Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The World Cup Folly


The following article was written by Pepe when the World Cup for Soccer Match was performed for the first time on the Korean peninsular four years ago.
Again Friday June 10 2006, another commercial exploitation of the sportmanship begins at Germany where prostitution is legal and negro-bashing is widely accepted social mores.
And the Korean fans, much ado about nothing, are appeared to outrank all other fans projecting their chauvinistic outcry "Korean-number-One" in the soccer field.

The World Cup Folly
June 7, 2002

The South Koreans are on the warpath in the World Soccer Field that has given them, once in a lifetime, the leveled stage to face their half-a-century neo-colonial master, USA, on June 10th, and their maddening euphoria after the first winning over not-so-good Poland team indicates that the South Koreans would definitely show up in the street en masse no matter what the outcome would bring them out either chauvinistic banzai or “kill-the-bastard” riot.

The game of the World Cup, as the Olympics, is supposed to promote international good will and global humanity that eventually give rise to bring togetherness among human species and peace among many nation-states.
However, the international sport events have been at the mercy of political distortion and commercial exploitation that the contesting field becomes a world bazaar for a melange of Machiavellian politicians, international hucksters, princely nabobs, redneck hooligans, and blockhead yahoos.
Moreover, most of the sport teams evolved into the denigrating marketing mechanism in the global community capitalizing on their stars and brands in cahoots with advertisers and commercial media.

To add an insult to the Olympian spirit, the media tends to project the blatant chauvinism by focusing on a star player of the host country team an excessive athletic superiority over other countries and by stimulating the viewers to gang up against the opposition team.
The hackneyed politicians are not an exception…As the Senegalese president joined his people in the street for the celebration after an unexpected victory, thick-skinned DJ Kim, “the commander-in-corruption” of the Republic of Korea, has made a cameo appearance with the Korean team shaking hands and chatting with them, forgetting that his favorite son is rotting in the gaol.

The sport events generally provide drama and excitement while remaining politically passive and trivial as the audiences are merely participating as the shouting spectators.
However, the whole shebang of good will and global humanity fall apart when the competition is either between historical enemies as in Korea and Japan, or between neo-colonial bondage as in Korea and the US,
History reveals vividly that Koreans hate and/or envy Japanese and Uncle Sam, and Koreans are more than happy or jubilant to beat up these teams on equal term, because Koreans are quite sure that no other avenue exists for them to humiliate these countries in toto.

If the World Cup event is a path to the spirit of global togetherness and eventually a possible venue for the world peace, then it wouldn’t be a bad idea that Hulk Hogan should convene the World Wrestlemania for the match between arch enemies around the world to settle the disputes without shedding a drop of blood: George the Superpower vs. Saddam the Muslim, Hindu the Guru vs. Pakis the Jihad, Ariel the War Criminal vs. Arafat the Bomber, DJ Kim the Corrupt vs. JI Kim the Pygmy, and so on.
If George wins over Saddam in the televised match worldwide, Uncle Sam gets all the oil fields in Iraq, and in reverse score, Saddam gets just a promise from George that Uncle Sam would leave him alone, not waking him up with F 16s in the middle of night.

On the Kashmir conflict, if Indian guru headbutts to knock Pakis down, all Muslims in India would leave for Pakistan, and if Pakis got Hindu under chokehold to surrender, Hindu would stop the nuclear saber rattling against Pakis.
If Ariel the War Criminal beats Arafat up to the pulp, Arafat the Bomber would take his entire people bundle together and jump into the Mediterranean Sea so that the Jews could dance in the religious discotheque at the Wailing Wall without bothering about the suicide bombers. In reverse case, the Palestinians get independent state surrounded by barbed wire, the IDF military checkpoints, and video surveillance for life.
Finally, DJ Kim gets an assurance from the Pygmy no more threat of the military invasion, and if the Pigmy wins, the North Koreans receive all the food wastes the Southern brothers and sisters throw in the garbage pits for the humanitarian aid.

Would it be a far-fetched suggestion? Then listen to the following shoptalk among the British soccer fans. They appear to be cool-headed folks to see the Game from the completely different angle, unlike a pack of rowdy, hoarse, bad mannered, beer swilling, flag-waving, and ‘patriotic’ spectators.

Here is an article by David Hayes about a London pub conversation between four friends on the eve of the soccer World Cup 2002.

Philippe: What is the World Cup about? Money, pure and simple.
This is a beanfest for global corporations. The statistics on sponsorship, advertising, and merchandising are staggering. The top fifteen sponsors—McDonalds, Budweiser, NTT, Gillette, the usual suspects—will pay FIFA, the world governing body, 375 million pounds to display their images at the tournament. Adidas is paying ten teams around 60 million pounds to wear their products. And the money is not just decoration—it has colonized the very soul of the game. Brazil is a franchise of Nike. When injuries to key players are discussed—Ronaldo in 1998, Zidane in 2002—the sponsors are in the wings, pulling the strings.
It used to be a game. It’s now a global business.

Rita: The heart of it all is still passion, the sense of belonging to something wider than yourself—a team, a cause, a country.
The focus on commercialism forgets that there are twenty-four national squads each of whom represents an epic national story for the people back home. From Slovenia to China, the smallest participating country to the largest, people will be gathered round their TV sets and radios, brought together in a spirit of intense, positive togetherness.
The game is the connective tissue of the nation. At the end, win or lose, people will have traveled together on a journey and feel differently about themselves.
It is an emotional depth charge in the imagined community.

