Sunday, June 15, 2014

Soccer as  Strategy

Football is a cult. It brings people together because of the speed of the game, and the instinctive thinking required by the players, and the split second response by commentators and couch potatoes equally, as they watch the game. Football is visceral, because it pounds the senses, wrenches the guts and men and women fall in love with the players by the  numerical signs on their back, as each one is distinguished by a particular style. Advertisers find this rampant energy immediately sensual, and so there is a great colourful propoganda about players and clothes and shoes as much as there is about energy drinks they consume off field. Since football arouses such passion, the streets become the immediate playground for the emotions of the audience, as they revel. They swirl about in search of their cultic heroes, and they become mobs, who drink a lot, and fight with one another. So football becomes the site of the most spectacular riots and dishevelment, where the players are assigned the stature of gods.
 Because the blood flows in the veins so fast, football fans are proud of their feelings, and carry it into the sports stadium. Decorative and patriotic face paint is a little like war paint, and the noise is also profoundly higher, since it communicates the individual body as the site of personal and collective identity.
The real play grounds for footer are in the villages and streets of the urban jungle. Since young boys are inculcated in the sport very early, their desire to be known is also very heady, and film makers are happy to make football films to show how much it means to be a young Maradonna. The vivacity of the game leaves the audience spell bound, while the players themselves live in the  vivid Olympia of their actual proficiency and collective grandeur. Ordinary people can identify with the game, because the tactile nature of the sport means that the warriors will always do what is good for one another, in order to win the game. The "other" is clearly demarcated, and so the real passion is in teamship, and in surrendering one's individualism one actually hones one's superior gamesmanship. Women's football is something which is promoted but not practised, primarily because men represent the sport as that which will emulate the work of the Gods. and the women have only an ornamental or passive status. In Brazil and Argentina, liberation theology promoted the training of football stars in the local community churches where the sons of poor people could aspire to greatness and wealth and power. The idea of hard work leading to honour is not unknown in Christianity,  yet, the specific aggrandisement that football brings is surely a sign of its investment in Capitalism. The medieval churches were built on the loot of war and inquisition,  similarly the soccer theatres are an aspect of the capitalist industry putting its signature on the game. Countries which are poor often have governments which take the carnival and spectacle of sports to define how they will organise the resources of labour and management and profit incentives to make the game do something else rather than  just play. While the world watches, and the stars battle it out, the steel industries and the cocoa cola and the branded clothes and shoe companies will make their profits. The urchins who play in the sun and rain will succumb to hours of television time in order to become passive recipients of the advertising barrage.Cities will undergo transformation, and the carbon trail to the soccer cities will be humungous.
Pele will remain the spiritual ancestor of freedom, the icon of resistance to  war, control mechanisms and political silencing. When football stars become models of behaviour, then every child who watches them on screen, in live play or in the auditorium, will dream of a day when they too have a chance to make that difference. Soccer is not about Homo Ludens but also about glamour, degradation, salvation and rehabilitation. Not surprisingly, for left leaning states like Kerala and West Bengal, the call to street football has always been very noticeable.  The quantum of energy  expended requires a wholesome diet, and both the Malayalees and the Bengalis have a rice eating, fish eating culture, where stamina is the index, not girth or height. Goa has always had football, because the village traditions there too encourage volleyball and football. The Jesuits in South America have been great propogators of sports as a stepping stone to the  possible dream of equality for the poor. The tradition instills discipline, rule bound behaviour as well as hierarchy. Equality is premised in the idea of individual aptitude, which then allows the trainer to take on  a team which he can hone to perfection, given the autocratic nature of his own choice making facilities about who can do what best. That decision is for the trainer to make. Oddly, the acceptance of this is what gives each player his autonomy.

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