Foot(Glo)ballisation by World Cup The most relevant ad-hoc study on the current state and fate of our planet
If people were to tell their story to the inhabitants of other worlds in this universe, it would suffice to produce a chronicle of earthly discussions containing the keyword or hashtag #WorldCup. I believe we can safely leave out “football” from this label – the elliptical expression “World Cup” instantly directs our thoughts to the sport that will have grown into a religion defined by the “new testament” of Diego Maradona (1986) and his “second coming” in the form of Lionel Messi (2022). The secular religion of football is economic as well as political in nature; in other words, it is an instance of “scientifically” exploited “culture”. The Qatar edition is one of the clearest examples thus far of how the downright scientific marketing of a symbolic good (i.e., football) can contribute either insidiously or ostentatiously to the planetary management of cultural values (a potpourri of frigid conservatism and frivolous progressivism): a campaign worth some $300 billion meant to wash the image of some and the brains of others on the shores and hydrocarbon reserves of the Gulf.
As a famous song once said, “Diamonds Are Forever”, but apparently oil and gas are not – in either a natural (given their physical rarity) or cultural sense (climate changes vilify them). Petro-caliphs/emirs/sultans/sheiks use their trillions to garner support among the world’s strongest nations and to make a name for itself in tourism, entertainment, and sport. In preparation for the time when “black gold” will no longer be the world’s energy currency, the Gulf States are building infrastructures to allow for the circulation of mankind’s imperishable, timeless coins: pleasure and passion. The right to work (…until you come crashing down) or the freedom of expression (…of unchallengeable traditional values) are institutions that have been gained validation from the rest of the civilized world which has understood that, for all the fury and frustration it can spark, money (ideally, hard-worked and freely exchanged) can best unite the supply and demand for peace and prosperity.
It’s said that the recent tournament in Qatar was the testing ground for the zeal of Western entities – sports teams and leagues, cultural institutions and business organisations – to gain a chunk of Middle Eastern money, in spite of the threat to their (liberal or libertine?) values. The “muscles” of the commercial and financial world, set between the “skin and bones” of the Third World and animated by the North and West’s “neural networks”, flex and contract in the Gulf, in India, and in China. Football is the perfect outlet for a demonstration of their mobility and motility. Let’s simply have a look at the British and their apparently imperturbable and impermeable bubble: traditional football clubs, intimately linked with the working class and the local communities for decades, suddenly find themselves under the ownership of foreign energy tycoons: Manchester City was bought by a group based in the United Arab Emirates, and Newcastle United belongs to a consortium from Saudi Arabia.
The 2022 competition will generate a record $7.5 billion for FIFA alone, an organisation deemed (depending on whom we ask) as either “more universal” (redundancy intended) than the UN, or “greasier” than Cosa Nostra. These revenues surpass those brought by the 2018 tournament held in “good old, kind” Russia by $1 billion. The earnings will be further split to stimulate the spirit of competition (from the total prize fund of $440 million, the victory of the “Albiceleste” squad will be rewarded with $42 million, while the depression of “Les Bleus” will be soothed with $30 million), as well as to emulate the spirit of charity (thanks to the wealthy lifestyles that club footballers enjoy, many choose to donate part of their earnings, as Mbappé did at the previous tournament). Part of the money will go to the (416) clubs that have had players present at the championship – $209 million, to be specific. Then, there is the marketing effect of the tournament on the transfer market.
Indeed, by all standards, football shall remain the most popular sport on the planet for a while. According to the World Population Review, the sport is endorsed by 3.5 billion fans and 250 million players in 200 countries. Football truly is the global game, as Statista found that the highest level of interest for the sport in terms of percentage of the general population is in the Middle East itself. It is a go-to argument to excuse those who’ve consented to have the competition organized in the complicated (read controversial) Qatar. The defenders of this country return the accusations of outright intolerance back at the West: despite championing for diversity, non-discrimination and hyper-democracy, advocates of Western canons seem to hate Muslim culture (associating it with jihad), wealth (linked to exploitation) and otherness in general. Nevertheless, for the love of… Diego, we cannot be politically-prudish to the point of hosting the World Cup exclusively in chaste countries such as the Heavenly-on-Earth Finland, Norway or Sweden!
Photo source: Wikimedia Commons.