July 30, 2012
Some days ago I obtained French citizenship. Not a big deal, things are made pretty easy for long-standing German residents in France and their French counterparts in Germany. And apart from voting rights it does not make a big difference anyway.
As it happened, following a surprisingly nice and unpretentious ceremony at the Préfecture, my boss discovered me on a photo in the local newspaper and together with the rest of the school’s management board, she decided to offer me a spontaneous welcome gift: a jersey of the French national team.
Her kind gesture reminded me of the recent UEFA ‘Respect’ campaign with its rather original ‘Exchange your jersey’ video clip. And I very much like the shirt itself – very classy and elegant (which are adjectives that have yet to be earned again by the team that wore it in Ukraine).
But while it is a nice idea to exchange jerseys physically, is it also easy to do so mentally? In other words: can you emancipate yourself from the powerful ‘socialisation machine’ as Brazilian anthropologist Roberto da Matta once called football, describing it as a ‘highly complex system of communication and essential values, where a group’s continuity and cultural permanence is ensured’. (1)