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Professional Soccer Is the New One-World Religion

By: Hana Fischer - @hana_fischer - Jul 24, 2015, 8:53 am
Soccer fans' blind nationalism has morphed into a tribal religion.
Soccer fans’ blind nationalism has morphed into a tribal religion. (24 horas)

EspañolIn early July, Chile emerged victorious from the Copa América soccer tournament that the country hosted for almost a month. Once again, the event caused the entire continent to come to a grinding halt: business slowed down, sport found its way into virtually every conversation, and fanatic nationalism took hold of the public.

The irrationality around soccer has become such a common global phenomenon that most people have not realized how the sport has been transformed. While it’s been a gradual process, it was definitely not spontaneous. On the contrary, I believe the sport’s governing body deliberately planned the game’s perversion.

Intellectuals from across the ideological spectrum have long noted religion’s power to attract the masses and grant its leaders enormous influence. They found that organized religions rely on unquestionable dogma, tradition, rites, beliefs, a sacred book, institutions, and massive public events.

Karl Marx was among the first to realize how he could mix his ideology with religious features to his advantage. Other like Benito Mussolini, Adolph Hitler, and Juan Domingo Perón, just to name a few, also successfully employed this strategy. By amassing colossal power, they were able to manipulate people into committing irrational and immoral acts.

While researches have studied “political religions” in depth, there is not enough literature on how religious dynamics have affected other aspects of human life, such as soccer.

Years ago, a very smart person once pointed out to me that soccer is replacing religion in many modern societies, as atheism continues to spread, and I’ve been paying attention to the phenomenon ever since. I’ve come to the conclusion that he was right.

Consider the World Cup. It begins with a ceremony — a procession not unlike a religious rite. Before every match, fans and players sing their national anthems. There is even a “sacred book” with its own dogmas, established by FIFA.

For the last 17 years, Joseph Blatter has been the organization’s supreme leader. FIFA has its own hierarchy divided into the “higher” and “lower” clergy. They are governed by their own laws and courts, beyond the reach of nation states. If someone in the community believes his rights were harmed by the “soccer legal system” and decides to resort to an ordinary court, the powers that be summarily “excommunicate” him.

Thanks to the quasi-religious fervor with which people follow soccer events, nation states have submitted to the will of FIFA. This organization has achieved something that no political movement could: establish a global tyranny ruling over the world’s governments.

For instance, last year at the last World Cup in Brazil, FIFA punished Uruguayan player Luis Suárez for a foul he committed during a match. This is well within FIFA’s power, and soccer federations and teams voluntarily accept its authority over them.

Unexpectedly, however, the soccer authorities had Brazilian police deport Suárez, as if he were a criminal. This was a penalty imposed by FIFA, not a Brazilian court.

On top of that, FIFA shamelessly flaunted their power in the face of the Uruguayan team. In what was supposed to be a celebration of sport — where fans often wear masks of their favorite players — Uruguayan supporters who wore their Luis Suárez masks in protest were banned from entering the stadium.

Free speech is supposed to be a fundamental right, as well as the right to criticize authority. It seems FIFA officials won’t have any of that: they ruled fans could only enter to watch the game if they left their masks outside. Soccer authorities will apparently only allow free expression if they agree with it.

It’s no coincidence that huge corruption scandals are emerging within FIFA. Lord Acton said it best: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Communism and fascism perverted politics and created monsters. Is this what’s happening to soccer?

Translated by Adam Dubove and Paz Gómez.

Hana Fischer Hana Fischer

Hana Fischer was born in and resides in Uruguay. She serves as a writer, researcher, and international affairs columnist in different media outlets. A specialist in philosophy, politics, and economics, she has written several books and received honorable mentions. Follow her @hana_fischer.