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Football and Politicians Are Bedfellows

Posted June. 03, 2002 07:38,   


`Football and politicians are strange bedfellows.`

The Economist, a current affair weekly of the U.K, compared the relationship between football and the politics appeared in history as a honeymoon relationship using the same bed in its edition on June 1.

Football team owners who plunged into the political circle based on popularity of football is an example of maximizing the political effectiveness of football. The prime examples are Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and former Brazilian president Fernando Collor de Mello .

Former president de Mello is a founder of prestigious Brazilian football club, `CSA`, which has been a birthplace of many famous players including the coach of current Brazil National Team. Italian Prime Silvio Berlusconi, who is also an owner of Italian professional football team, `AC Millan`, grounded his political foundation on the prestigious reputation of the team he led. It is a well-known fact that football hero Pelle has served a minister of sports ministry after his retirement from the sports.

Stirring fully the patriotism of people, football sometimes can be a very precious political asset for right-wing politicians. Far right FN party leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, who created a whirlwind in the first ballot of the French presidential election, is a full beneficiary of `football fever.` As the France versus Algeria football match on October last year has cancelled due to the catcalls of Algerian team supporters when the national anthem of France played, Le Pen used to say about that accident everywhere he spoke political speeches. Party leader Le Pen paid lip service to French people who were shocked, saying, `why catcalls when national anthem plays…`

Likewise French president Jacques Chirac, a right wing politician, has showed a gesture of enthusiastically celebrating the 1998 World Cup championship of France in a public place so that his falling popularity has turned upward, according to the Economist.

Overzealous patriotism sometimes drives football games in `warlike state.` In the U.K., a front page of newspaper portrayed the players of English national team wearing military uniform and featuring them as `war heroes.` When the Netherlands won the European champions league in 1988 against Germany, sixty percent of the whole population poured out to the street celebrating the victory, and the broadcasting companies hurried to broadcast even the reactions of the World War II veterans.

When Argentina defeated England in the quarter finals of the 1986 World Cup followed by utter defeat in the Falklands War in 1982, the whole nation was basked in a winning spirit, `We avenged the U.K.` Diego Maradona who led the win by getting two goals recalled, `I have felt I picked the pocket of Englishmen.`

However, as a saying of `football is round` goes, football is not a only property of right wing politicians.

Recently as the far right faction leaped forward in the French presidential election, liberal politicians emphasized multi-racial composition of the French National Team including Zinedine Zidane who is son of a poor Algerian immigrant to warn the chauvinistic trend of some part. At that time, Prime Minister Lionel Jospin emphasized, `There is no other representative symbol than our national team showing our solidarity and rainbow composition.`