Monday, June 18, 2012

How Soccer Explains the World

The above is the title of a book by Franklin Foer.  In it, he walks through several soccer teams and rivalries, and uses these to explain the history of place, culture, conflict, and friendship.  He offers several examples, a few of which are:

 - The Protestant supporters of the Glasgow Rangers Football Club as opposed the Catholic supporters of the Celtic Football Club.
 - The Jewish club Hakoah, of pre-World War Two Vienna.
 - The love affair that Catalan fans have with their team, FC Barcelona, and the politics contributing to their dislike of their rivals Real Madrid – Franco’s team.

Yesterday, investors all over the world focused on Greek elections – as if these elections somehow controlled the economic fate of billions. 

One day before, Greece unbelievably won their place in the quarterfinals of Euro 2012 with a victory against heavily favored Russia.  There was talk that such a victory would boost favorable sentiment in Greece toward Europe and help offer a market-friendly result in the election.  Believe it or not.

Meanwhile, yesterday Germany advanced to the quarterfinals with their anticipated victory over Denmark.  Lo and behold, Germany and Greece will meet on the pitch on Friday, June 22, with the winner advancing to the semifinals of this most competitive tournament.

One more chapter will be written in the many chapters of the intersection of soccer and politics.  Of course, it isn’t coincidence or fate.  Such marriages are inevitable, especially on the European continent so filled with colorful, often violent, history. 

Today, the economic world is struggling with the question of Europe, with the poster child being the continuing bailout of Greece by the deep-pocketed Germany.  Of course, this entire story is economic nonsense, but nonsense is often behind the popular economic narratives.

In the meantime, the two national teams will play on Friday.  I have no colorful metaphor to describe the intersection of the game and the politics – others will come up with ways to describe this intersection that I cannot even dream of.  In any case, while politics is always ugly, soccer needs no colorful metaphor.

It is the beautiful game.

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