Sunday, June 27, 2010

The fight for football: Is the ’world game’ the people’s game?

The 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa began its final round of 16 on June 26. it came amid the unrelenting drone of vuvuzela horns, the knockout of big teams such as Italy and France, and street protests by local residents angry at the 40 billion rand the government has spent on the corporatised event.
Meanwhile, South Africa’s poor continue to suffer substandard housing and access to basic services.

Football, or “soccer” in Australia, is the “world game”, played by millions of people around the world and watched by hundreds of millions more. But is it truly the “people’s game”?
On its own terms, football is an often thrilling exhibition of human skill. A high quality football match commands comparisons with theatre, poetry, and - all too often - opera.

It's also excitingly unpredictable - more so than other art forms. Where else could you see Macbeth get away with fouling Duncan, eke out a nil-all draw with Malcolm, and cheat Banquo of his dreams of the crown on goal differences?

Little wonder, then, that it is so popular worldwide.

However, the game is accompanied by a series of undeniably ugly aspects. The issue of football hooliganism, especially in Europe, is well-known. Many clubs, with their tight-knit fan groups, provide a fertile breeding ground for neo-Nazi and extreme right-wing groups, such as the English Defence League. 

On an international level, support for national teams all too easily finds expression in crude racism. 

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Germany in turmoil as president quits

The government of German Chancellor Angela Merkel is in crisis, following the resignation of Germany’s President Horst Koehler on May 31.

Koehler – a former head of the IMF, and German president since 2004 – resigned after public backlash against comments he made connecting the German economy with increased military deployments.

On a May 22 visit to the German military mission in Afghanistan – something which eighty percent of the German population are opposed to – Koehler told German radio that further military deployments were necessary “to protect our interests, for instance trade routes … or preventing regional instabilities that could negatively impact our trade, jobs and incomes."

Constitutional lawyer Ulrich Preuss called it a “discernably imperialist choice of words”, while Klaus Ernst, co-leader of the antiwar leftwing party Die Linke claimed that Koehler had “openly said what cannot be denied”. Ernst asserted that Afghanistan is a “war about influence and commodities” and defending the export interests of large corporations.

Facing enormous public outcry, Koehler resigned as President, citing a “lack of the necessary respect” for his position. A new president must be appointed within 30 days.