Ali: For me it’s about globality rather than nationalism.
We hear a lot about shared national experiences, but these are often top-down, highly orchestrated events, without spontaneity, and by definition confined to a single territory.
By contrast, the World Cup is one of those rare occasions when the idea of a global citizen becomes real.
This is a world party that everyone wants to be at.
People are not limited in their allegiance—you are free to choose a country to support, to discover new heroes, to experiment with different identities.
This is the postmodern world. And this freedom extends to the participating nations—where else do you have Senegal or Turkey competing with Germany or the United States on an equal stage?
No one is privileged, the playing field is level, only the best wins, and nobody gets killed—the essence of the World Cup is global justice!

Yolande: The World Cup is about television.
It is a mechanized spectacle, nothing more—the world reduced to the confined, static, managed dimensions of the TV set.
The event becomes an intense daily effort to capture, process, and packaged a multifarious but messy reality into a form that is easily digestible—and of course sellable—for the various domestic (meaning family and national) audiences.
It is about the impoverishing of life by television—done often with awesome expertise and sophistication, but a compound lie nevertheless.
The real ‘real thing’ is infinitely more interesting. But television can never come near it.
The game is a bogey.

Rita: the arguments of Philippe and Yolande about money and television seem very similar to mine.

Philippe: Yolande’s case is like an inversion of the French philosopher Baudrillard on the 1990-91 Gulf War—because it wasn’t seen, it didn’t happen.
My point concerns purpose and context. FIFA is in the midst of a huge financial scandal over the actions of its head, Sepp Blatter—it has lost 215 million pounds in four years. its marketing partner, ISL, collapsed, as did KirchMedia, which spent 750 million pounds to control broadcasting for the next two World Cups.
The huge sums involved here gave companies the right to influence everything—the scheduling of matches, kick-off times, merchandise, even logos on shirts.
The competing nations are only brands. The very rules of the game will be next.
The world is for sale, and the World Cup is its biggest bazaar. Without a log, you don’t exist.

Rita: this is all too cynical for my taste.
To adapt Tom Paine on Edmund Burke—you lament the plumage but forget the bird is vibrantly alive.
The World Cup is a glorious human drama and an unmatched multicultural spectacle. Football is of all games the one that, at its best, combines the technical, the aesthetic, and the emotional.
Add a big, noisy, partisan crowd and the setting is complete.
No wonder it attracts the most poetic descriptions—‘theater of dreams’, ‘the beautiful game’—which never completely curdle into cliché.
This is the ultimate stage for over five hundred beautiful athletes to display the essential skills and virtues of their sport.
All human life—ambition, joy, respect, frustration, relief, agony—is displayed on that field of green.

Ale: This is precisely why it goes broader even than intense collective emotion on the national level.
The World Cup is a shed global experience in which individuals as well as countries shift the sense of themselves, becoming part of the same mental and affective universe.
The story of Nakatsue, the isolated Japanese village hosting Cameroon is an example. People who have never met or seen a foreigner in their lives learn that the latter are not to be feared, but welcomed.
It’s about going beyond yourself, including your inherited loyalties and prejudices.
The World Cup makes this possible in countless small ways that never get near the headlines, but which accumulate to become part of the evolving consciousness.

Yolande: The opposite of cynicism is naivete. Television is the fulcrum here between money, passion and global experience—it takes the passion which properly belongs to the game and fans, packages and sells it to a world audience—and in the process degrades it into pap and formula.
It stated as a window onto the game and ends by colonizing the game itself.
Can you imagine the World Cup without television? It’s obvious that competition could not be sustained without these juicy contracts. But it’s not just influence. It’s alchemy.
Television in the age of globalization has perfected the art of fragmentary focus, of parceled highlights against musical soundtracks, of the momentarization of time, of radical individualization of meaning, one which we have come to depend on even after being disabled by it.
Television feeds the imagination only to kill it.

Rita: Money and television may make the modern World Cup possible, but what people do with it belongs to them.
What’s wrong with Philippe and Yolande’s analysis is that it imaginatively appropriates from people the intimate experience that is, despite all the corruption you can name, theirs to manage.
In other words, you are doing exactly what you claim advertising and television do.
The implication is that you shouldn’t support your own or anyone’s team, or surrender to sheer excitement of a marvelous game.
You are performing the same trick, but without their saving grace of humor or at least the semblance of affective feeling. You need a new script.

Philippe: Not guilty! What I am doing is to hold the space open for the recovery of precisely those virtues you champion.
It is the marketing people, the sponsors, the advertisers, who have made the inner life of football a hollow drum that only echoes their own conceits—there is no moment of genius, error, beauty, or farce that cannot be immediately assimilated and then exchanged for cash.
The World Cup is preeminently about the money and money is destroying the sport.
True passion or authentic emotion is never for sale. We have to go back to go forward—and it will be a hard road. But otherwise the game itself will implode on a global level as it is doing on a national.
How it will be for you?

Ali: in any case, everything changes when the first game starts.
All the chat, expectation, prediction turns to dust. The World Cup becomes the music of our lives for a whole month. That’s the beauty of it.

Philippe: In the end, the only way to go is to shut the commercials from your mind—or watch them only to deconstruct them.
And to support the team least financially compromised by the circus—Slovenia.

Rita: Retain your capacity to be enchanted, and you will find joy everywhere. And support the team of whom it was said: “Other countries have history. Uruguay has football.”

Ali: Think of it as a building block towards a real global community.
Football is increasingly the metaphorical language of the world. It is the way strangers communicate. Countries enter the world stage and be recognized.
In 2006, Vietnam, in 2020, East Timor. Welcome to the world! And support the host countries, Japan and Korea, to make their investment in the great game justified.

Yolande: The best thing is always to be at the game itself. It’s the quality of experience in front of you and around you that matters. If you can’t be there, be an information guerrilla—pick up what you can, especially from the Net. And get out and play, watch, participate.
The world is always where you are

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