Its been a big week for sports this week. The Superbowl, the Australian Open, the Cricket…the Geelong bay cycling classic. And of course, the FA Cup.
For those who are not aware, soccer riots are not particularly uncommon around the world. We often see it on the news: some club has lost, the fans start a riot, a few people get injured or killed, arrests are made and they move onto the next game, where yet another riot breaks out. It’s not something that surprises me much anymore — seeing English soccer fans with all their dutch courage trampling some poor old lady wearing a Manchester scarf. Generally I just scoff and say that it is something that is unique to soccer fans. “It’s like religion, it’s weeird” I say to myself.
Yesterday’s Superbowl also induced riots when Oakland Raiders fans lost the game. They set fire to cars and a McDonald’s restaurant because they were drunk and noone would serve them. Ok, I made that bit up. But they did actually set fire to the place. What is interesting here, however, is that the Raiders’ fans also rioted when they *won* the week before! It’s rather funny when you think about it, but it also makes me wonder if people, firstly, use sport as an excuse to be utter melonheads, or whether they are so blinded by faith for their teams that they *honestly* believe that supporters of the opposing team are an “enemy”. As someone who defines my interest in sport as ‘passing’, and my knowledge of sporting events being limited to the 10 minutes on Chennel Ten news every night, it’s something I simply cannot comprehend. Or can I?
Perhaps it gives us more insight into nationalism and how it can skew our perspective. “Nation” as a concept is something that is unclear in its meaning. It is not simply a matter of drawing a line on a map and calling it a nation — it is far more complex than that. It is both objective and subjective. In a formal sense, it is a cultural entity: people who speak the same language, have the same religion, have a shared history, and so on. However, it is commonly accepted that a nation, or a community, can also be defined subjectively by its members, and could be distinguished by a shared loyalty or affection in the form of patriotism. Why doesn’t this apply to soccer teams? Or Raiders fans? Or the Lisa Loeb Fan Forum?
As I type, American, UK and Australian troops are headed for the gulf to fight a war that about 60% (and rising) of their people disagree with. There was an article in the West Australian a couple of days ago that says that 65% of people have no faith in their politicians with regard to environmental issues, and this is a common trend across the western world. Our governments are simply not listening to their people. Most of us just want good quality healthcare and education for our children, and reliable roads and a government that takes care of those unable to take care of themselves. And we simply aren’t getting it. America spends hundreds of millions of dollars on the military, Australia has increased its funding in defence. And noone wants it. People’s faith in their government is dwindling and they are feeling increasingly helpless as we are led into World War 3 by a maniac with a vendetta and a lust for crude.
Now you may wonder why this is related to soccer riots and the riots that took place at the Superbowl. Well, it occured to me the other day, as I heard the news about the Superbowl riot, that people have nothing to fight for anymore because their governments just won’t listen. They have noone to believe in, noone to identify with and bind them as a nation. Our politicians are corrupt, our priests abuse their power. The rich are getting richer at the expense of the poor, and the poor are marginalised for objecting under the guise of “free enterprise”. So instead, we turn to that last place where equality is not a dirty word: Sports. The one place where the “level playing field” is exactly that, and not another government buzzword to dupe the poor out of medicine. Where flags once flew there are now team scarves and hats. And where national anthems once rang, there are team songs. Where there were inspirational political speeches about how our world *should be*, there are backflips and bum patts over a goal.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not at all trying to justify the behaviour of those hooligans that go and beat up other fans. If anything, it gives us some insight into the ugly side of human nature: that instead of enjoying a game together in an environment of equality and respect, they’ll attempt to beat up the enemy, all the while disrespecting other people’s environment and property to prove their point. Just like the Americans are quite prepared to create war, to the detriment of our environment and our people, to prove the point that they are the “biggest” in the world.
However, in the end, is it really worth it? At the end of the day all you have is a burnt car and a burnt McDonalds restaurant. And a few people dead. But it never actually solves the issue, does it?