Saturday, June 5, 2010

north korea among the nightingales

The total stupidity of confusing football with justice.

Over the years, the World Cup has quietly dropped out of the mainstream of history, making it less painful and less fraught to associate nationalism with it - unless of course you are reading a British tabloid - and I'm almost confident that we can now argue against Orwell's aphorism about football being war minus the shooting. It's actually more like diplomacy without the tea service: seemingly connecting the world and building relationships, but really just swinging itself further and further out of orbit, somewhere where it can be only tangentially relevant to our waking lives, if not to our dreaming ones.

I'm trying to explain why I am bemused that Paul B Stares at the Los Angeles Times appears to think that the whole world can be stadium-ganged into 'shaming and further isolating' North Korea for its sinking of a South Korean warship late last month. Because that's not presumptuous at all! It will be totally effective, to boot! Never mind that neither FIFA nor a single member nation has questioned North Korea's right to play in international competition, which is what a halfway-rational consensus would demand in the case of a state accused of an international crime. Never mind that while condemnation of an act of war might be universal - because it always is, of course - not every nation in the World Cup, let alone the world, may believe that it's their job to 'shame and further isolate' someone else's football team. Never mind that the World Cup really isn't capable of changing anybody's foreign policy. It isn't even capable of changing lives.

Maybe football is, though. Our dreaming lives and waking ones sometimes collude. We have gone from listening to Pele's World Cup on All India Radio to watching Maradona's World Cup on black-and-white state television, to supporting England because we watch the English Premier League in simultaneous broadcasts on Star Sports and ESPN every weekend. Football doesn't allow us to forget the real world - but it allows us to experience it through a different set of rules. Andrew Guest on Pitch Invasion has been posting his fantastic World Cup previews appended with which teams he would pick to qualify 'if there were any justice in the world.' Guest is as good at understanding football as Stares is bad, which is why he is always slightly tongue-in-cheek about his picks. We are wrong to look for justice in football. There is none, except within its own rules.

A version of this first appeared on IBNLive's World Cup blog, here.


Jennifer Doyle said...

Oh, I haven't been reading your blog in a while - great post, and I am looking forward to more!

roswitha said...

Thanks, Jennifer! That's fantastic to hear, I hope you like what follows.