play for a mid-table European side. A great change indeed from the 1990&#39;s, when, for example, Sergei Yuran, the <a href="">Spartak Moscow</a> mid-fielder and Russian international, signed a contract with the struggling second division English side Millwall at a time when Spartak were champions of Russia and regularly involved in Champions League football. </p> <p> Top Russian players like Zenit&#39;s Andrey Arshavin can now earn $200,000 a month. However, the economic boom sweeping through Russia may be in the process of transforming the country, but it is also exaggerating social differences. It is splitting the population into ‘the wealthy&#39; and ‘the poor&#39;, with the spaces in between looking increasingly sparse. </p> <p> Granted, the very top stars in the English Premier League earn far more than their Russian counterparts, yet while the salaries enjoyed by John Terry and co are unquestionably obscene, they are not, I would suggest, contributing to a rapidly widening, and potentially cataclysmic, division within British society. </p> <p> <strong>The Soviet legacy</strong> </p> <p> Despite the Western-style lifestyles and salaries enjoyed by Russia&#39;s top players, the legacy of the Soviet system of sport, with its emphasis on draconian measures to ensure the fitness of those men and women chosen to represent the USSR is not entirely dead. </p> <p> Russian players are cursed with possibly the strictest training regime in the entire world. They are forced to attend <em>sbori,</em> or training camps, during the close season, each lasting between two and six weeks. In the four-month gap between seasons, players are almost constantly away from home. They are more than often held abroad, but sometimes in the Russian south, in Black Sea resorts like Sochi and Adler. Separated from their families, the players are subject to strict diets and heavy training sessions. Footballers in Russia are also obliged to stay at the club&#39;s out-of-town training camps before games, including home matches, with the result that if a team has two matches a week they are simply never at home. As the former Spartak striker, Vladimir Beschastnykh, told me not so long ago, ‘Sometimes I feel like they are training us for the Special Forces.&#39; </p> <p> The system of <em>sbori </em>comes from Soviet times, from the routine for international away matches. The players would be kept in the training camps prior to fixtures to ensure they were in top form before representing the USSR. The system then spread to clubs, and has remained a part of the Russian football scene. </p> <p> <strong>Restoring Russian greatness</strong> </p> <p> <em>Sbori</em> are not the only thing to remain from the Soviet era. Now that Russia has begun to reassert itself on the global stage, it is again looking to promote the country through sport. The Russian football national team, so often a source of shame and embarrassment, not once having managed to get out of its group at a major tournament, is resurgent. It <a href=";q=19201&amp;cid=63&amp;p=22.11.2007">goes into this summer&#39;s European Championships</a> in Austria and Switzerland as one of the competition&#39;s dark horses. </p> <p> This revival of Russian football stems from a 7-1 defeat to Portugal in Lisbon in 2004. Even taking into account the almost complete control that the Russian authorities enjoy over the mass media, there was no way the humiliating result could be hushed up. It reflected badly on President Putin&#39;s pledge that Russia would eventually ‘catch up with Portugal&#39; (in terms of GDP). </p> <p> Putin, furious at the way Russia had been torn apart in Portugal, contacted the president of the Russian Football Federation, Vitali Mutko, and instructed him to build up the national side, to look for sponsors and investors. As a former KGB officer, the Russian national leader had naturally enough inherited the Soviet belief that sport was intimately connected to prestige on the international scene. Spineless and incompetent displays like the one in Lisbon were hindering his attempts to restore Russian greatness and world influence. </p> <p> Oil money was rapidly turning Russia into a potential superpower, and states that aspire to regional, and even global, leadership simply do not get beaten 7-1 at football by tiny south European nations. Mutko, in turn, contacted the oil oligarch and Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich. The sixteenth-richest man in the world, doing his part to rescue Russian national pride, promptly conjured up respected Dutch coach, Guus Hiddink, who immediately set about rebuilding the demoralised Russian team. </p> <p> <strong>‘We are the future&#39;</strong> </p> <p> However, despite the Russian footballing boom, the Champions League final will be an all-English affair. The British media has made much of the Russian hooligan threat, yet as scenes in Manchester during, before, and after the UEFA Cup final last week prove, it may be Muscovites who have more to fear from drunken English supporters. </p> <p> Indeed, Russian football hooliganism is extremely organised. The majority of ‘hools&#39; have no interest in attacking fans who are not involved in what they call the ‘near football&#39; world. Indeed, the majority of Russian hardcore hooligans are dismissive of the English football scene. They recognise that while the Millwall and Chelsea thugs of the 1970&#39;s and 1980&#39;s were trendsetters, times have moved on. As one Russian hooligan told me recently, &quot;We respect them, but we are not afraid of them. They are the past - we are the future!&quot; </p> <p> As investment pours into the Russian game on an unprecedented scale, the country&#39;s sides will be hoping that soon they will also be able to say the same thing about their English, Italian, and Spanish counterparts. </p> oD Russia oD Russia bread & circuses russia Football Politics Society Marc Bennetts Joining the dots on football in Europe Creative Commons normal Mon, 19 May 2008 20:39:59 +0000 Marc Bennetts 44663 at