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When football comes home

Appetising and less-appetising aftermaths for prospective winners

Photo: Reuters

Photo: Reuters

Some watch the World Cup for the love of the game or the team, getting together with beers, bar food and big screens, as well as the benign rivalry.

Yet the World Cup is also fertile soil to question what happens when people come together, more so since no other human behaviour can gather the same kinds of crowds.

As it abuts France, Belgium, Croatia and England in the "football’s coming home" fantasy, the final act of the World Cup 2018 will also be staging prospective social ramifications.

Should France triumph, it would imply a victory for the Ancien Régime headed by Didier Deschamps, who is the longest-serving manager in the history of the French national team.

An epitome of active aging or an endorsement of the French establishment in the global tournament?

I am more inclined to support the establishment thesis. Considering that language mediates our world experiences it suffices to say that the original World Cup trophy bore the name of Jules Rimet. Rimet was also the longest standing president of FIFA - which, (not so) incidentally, stands for Fédération Internationale de Football Association.The day after an England match, incidents were 11% higher

Across the channel, a campaign associated domestic violence with the World Cup tournament on the basis of research by Lancaster University, which found that in England during the 2002, 2006 and 2010 World Cups domestic violence on women rose by 38% on the days when the national team lost, and 26% when the team won or drew a match. The day after an England match, incidents were 11% higher. The study had limitations but captured the attention of many.

Should England actually make it home, will the tabloids frame knighting a Sir Harry, a Sir Gareth and a bank holiday as whitewashing attempts? What is the social value of such rituals and traditions today?

In relation to this, discussions on Belgium’s prospective win created a space to discuss the need to bring people together ceremoniously for greater social unity. By winning the World Cup, Belgium might source national pride and national identity that are (arguably) scant, but potentially therapeutic for a country where a march held last April in remembrance of 2016 terrorist attacks attracted only a few thousands of people.

The final candidate, Croatia, is the semi-finalist with the shortest history as a nation; yet consistently establishing itself as a sporting country by winning 33 Olympic medals, one third of which were Gold. A triumphant Croatia would represent a youthquake for FIFA and the global football community; paying more than lip-service to Eduardo Galeano, who revered how “football continues to be the art of the unforeseeable”.

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