Monday, June 13, 2016

Prelude to Russia 2018?

I cannot see there was such a surprise by the violent scenes inside the stadium after the England-Russia match in the Euro 2016. Let us face it: this had been building up for three days, with violence in the streets of Marseille, and anyone watching even on TV could feel the negative atmosphere in the stadium at the start of the match. It is fortunately not so common that fans buh during the other team's national anthems, but not so in last night's match.
There is understandably a lot of attention at the poor security arrangements in the stadium (it is truly incredible considering the apparent terrorist threat that they forget all other, more real, threats), but why is there not attention to the much deeper problem of European society?
UEFA, understandably, has campaigns against racism, but xenophobia is something that is inherent in all these tournaments, and with rising nationalism and economic and social crisis in Europe, the ghost of xenophobia is on the rise.
Because let us face it: football does NOT bring people together. Perhaps a few naive fans still think it is all about the friendly clash of sport. But reality is that football is increasingly becoming the  outlet for European nationalist sentiments; people who do not even know how to appreciate football, watch it because they get their hard-on with the national anthems and flags, and can look down on other nationalities.
This is, in my view, the real tragedy of the Euro in France and the clashes of the last few days.
I agree that UEFA should send the teams home if the fans cannot behave, but in the end it will do nothing to dampen the ugly nationalism. Football is only an image of wider society.
I hope I am wrong, but I think what we saw yesterday is only a prelude to much uglier things ahead in Russia 2018.

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