Football: The Ridiculous Obsession and Its Global Showpiece

illya mclellan@illya mclellan @illbehaviorNZSenior Analyst IMarch 22, 2010

Take a moment, pause and think. Think of a young man, somewhere, but nowhere in particular.

Think of this young man working in a factory that produces footballs for a large multi-national company. He is paid for a months work probably the same amount as what one of the footballs he makes is sold for in a shop that this man would never even think of entering, such is the tiny amount of money he has to spend on luxury.

That is one end of the scale.

At the other end are the players, the agents, the managers and the club owners.

These characters have so much money that they could buy one hundred of the footballs the fellow mentioned earlier makes, and burn them, every day, and not notice much of a difference in their disposable income.

The global game of football can be likened to a mythical beast. A soul destroying monster that sucks people dry.

The amounts of money involved in the game now are so mind-bendingly huge, that when mentioned, they seem so unreal. People talk about the financial figures, figures that are so far beyond anything they will ever have, that the reality of what the money should really be spent on never quite sinks in.

Where for example is FIFA or the EPL's huge donation to disaster relief in the stricken countries of Haiti and Chile?

They seem to have made secret donations, so as not to attract the press and fanfare that would go with it. It seems they do care after all, they are not in it for the money, they are all about the common man and the plight of those less fortunate.

Hang on, I do not think they made huge donations after all, perhaps they forgot.

An excellent example of the ridiculous and obsessive nature of this meaningless game, is seen in the increased importance that is placed on the winning of the EPL trophy around this time of year. Manchester United have just beaten Liverpool in a match that was hailed by many as some sort of historic occasion to rival the Battle of Marathon.

When in fact, it is a meaningless facade that distracts society from the real problems of humanity.

It means precious little to the children of Haiti who have lost their families and homes and now have to rely on struggling aid agencies to supply them with meagre portions of food, that barely help them gain some sort of nutritional fortitude against the ravages of disease and hunger that now beset them from all sides.

It means nothing to the poor soul who could still be alive, trapped somewhere beneath the rubble of the recent devastating earthquake that hit Chile a couple of weeks ago.

But it does draw our attention away from such horrors, and that is why it is such an effective tool in the global game of diversion that goes on. Diverting peoples' attention away from the reality of the horror that is a day-to-day reality for many people on the planet is big business. It creates the idea that everything is okay, the world will be alright soon, we are going to pull through.

The obsession with the so called beautiful game continues to the point where it is about to stage a global showpiece in South Africa. A country completely devastated by a century of misrule and plagued by a preventable disease that has gotten such a hold on parts of the population that it has been written off as unstoppable.

Why is the world cup going to South Africa? Apparently to help the country find its feet again. Nothing like a huge group of rich foreigners coming to a country to get the crime statistics down is there?

"Put away your guns boys, the tourists are coming to watch their football teams", I can just hear the hardened criminals of Johannesburg saying right now. "We should just get out and try to sell them some world cup merchandise, they have plenty of cash if they can afford to leave their jobs behind and come here and watch football for a month".

It might have been a little more prudent to not put a symbol of the global excess that is top level football right in front of one of the most marginalised populations that has existed in the last few hundred years of colonialism and the following colonial hangover.

The EPL is the cherry of excess that sits on top of the pile, clubs that are in massive debt, debt that is spiralling further out of control, paying large amounts of money to people who have no idea that there are still people dying from landmines that are leftovers of wars that were a result of the foreign policy of the countries they call home.

Where is this all leading us? Where am I going with this piece?

To tell you the truth I do not really know. The problem is so huge and the complacency toward it so ingrained.

The classic argument being that football enables people to escape from the tyranny of their existence and live the dream for an hour and a half every few days. Or perhaps they can train hard and make it as a top level player some day.Or maybe win the lottery.

Football is just a part of the great delusion humanity has created for itself. We give it importance that real problems and real issues lost long ago. War is not nice, so lets forget about it. Don't read the world news, read the sports news, its less depressing, besides, what can we the individual do, to stop the madness that engulfs those poor souls who live in war zones?

A thing like the global obsession with football makes it easier for humanity to move toward that which Friedrich Nietzsche described in "The Will to Power", 'the total eclipse of all values'.

People no longer care about the suffering that goes on amongst those who suffer because it is not their fault. Those that are in a situation of suffering are there because of the quirks of genetic fate and pre-determination.

This enables people to freely go to a place like South Africa and sit in gilded comfort in the finest hotels, waited on hand and foot, while the people of that very country live in poverty that those in the rent-able palaces could never even imagine.

The delusion continues as does my hypocrisy. These are truths that I hold dear when I think of the game and if you read this perhaps you are inclined for a moment to give more thought to such things.

The delusion is the importance placed on a mere "game".

The hypocrisy is in my obsession with it.


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