Because football is for infidels

The World Cup this year has reminded us of just how popular a sport football (soccer) is for millions around the world. Indeed, according to FIFA, the world governing body for the sport, over one billion people are estimated to be watching the game at any one time from more than 213 countries. But that hasn’t stopped some from brandishing it as a Western imperialist enterprise bent on the complete hegemonic domination of the world – or something to that effect.

One poster on a Marxist email discussion list decries England supporters for the ‘attachment to Empire and imperialism which pervades the English working class, resulting in a national chauvinism which allows British governments to continue to engage in imperialist military adventures to this day and get away with it’. Who says structural Marxists don’t have a sense of humour?

Meanwhile, Islamic fundamentalists are also working themselves up into a tizzy about World Cup ‘decadence’. One group in Kerala, India has been organizing protests against the ‘amoral Jewish-American and imperialist conspirators’ of the World Cup who they claim are corrupting Muslim youth. Apparently young Muslim men are cutting their hair ‘in ugly imitation of a Jewish footballer’ [David Beckham, who recently discovered that his maternal grandfather was Jewish]. Shock, horror.

Saudi cleric Muhammad Al-Munajid had the most, er, interesting take on the matter: ‘If the West has managed to captivate the hearts of most of the human race with an inflated piece of leather flying between three wooden beams, we Muslims must be completely aware of the state of the Islamic nation, and what they have in store for it. The cameras at the soccer fields will zoom in on many things, including women, who will not be wearing veils, of course, and will be half naked in many cases Some of the fans paint their faces with strange colors... Some of them look like demons, with their faces covered in dust, charcoal, and smoke. One woman wore a lens shaped like a soccer ball in her left eye, and a lens with the colors of the German flag in her right eye. I rest my case.’

New Internationalist issue 392 magazine cover This article is from the August 2006 issue of New Internationalist.
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