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Posts Tagged ‘soccer versus the state’

“The revolution will inevitably awaken in the British working class the deepest passions which have been diverted along artificial channels with the aid of football.” Leon Trotsky.

A couple of weeks back, I got the oppurtunity to interview Gabriel Kuhn of PM Press, and author of “Soccer versus the State.” Anyone on here knows our views when it comes to football, keep it local, keep it real and forget about your barstool; a lot of that is covered in the interview. Not initially done for here, it was DFallon who suggested I put it up.  If you’ve an interest in football, history and politics, read on.

Notorious Boo Boys

1) Football comes in for much negative criticism from the left, mainly criticisms similar to Trotsky’s above, deriding it as cathartic and a distraction. Yet in recent years, we’ve seen iconic events like the “Football Revolution” in Iran, the Greek riots following the death of Alexandros Grigoropoulos (where Panathanaikos fans fought against the police side by side with Anarchists) and the Al-Ahly Ultras in Egypt and their apparent hand in revolution there. How influential has football been in Rebellions and amongst the rebellious throughout history?

Football has been attracting the masses around the world for over a century. Where masses gather, the powerful lose control – unless we’re talking about orchestrated mass gatherings, which are characteristic of fascist and authoritarian regimes. But this doesn’t really work with football, since it is hard to orchestrate a football game. Football is too unpredictable.

Authoritarian regimes have always used the prestige that derives from football victories for political purposes, but they have had a hard time to use football as a general propaganda tool. The Nazis abandoned national encounters altogether after an embarrassing loss to Sweden in Berlin in 1942. And it is not only the game that is unpredictable. So are football crowds. You never know which direction their desires might take. There is always a potential for rebellion – unfortunately, there is also always a potential for reactionary celebrations of the status quo. Neither football nor football fans are rebellious per se. We have radical supporters, we have fascist supporters; we have football teams that spur nationalism, we have football teams that spur international solidarity. At the right moments, the rebellious side comes through, as in the examples you mentioned and in many others: long before the current uprising in Libya, the terraces of Libyan football stadiums turned into spaces of dissent whenever Gadaffi-favoured teams were playing; in the 1980s, Polish workers made regular use of football stadiums to express support for the then illegal trade union Solidarność; in fact, the very first steps to regulate the game of football in the early 19th century was caused by regular antiauthoritarian riots in connection with the inter-village football games at the time.

Football does have the cathartic and distracting dimensions that many leftists deride, no doubt. But it also has a subversive dimension. The challenge for radical football-loving activists is to fuel the latter.
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