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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

FIFA 2006 World Cup Endgame: Histories of Violence in "the Beautiful Game"

It’s no news that the Italian Azzurris beat the French team at the 2006 FIFA World Cup. What is news is what exactly motivated the putative French legend Zinedine Zidane to headbutt the Italian player Marco Materazzi on that potentially lugubrious night for France, in Berlin. The latter maintains he did not call the player a "terrorist", because he is not cultured, and doesn’t even know what it means!

If we cannot talk about ignorance being bliss at this point, I don’t know when we can. I suspect, however, that there is a degree of manipulation in the works. Who can not know the word "terrorism" in a world post-911, even if it is five years on?

What, in my view, is of critical importance here is how the Italian player knew of a Zinedine’s history of violence, which is not alien to Materazzi himself (he is alleged to have punched an opponent, Bruno Cirillo, in a tunnel two years ago, incurring an 8-match ban. So, two people with histories of violence who met each other’s match).

Ofcourse, I exaggerate: Zidane’s "history" is only that of being tempestuous at times; fans and observers alike maintain he has come a long way. But seeing him the way we saw him that Sunday night—especially as he was about to hang up his boots for "life" into retirement—was deeply regrettable for a man who had a song written about him in 2003 by one of my favourite French songwriters, Pascal Obispo. The song has a great tune, extolling Zinedine as one of "heros ordinaires"; and, I hear, a film in the offing.

I found truly amazing the speed with which investigations were launched into what was said between the two players. To the extent that the BBC employed lip-readers--as did many other organizations—in order to establish the veracity of the exchanges was not just creepy (in a good sense) to me, but a testament of professionalism at its supreme: the desire by journalists and the like to leave no stones unturned in what was fast becoming a farce.

But, truly, I think the head-butting incident is a microcosm of the macrocosm of the ever-pervading racism that is quite deeply ingrained in the so-called beautiful game. I know of many people who felt the French star was justified by the very fact that he wanted to leave his mark for standing up to a cancer that seems short of reducing.

For me, the bigger picture was the sport of football.

Ten billion people worldwide, so the statistics went, glued to the screen to watch history being made as twenty-two men kicked a specially-designed ball round a green pitch with a view to putting it at the back of each other’s opponent’s goal.

To boot—no pun intended—the almost instantaneous justice surrounding the rules of the game. A red card for headbutting; a yellow card for fouling. Observers watching the game; a referee running round trying to monitor the game in its quintessence.

If only the world operated like this!

Imagine a UN where monitoring was so effective and justice so instantaneous; and where the Security Council actually dispensed justice fairly by way of its resolutions. Utopic, maybe, but Kofi Annan, on the eve of the final, was said to have been getting green with envy as he ruminated over the world of football, and the excellence to which each team (read: country) wanted to attain.

In the article, Annan maintained that with the level of scrutiny that people have for football, if that were extrapolated to international politics, "good governance would not be an option; it would be a necessity. And with that sense of public ownership, countries would better ensure that their own resources are used in a way that benefits their own daughters and sons."

You don’t need to think about this one: you know where I stand where the UN counts.

It’s good to back. But I will disappear, albeit briefly, next week as my organisation prepares for a three-day conference in the capital. I shall be staying in a hotel for work-related purposes, and will most definitely make time to blog.

Till then!


At Wednesday, July 12, 2006 11:27:00 pm , Blogger obifromsouthlondon said...

well considered analysis. over the years the head butt will become one of those great (sic) moments of the world cup finals. Cant blame Koffi for the envy.


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