June 16, 2010
The Liberal Takeover of the World Cup 2010By Adam Shaw
Only a week into World Cup 2010, the decision to hold the tournament in South Africa appears to be an unmitigated disaster. The blame lies at the feet of liberal elites who have politicized soccer.
Due to its size and worldwide appeal, the selection of the host nation for the FIFA World Cup has to take many factors into account. The host needs to exhibit a nation of stability and safety, a strong soccer record, and a highly developed transport infrastructure, as well as having approximately ten large stadia in order to host the various matches.
It is a tough task that causes even the most developed soccer nations, like England, to doubt their worthiness. Yet there have been exceptions that show that nations that do not meet these criteria can host a World Cup. Mexico hosted the tournament in 1970 and 1986, and the USA (then not a strong soccer nation) successfully hosted in 1994 -- producing one of the best tournaments in recent years (Diana Ross aside).
Yet the choices were based on reasons to do with soccer. Mexico was chosen due to its position as a key soccer nation, and America was chosen with the knowledge that it had the infrastructure, the enormous stadiums, and the ability to provide atmosphere. But with the ascension of the bizarre Joseph "Sepp" Blatter -- a man continually dogged by accusations of mismanagement and corruption -- to the Presidency of FIFA in 1998, politics and liberal elitism have taken over the World Cup.
Blatter made no secret that he wanted an African World Cup as soon as possible, irrespective of its ability to host. He worked for an African World Cup in 2006, but when Germany was chosen to host it, a furious Blatter forced through a rule-change for 2010 so that an African nation had to be awarded the 2010 tournament, with no nations outside Africa even allowed to bid.
For fans hoping to attend in 2010, the prospects were grim. The candidates were Tunisia, Morocco, South Africa, Egypt, and -- incredibly -- Colonel Gaddafi's Libya. With terrorist hotspot Morocco a close second, it was with some relief that relatively stable South Africa was chosen by the FIFA executives.
Immediately, serious concerns were expressed. Was the country economically stable enough to invest in such a venture? Also, despite apartheid being a thing of the past, the region still has immense political and racial problems that often turn violent, with over fifty homicides a day. Thus, was the nation safe enough for players and fans to travel? Serious questions were raised about whether the creaking South African infrastructure could cope with the tens of thousands of fans traveling between venues, and whether it could build the amount of new stadiums required. In addition, the question was asked why a nation was given the role of hosting the World Cup when its national team had ever qualified for the World Cup only twice and had ever managed to win only one game (the same number as Iran).
Key FIFA officials such as Franz Beckenbauer called for the cup to be moved to Germany, as it was becoming clear that South Africa could not cope with the demands being placed upon it. Yet well-intentioned officials such as Beckenbauer missed the point -- the decision to give South Africa the biggest soccer event in the world had nothing to with soccer. It was a political decision, with Blatter thinking in terms of "legacy" and "new frontiers." Other officials on the side of Blatter started talking about "transnational football communities" and the "remarkable community-building achievements" that such moves would bring.
It became clear that liberal politics were put in front of the interests of the sport, which was confirmed when, after three people were killed in an attack on the Togo national team in Angola in January, Blatter was asked about security concerns for the World Cup. He responded by labeling those with concerns as "colonialists" and anti-African. Now it was racist to have doubts about a weak soccer nation with severe economic and political problems hosting a World Cup.
It was hoped that these concerns would not come to fruition. Unfortunately, the first week of the 2010 World Cup has been a disaster, with some writers already describing the choice of South Africa as host as an example of "the greatest scandal of modern sports events."
The warnings of poor infrastructure have been right on the money, with England and USA fans left stranded for hours after Saturday's game, with horror stories of gridlocked traffic and horrendous accidents. There has been violence and disruption near the venues, including a bus drivers' strike in Johannesburg and riots outside the stadium in Cape Town that were so serious that stun grenades and rubber bullets were used. The many transport problems have meant that unusually low attendances have become common in the opening games, with ticket-holders left stranded and unable to reach the stadiums in time. Over ten thousand fans missed Sunday's Algeria v. Slovenia game.
Matters are spilling onto the field as well. The Royal Bafokeng stadium is situated five thousand feet above sea level, making the air thinner and causing significant problems for players. Symptoms include exhaustion, slow reactions, limited ball control, lack of oxygen, and increased chance of injury. This stadium was the venue of the USA v. England game, and it was noticeable that the players quickly looked exhausted, with many in obvious pain and gasping for breath. The two games that have been played there so far have been characterized by a slower pace and a weaker level of soccer than expected. England rugby player Joe Worsley describes playing there as the worst experience of his life.
Yet nothing represents this farcical situation more than the innocuous-looking "vuvuzela" -- a meter-long plastic horn that, when many are blown in unison, releases a loud noise similar to an enormous swarm of bees and louder than a chainsaw (a sample can be found here). The instrument originated in Mexico in 1970 but became popular in the 1990s in South Africa. As some have noticed a vague similarity to the much older African kudu horn, the vuvuzela has been quickly claimed as part of South African culture. This means that for political liberals, this annoying, loud piece of plastic instantly becomes part of South African "cultural heritage" and is therefore sacred and beautiful, with Sepp Blatter gushing, "I have always said that Africa has a different rhythm, a different sound."
The vuvuzela has destroyed the traditional World Cup atmosphere. The cheers and cries of the crowd (as well as the traditional chants of the African supporters) are drowned out by the small minority who possess these aggressive instruments. That beautiful moment in soccer when an excited crowd builds up nervously to a shot, then falls pin-drop silent as the ball whistles through the air, and then explode in delight as the ball hits the net (as shown here) is gone -- replaced by a constant, zombie-like drone that increases slightly in volume when a goal is scored.
The vuvuzela has also destroyed the quality of soccer. Players are unable to sleep due to the vuvuzelas droning on in the late hours of night, and players such as David Villa, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Lionel Messi (arguably the best player in the world) have called for the instrument to be banned, saying that players cannot concentrate or communicate with one another due to the noise. It would help to explain why games so far have generally been tired, tedious affairs, with poor passing, low levels of skill, and few goals. Surely, when the best players in the world warn that a piece of plastic is ruining the game, FIFA should listen.
Certainly, a body that was concerned primarily with soccer would do everything in its power to ensure that the quality of soccer, and the immediate experience surrounding it, was of the highest quality. But when the sport is taken over by liberals concerned only with creating some sort of vibrant socio-political utopia, then soccer will suffer.
Soccer is a resilient sport, and it can manage to shine even in the toughest circumstances. The World Cup is not dead yet, but it is being strangled by liberals who are prepared to sacrifice the sport for political motives.
Adam Shaw is a writer based in Manchester, England and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. He specializes in religion and politics and is seeking work in both the U.S. and the U.K.