I agreed with much of Omar Raii’s article about the political content of football. I’d like to suggest some friendly amendments to his argument.
Firstly, while he is clearly right that nationalism plays into and feeds off tournaments like the World Cup, I’m not convinced that this is as mechanical a relationship as is sometimes suggested. England’s unexpectedly brilliant performance doesn’t seem to have given any kind of electoral filip for Brexit or the government.
Similarly, despite Emanuel Macron’s embarrassing theatrics at the final, France’s World Cup win has done nothing to bolster his ratings, despite the French press predicting it would do so. This is because fans are not, in the main, so moronic as to draw their political conclusions from a scoresheet.
Secondly, I think the way the article closes is too passive. He says football is “neither progressive nor reactionary” and that people should “just enjoy it. Or don’t”.
I think this phrasing blurs the fact that sport is a terrain of struggle, like any other cultural activity. Cinema or literature don’t have an inherent political character either — it depends on the particular film or writing and its social context. Socialists are in favour of art that isn’t bigoted or just plain rubbish, and have ideas about how culture can be made free, democratic and accessible. Socialist football fans should take a similarly activist approach.
Some priorities might be campaigning against bigotry, for the inclusion of women and LGBT people, and for democratic control of our clubs against the oligarchs and gangsters.
I’m sure Omar heartily agrees, but it’s worth spelling these things out.
Tom Harris, south London