What Is Behind a Score in the Beautiful Game?

Former Venezuela Presidential Chief of Staff Beatrice Rangel on soccer and channeling nationalism.

With midsummer came soccermania as the game’s World Cup was launched in Russia.

Ever since our schedules have never been the same.

From 8 am to 3pm on certain days the work force either disappears or faintly completes chores. Their hearts and minds being in a land where the sun only sets for two hours.

Meanwhile at the stadiums Venice’s carnival is recharged. Aztec crowns, Viking caps, and toreador capes compete with a mosaic of abstract paintings canvassed in human faces.

National anthems are rendered with an enthusiasm and strength that you would believe the players and their fans to have been rescued from a decade long isolation in the Antarctic. And there also of course are the diverse forms of betting on the results of every match which go from children tablet games to quite elaborate lotteries that compete with the Lotto or the Power Ball. The latter have the power to economically make or break participants.

Host countries engage in a five-year fight to get FIFA to award the coveted distinction. Once designated, their authorities must expend tens of billions of dollars on facilities that are FIFA compliant. And they also must sensibly enhance their law enforcement, first aid, lodging and transportation muscles to effectively host millions of tourists that arrive in herds at the same time and enthusiastically attack the restaurant chain.

All this effort supposedly would provide the host country with great returns as inflows of tourism monies are supposed to exceed investments in infrastructure and expenditure in enhanced services.

The question thus arises: what is it in the game that leads countries to attach such value to the World Cup as to engage in an exercise that could unleash economic disequilibria. The answer, of course is, nationalism.

For all the incredible work deployed by the United States and Europe after World War II to uproot this cause of most political pandemics in the 19th and first half of the 20th century, success has been elusive. The first sign of the unabetted presence of strong nationalisms was the tragic collapse of Yugoslavia that brought about extraordinary losses for mankind on every front.

From the destruction of Sarajevo to the muslin genocide in Bosnia to the bloodbath in Kosovo, the Balkans turned into the most violent region on earth because of nationalism and lost centuries of development in the process. Today Europe is still grappling with the results of such catastrophe.

In Africa the Rwanda-Burundi genocide was also caused by nationalism.

And there of course is the Middle East where the sole democracy that is Israel is continuously threatened by among other pressures springing from Arab nationalism.

At the World Cup — behind the euphoria that accompanies the score of a national team — lays nationalism and the desires to get even with those other countries in the world that are accountable for modern predicaments. Trade takes away jobs; technology destroys families; foreigners are dangerous, and the rest of the world is a threat.

Given that governments are ineffectual in dealing with these and other challenges, my national team will exact punishment on those mischievous foreigners. And, for a brief moment, the Camelot of soccer nationalism dominates the airwaves.

And as governments enhance their ineffectiveness to deal with a world where everything is changing, and citizens become increasingly enraged at the perpetuation of their predicaments, the soccer pressure valve becomes the most fortunate brain child of nationalism.

The competition so far is pitting the Anglo-Saxon cum Aryan world against the rising mestizo and middle-class world thriving in emerging markets. This is producing wonderful results in terms of global understanding, as the European teams have engaged players from Africa and Latin America. Should one of these players secure the cup for, say Germany, then the world will most probably be better equipped to accept the benefits of globalization. In such case, the explosion of nationalism would find a constructive channel to transit and to strengthen democratic resolve.

Published by LAHT.com on Sunday June 24th, 2018

*The opinions published herein are the sole responsibility of its author.*