Sunday, June 15, 2008

nothing you can sing that can't be sung

There was a throwaway line in the flurry of articles about Milan in March-April 2007 after their qualification for the Champions' League finals, about Rino Gattuso, interviewed about the Istanbul final in 2005, saying that for a long time it was unbearable for him to think of anything associated with that night. Istanbul just some Turkish city, penalties what penalties, that sort of thing. Liverpool just the home city of the Beatles.

The reason I think of this on the brink of a crunch game against fake rivals France that is not likely to throw up great football or shining examples of sporting spirit is that I take comfort in the fantasy that Rino, or perhaps his good friend Marco Materazzi, will line-up opposite the French with their heads held high, and on cue after the opening bars of La Marseillaise, will boom "LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!" at their opponents.

It might insult the national sentiments of the French, but then it might also get Nicolas Anelka to smile.

I am interested in human behaviour during the blaring of the anthems. One of pop culture's frequent tests of the measure stupidity among the public is to stop people on the street and demand them to repeat the words of the national anthem [at least, this happens frequently on youth channels on Indian TV]. I suppose the footballing population contains the same pecentage of people who cannot tell you the words of their anthem as the wider populace. Choosing to keep mum and let the others get on with it rather than expose your powers of intellectual retention as weak is a courteous way of doing things.

Surely there are those who choose this method to register a social protest, and I generally applaud the gesture. It would be silly to take a chance to represent your country and not give your very best while playing, but if you wanted to express disgust with your government's policies, or at the way they treat your community, or simply because you don't like patriotic fervour, this seems like a highly visible yet perfectly honourable way to do it. The trouble is, I'm not sure if anyone among the throng of mute footballers at Euro 2008 is doing this. I'm a little disappointed.

On the flip side, of course there is something appealing about a grand gesture of solidarity. Before their opening game against Austria, every starter on the Croatian team raised hand to heart before they started to sing. Perhaps in a different political situation, or against different opponents, it may have seemed less benign. What may seem like swaggering arrogance in one country - or one sport, or one tournament - is a simple mark of committment in another. If the Indian football team ever qualified for a World Cup, I wouldn't be displeased to hear a familiar ditty before the start of a match. Of course, it would mean nothing if they didn't bother to play their best after the singing, which is what will ultimately matter to those who like such a thing as 'national pride' to be quantifiable and result-based. We'd never heckle them at the airport for anything less.


I've been boring everyone I meet with news of my morbid fascination with Marco van Basten. The graven image in those videos and YouTube pages has suddenly drawn breath -- in rather a scary, Darth Vaderish fashion, appropriate to the buzzcut and the blank, focused stare -- and become a very alarming but intriguing human character. For someone who went into the tournament with roughly the same number of question marks over his head as Roberto Donadoni, he's certainly pulled ahead. [Donadoni has helped with that, no lie.] I think I could live with his winning streak continuing, just to see those goal celebrations.


Angharad said...

Zlatan, apparently, is one of those who do not know their national anthem. He and his bearded Viking defender friend got into a tickle fest over this.

Sofie said...

One of these days, I must find you a video of Denmark playing at home. They generally tend to stop the music, because the singing is so loud that you can't hear it anyways ... and I suspect that they're quite smug about it. It never fails to freak me out, just a little bit.

rahul batra said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rahul batra said...

Once again, I will throng every possible football website and read every bit of news on the Italian team...
Once again, I will get up at 4 am on a weekday and watch every minute of the game, streaming on my laptop...
Forza Azzurri.
The dutch will send a weaker squad out, even if not with any false designs.
Once again, like Euro 2005, I will pray that luck favours the Azzurri...
Azzurri beating France 2-1. Romania drawing Holland 1-1.
Arise St. Antonio............balls to national pride, for self-pride, for the love of the game.

clash said...

As a human being the political sense might supercede the sporting self..i suppose, it is of no wonder in europe,with the likes Luis Aragones; who might even call you shit!

Probably it is at a level, where we cannot even imagine.

clash said...

May be this might turn out to be an explanation for all your worries!


hingshuti said...

i think panucci doesn't sing....or at least didn't last night/today morning

ursus arctos said...

Allez les Bleus!
A la Maison!!

Domenech to be paraded as part of the Tour de France publicity caravan so that the citoyens can throw overripe vegetables at him.

The anthem thing became a big deal here in Italy as part of the contretemps over Camoranesi's call up. He didn't know the words (they aren't easy) and his failure to sing was taken as a sure sign of perfidity by the more xenophobic elements of the populace. All was forgotten in the warm afterglow of his hair cut in Berlin.

roswitha said...

@ Angha: See, this is where I want to believe he is being an incandescent revolutionary. I'm prepared to admit a slight bias, however.

@ Sofie: I can't quite believe it myself. But I am thinking of Michael Laudrup - could he ever do anything obnoxiously?

@ rahul: Oh, dear boy, you bring tears to my eyes. Rejoice, rejoice.

@ clash: Indeed. I hope Aragones would not call me a shit. I would regret having to trip him up with my modestly-shod foot.

@ hingshuti: He's probably really tired of it, having been around since 1930 or thereabouts, bless the old brick.

@ Ursus: Indeed - I wonder if Philippe Mexes finds it in himself to laugh at their plight. I didn't watch last night [stuck to Netherlands-Romania in all superstition] -- I hardly dared believe.

The anthem thing became a big deal here in Italy as part of the contretemps over Camoranesi's call up.

I've been wondering what sort of debate went on over that one. I am by no means resolved on any one side of players playing for countries other than that of origin; it seems too complex to be absolutely decided. I wonder if similar debates were had over the oriundi in the post-war years.

Having said that, I find myself perfectly able to accept Camoranesi; but I don't know if I'll be able to deal with Amauri in an Azzurri jersey. [Not a pleasing personality, that one.]

ursus arctos said...

I obviously wasn't around at the time, but my sense is that there was much less of a debate about the first few waves of oriundi for at least two reasons:

1) they were instrumental in Italy winning two World Cups and it was considered especially "furbo" (clever, cunning, etc.) to have stolen players from direct rivals like Uruguay and Argentina; and

2) the experience of emigration to South America was still something that a very significant portion of the Italian population had personal experience with, either through relatives or neighbours.

The context is considerably different now, because that wave of immigration is now several generations removed (while the one that was responsible for Perrotta being born in England and Gattuso's parents having spent significant time in Germany is much more "current").

And of course the current virulent anti-immigrant campaign being pushed by the Lega Nord and certain other members of the governing coalition has an effect as well.

There will be a debate about Amauri (who is also seen as more opportunistic in his choice than Camaronesi), but after Toni's performance in SwissAustria, there may well be less of one than there would have been otherwise.

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