Why Matthew Syed is Wrong

Matthew Syed has produced a beautifully crafted article on the global dimensions of football, the so called, the beautiful game, but in the process has made a fundamental mistake. Syed writes, When future historians look back at the age of globalisation, it is not the Americanisation of the planets culture that will amaze them most, nor the pervading presence of brands such as Coca Cola and Nike. No, it is the global conquest of football. Well I could imagine a certain school of historians peddling that line, but more grounded observers will quickly come to the conclusion that football, like sugary soft-drinks and over-priced, slave labour produced sportswear, have been driven by multinationals for their own avaricious ends. Football, footballers and indeed, all things sporting, have become commodities to be bought and sold to the highest bidder.

Syed would do well to remember that. Remember too, that it was only a few months ago that Chelsea were sanctioned by FIFA for scouring the planet in search of talented youngsters to bolster Abromovichs football fantasy. Good perhaps for the youngsters and their families but bad, very bad for the local game. The African continent has been particularly hard it by this rapacious poaching game.Syed digs himself further into a hole when he writes, Football is not loved because the media feeds it to us, the media feeds it to us because it is loved. Syed concludes, Editors are merely reflecting the passions of their viewers and readers; they are reflecting something deep in the game itself that draws every strand of humanity to its spectacle. What hogwash. The reality is that football was on a slippery slope during the 70s and 80s. The so called beautiful game was plagued by violence on and off the field. Racism was endemic. In many parts of Europe it still is. Corruption was rife; bungs, match fixing and dodgy betting syndicates. Not much has changed in that respect. The stadia were death traps and the policing was brutal. Murdoch then stepped in and used his media empire to create a new product that he could export to the four corners of the globe tramping over local cultural traditions as he went.

China, a country Syed tries to recruit to support his unsupportable argument, is a case in point. Table tennis which has long been its national sport is being sidelined to make way for the football juggernaught. This is nothing but cultural imperialism but Syed, who coincidently works for the Murdoch media empire, just cant see it.Of course football, like any team game, can be a joy to watch on occasions. It can also be extremely tedious, as spectators of a scoreless draw in the lower reaches of the football of the football league will testify. All sport has an inner beauty, often visible only to the dedicated practitioner, but to imagine football is supreme above all others is to fall for a clever marketing scam.The globalisation and accompanying commercialisation of sport is taking place alongside and part of the globalisation of the planet. There may be some real and tangential benefits filtering down from this new economic imperialism but at this point in time the statistics paint a very bleak picture.

Of the worlds six and a half billion citizens, some fifty percent are totally excluded from the supposed benefits of globalisation, their prime role being that of sweatshop labourers producing ultra cheap products for Wal-Mart, Primark and Nike et el. After a sixteen hour day of slavery such workers are left with not enough energy to even dream of being part of the beautiful game; of football, fashion and pop music. They are the new slave class that props up the illusion of a just, new world order. Such workers may get a chance to view an EPL match on a communal television but thats about as far as their inclusion goes. Every now and then a young footballer emerges from the back streets of Africa, Asia or South America and shines on the world stage. This is most useful to those peddling the global dream as it holds out the prospect that anyone can succeed. Its akin to our lottery, whereby we all dream of becoming millionaires but in reality we have more chance of being knocked down on the way to buying the ticket than of winning the big prize.

Football, the beautiful game is a gigantic con concocted by FIFA and their multinational partners, and surprisingly, Syed has fallen for it hook, line and sinker. PS. Irony upon irony, on the very same day that Syed’s piece was published in The Times, a report in the Tory loving Daily Mail produced an excellent piece of journalism exposing just how excluded Black South Africans are from the forthcoming FIFA World Cup. A real piece of investigative journalism by Laura Williamson entitled The World Cup You Wont See.

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