Sunday, 6 July 2014

The World Cup: A weapon of mass distraction

Most of us might know Albert Camus as the French-Algerian novelist and philosopher whose arguments on existentialism transcended his time. We know him for his ability to force readers into facing the harshest questions and looking morality dead in the eye. One would find it somewhat strange to classify Camus as a sportsman as well, but that he was. Camus was a goalkeeper for his university team in Algeria who was inspired by football and the sense of responsibility it bestows on each player. Standing solitary between the goalposts Camus reflected on his absurd position of being at no fault if his team scores but fully to blame if the opposition did and is quoted to have said, “All that I know most surely about morality and obligations I owe to football.”

I can relate to Camus’s appreciation for football for I too am an avid fan of the sport who revels in the poetry and artistic intellect of the game. I find the camaraderie that football brings to people from all walks of life inspiring. But every four years, when the biggest celebration of football takes place in the form of the World Cup, the true lover of the sport is no longer necessary and the football connoisseur feels outnumbered. Because for one month every four years, regardless of your passion for the sport or even your knowledge of the game’s rules, you find yourself entranced by the events unfolding as nations compete for one title. 

It is quite frightening to be able to create an event that transcends cultural and religious barriers, speaks to all ages, and overcomes gender differences. An event, which has the ability to keep the whole world captivated, one that is designed to be a psychological weapon of mass distraction. 

As the hypnotised masses have their heads turned towards television screens and their voices raised to cheer on their favourite teams, they would like to believe that there is no world outside the borders of the cup-hosting city, yet the world still moves.

The first World Cup was held in 1930 and has been played every four years ever since. As far as the history books have recorded there has been a great political movement shaking the world while these World Cups were being held. For the sake of this argument I wish to go back thirty years or so and bring to your attention the events that have unfolded in the Middle East during these cups. 

In 1982 the World Cup was being held in Spain and in that same month the Lebanon War began. As the fires raged in Lebanon the world screamed and hollered, not at the sight of the Israeli forces invading Southern Lebanon or at the sheer injustice and agony, they cheered for Kuwait’s team appearing in the World Cup for the first time and hollered as the Algerian team was knocked out from the first round. In 1982 Lebanon was at war and Italy won the World Cup.

In 1990 the World Cup was being held in Italy and I recall this one vividly for the United Arab Emirates team was making its first appearance in the World Cup. That year Iraq invaded Kuwait and the seeds of war were planted in the Gulf, changing the way we view our region forever. West Germany won the cup and the Arab world lost the war.

In 2002 and on the first day of the World Cup being held in South Korea and Japan Israeli troops entered the West Bank through Nablus as the Arab world cheered for the Tunisian and Saudi Arabian teams and the rest of the world fixated on the excitement they have been waiting for for four years. Brazil took that cup.

In 2006 Germany hosted the World Cup and Israel launched Operation Summer Rains as it hailed attacks on the Gaza killings and injuring innocent Palestinians in its wake, Italy won.

In 2010, South Africa hosted the World Cup, meanwhile the United States was backing Iranian protests against then Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad where hundreds of protesters fell victim to military violence. Iran was being represented in the World Cup as their team wore green wristbands in solidarity with the opposition movement, the world complained about the annoying sounds of the vuvuzelas. Spain won that title.

And here we are today, 2014 and Brazil is hosting this World Cup. We find ourselves once again being held captive by the exhilarating atmosphere and the great football being played. We got caught up cheering our only Arab representative in the World Cup, Algeria, meanwhile Iraq is being swallowed up by the worst case of extremism we have seen yet and succumbing to vicious sectarianism that is ripping it to shreds. 
Israel is on the offensive once again threatening to bomb Gaza, the reasons are many, proof is optional and the result is one.

Who will take this World Cup is yet to be seen but the one thing we know for sure, if history has anything to teach us, is that some huge political plan is being hatched to be deployed four years from now as we settle in to watch the next World Cup hosted by Russia.


This article was published in The Gulf Today newspaper on 6 July, 2014 http://bit.ly/1qYAHew
Arabic version published in Al Khaleej newspaper http://bit.ly/1mvgpKd


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