Saturday, October 13, 2007


Political Football

Two cases of football and politics getting awkwardly mixed up with one another have hit the news recently.

First, the case of the aborted New Zealand v. Fiji World Cup qualifier in Auckland. Although the New Zealand government's decision to deny goalkeeper Simione Tamanisau a visa might seem draconian, it's worth bearing in mind that diplomatic relations between the two countries have been extremely strained since last year's military coup in Fiji.

FIFA have made, I feel, the right decision, and the sensible solution to the impasse would surely be to have both New Zealand v. Fiji ties played on neutral territory. It will be interesting to see how this one unfolds.

Then there's the more complicated matter of the German Under-21 international Ashkan Dejagah.

There are many sides to this particular story. Being in Germany for the first time last year, I was struck particularly by two things, in a social sense: how the average German found any expression of nationalism (or even basic national pride) extremely awkward, and how large was the number of Turkish, Middle Eastern and North African immigrants in the country. There was, I might add, a subtle sense of resentment towards these latter.

If Dejagah's refusal to travel to Israel is simply a matter of personal principle, then I tend to agree with Oliver Bierhoff that he should reconsider whether he should really be playing for the German national team. But the following paragraph throws a slightly different light on things:

The German Football Association has said Dejagah, who was born in Tehran, withdrew from the match because he fears his family in Iran will suffer reprisals if he travels to Israel.

It's a tough one. Perhaps, in this case, it's best for the German federation to simply withdraw Dejagah from this particular away trip, and suspend him from the Under 21 side pending a proper investigation of his family circumstances. I don't envy them their dilemma, though, with various interest groups to please.

Thanks for this dimension of your football analysis Mike. I don't really have anything to add, as of course it's all a bit wait-and-see at the moment on both of these fronts, but it is the interface between football and politics that really anchors my abiding interest in the game.

Still only half way through Goldblatt's The Ball is Round - A Global History of Football (it's too big for the train and too dense to be taken in in too-large a chunks anyway so it's bedtime reading), which really is a political history as well as a sporting history.

A general conclusion is that in these interactions between football and politics, football tends to leave a much larger impact on politics than politics on football. Every serious historian of the 20th Century simply must be cognizant of this impact if they want to have a complete and cogent view, in my opinion.

Cheers. Keep up the good work mate.
What about the election being held on the same night when Melbourne Victory plays Wellington at Telstra Dome?

How will I be able to watch the game and keep track of the elections results?
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