Editorial – They call it sport, m’lud

Prepare yourself for the big business and sporting festival (we put them in this order for a reason) that is the World Cup. From the first game in Munich on 9 June to the final in Berlin one month later, there will be sixty-four matches, each one keenly contested by players, media and supporters alike.

Like all big international sporting occasions these days, sponsorship and advertising are very much the name and motivation of the game. The tournament’s ‘partners’, such as McDonald’s, Budweiser and Mastercard, are paying vast sums of money to get their brands and logos in prominent positions both during and between matches. Moreover, one ticket in eight (nearly half a million in all) will go to sponsors, enabling their bosses and other VIPs to enjoy the games while genuine fans are excluded. In many of the grounds, seating capacity has been reduced in order to increase the number and size of advertising hoardings and hence the income for the organisers, FIFA. The ‘rights’ to TV coverage will of course add millions more to their coffers.

No doubt the media will stoke up nationalist sentiments, especially the rivalry between England and Germany. ‘Two World Wars, One World Cup’ will be the refrain, particularly if the two countries play each other, as they may well do in the second round. Sadly, many of the supporters will echo the jingoistic nonsense of the press, fighting the wrong battles and misdirecting their energy and enthusiasm. How many St George’s flags will be flying from cars, houses and pubs while the tournament is on? Those supporters actually in Germany will additionally be paying the rip-off prices for tickets and accommodation, and trying to steer clear of the attention of police and hooligans.

Of course English nationalism is not the only kind which will be on display, for each of the thirty-two countries competing will bring its own brand of patriotic myth to the proceedings. The invented and historically-accidental entities known as countries have become the focus of so many workers’ loyalties, as if it really matters which bit of the earth people were born in or ‘belong’ to. It would be nice to think that meeting supporters from elsewhere will show that ordinary people, whatever language they speak or whatever passport they carry, have far more in common with each other than with their bosses and rulers.

So, if you like football, enjoy watching the World Cup if you can. But behind all thepage3 endless televised replays and the post-match inquests into fouls and offsides, remember that it’s all part of the greater game of dividing workers from each other. A socialist world would have no countries and no national teams. And there would be no sectional interests for some group of people at the expense of other members of the global community. In the meantime, the crying need is for workers to realise that nationalism is a diversion along the road — not to Wembley or Cardiff or Berlin — but to a sensible society.

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