2012 June | FREE

Archive the month of June 2012

June 19, 2012

Lonely Hearts

This evening there will be only eight left. Eight teams of the fifty-three that were lined up by UEFA’s member federations for Euro2012. That means that in 45 different, more or less football-crazy countries fans are orphans of their ‘own’ team. Which will of course not keep them from watching the remaining games. The question is: what side will they support?

Football, due to its fundamental design of binary opposition, systematically invites the spectator – even if his/her team is not involved – to take sides and express partisanship in order to enjoy the thrill of the game and respond to his/her individual and collective ‘quest for excitement” (to quote the famous expression coined by Norbert Elias). You can of course always pretend to be a ‘neutral observer’, appreciating each match on the basis of the technical skills and tactical know-how displayed by both teams. But football is about emotion, and without emotional involvement it’s much less tasty.

Post by : Albrecht Sonntag in the category : Competitions, Identities, Posts - No comment

June 18, 2012

Wake up, Arsène, the war is over!

At each major international competition, Arsène Wenger, one of Europe’s most intelligent football managers of the last decades, serves as ‘pundit’ on TF1, France’s (and actually Europe’s) largest television network. His very articulate analysis of tactical options, individual players’ performance and hidden dynamics of the game often make you feel you just learnt something.

As can easily be concluded from the opening paragraph above, I am a sincere admirer of Mr Wenger’s work and expertise. I was all the more perplexed when I heard him introduce last Wednesday’s Germany vs. Netherlands with the words ‘There is a lot of hatred between these two nations. It dates from the second world war, and it has remained very tenacious since’.

This is the kind of comment one might have expected from the likes of Thierry Roland (see previous post). A wonderful case study of perceptions or beliefs that are upheld against plenty of evidence to the contrary. True, the German vs. Netherlands of 1974 or 1988 were loaded with emotions, both on the pitch and in the terraces. But, as Simon Kuper has repeatedly and convincingly pointed out, these days are over. Matches between the two nations usually provide ample opportunity for mutual mockery and ‘Goodbye!’ chants, but there has not been a single newsworthy incident since the beginning of this century. To my knowledge there has been no agressive hostility at all between Dutch and German supporters last Wednesday, neither in the city of Kkarkiv nor on the playing field, where players of both sides, who know each other well, could be seen in friendly discussion after the match.

Post by : Albrecht Sonntag in the category : Identities, Posts, Public Sphere - No comment

June 17, 2012

Voice of the nation

Today both France and Greece face important parliamentary elections, the latter of which may even have dramatic consequences on the future of the entire European Union. You might think that yesterday’s French television evening news would have opened on the stakes of these key moments of democracy, reminding viewers of their potential outcome and impact.

Instead all news programmes (TF1, France2, France3, as well as BFMTV, LCI and iTele) opened on the (natural) death of a football reporter. Thierry Roland, who passed away at age 74, had not even been an oustandingly good journalist. His way of commenting the matches of the French national team was characterised by a hardly concealed chauvinism, the regular mobilisation of national stereotypes and the constant use of emotional onomatopoeia and expressions like the ones you hear on a Sunday afternoon all over the country’s playing fields. In the satiric TV programme ‘Les Guignols de l’info’ Roland’s ‘popular’ talk was a regular laughing stock.

But then he had been – during the 57 years of his career, spanning thirteen world cups (!) and nine Euros – the voice of the nation at moments that may not necessarily be listed in the history textbooks but that have become indelibly stamped into the fabric of its collective memory. Together with Roland, tens of millions of French citizens cried out in anger at the unsanctioned attack of German keeper Harald Schumacher against Patrick Battiston in the 1982 world cup semi-final in Sevilla, shook their heads in disbelief when ‘Les Bleus’ managed against all odds to be kicked out of the 1994 qualifiers, and went to seventh heaven when the French fairy tale of the summer of 98 was crowned with the final win against Brazil. When I heard the news yesterday, I could not help but remember his words at the final whistle, saying ‘Once you have seen this you can die in peace’. At the moment, I had smiled at this expression of sheer bliss, but I must admit I had not even found it ridiculous, knowing that so many people actually did feel like this that night.

Post by : Albrecht Sonntag in the category : Memory, Posts - No comment

June 12, 2012

On Nasri, the media & moral panics

Samir Nasri shooting at the ball

(c) Larckange13: http://www.flickr.com/photos/larckange13/

The history of the relationship between the media and football players is as tumultuous as it is long. The system is simple, though. The press, radio and television bestow fame on footballers, the consequence being direct material benefits (notably through sponsorship deals) for the players; in return these players help the media attract an audience and earn money. At times the relationship goes awry. Once famous, players may get criticised – this might even attract the media a larger audience than positive reporting. ‘Star players’ rarely enjoy this, no matter how justified the disparagement may, at least sometimes, be. A strong reaction normally follows…

Post by : Dàvid RANC in the category : Posts, Public Sphere - 1 comment

June 7, 2012

Poland welcomes Europe

A Polish response to the BBC in central Warsaw. (c) Borja García

Just hours before the kick-off of UEFA EURO 2012™, Poland is ready to welcome the rest of Europe to the first continental championships to be hosted beyond the ‘iron curtain’ in the EU era. Co-hosts Ukraine and Poland have been subject to serious examination since they were chosen as organisers by UEFA over what was considered the ‘safe bid’ presented by Italy. The latest attempt to look ‘under the carpet’ of these two central and European countries has been the recent edition of Panorama, an investigative news broadcast by the prestigious British public channel, the BBC. In this edition of Panorama, the authors exposed very crude examples of racist, anti-Semitic and generally discriminatory behaviours by football fans in Poland and Ukraine. Perhaps more worryingly, the documentary also accused the authorities of lack of action against the violents. Some commentators, such as former English international Sol Campbell have urged fans not to travel to Poland and Ukraine, whilst others have pointed their fingers at the BBC accusing the public broadcaster of sensationalism.

Post by : Borja García in the category : Competitions, Identities, Posts, Public Sphere - No comment