Posts Tagged ‘soccer’

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Protest of the day

Posted: 9 February 2016 in Uncategorized
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British football (i.e., soccer) fans are plotting a mass stadium walkout in protest over rising ticket prices.

The decision by around 10,000 fans to stage a 77th-minute walkout of the Liverpool-Sunderland game was the clearest indication yet that vast numbers of supporters have been driven to breaking point over the failure of teams to share some of their new £8.3 billion television contract, a windfall set to widen the gulf between those within the game and those who pay to follow it.

The protest on Saturday forced Liverpool’s owners to revisit their pricing policy for next season and came in the same week as an online backlash forced Arsenal to scrap a season-ticket surcharge, both of which emboldened campaigners against the rising cost of attending matches to crank up the pressure on other clubs.

A meeting of supporters groups was planned last night for the end of this week or the beginning of next week at which a number of options will be discussed, one being the viability of a mass walkout.

Anyone who follows world football (or, for American readers, soccer) knows how special the Manchester United class of 1992 was.

Well, as it turns out, that class—including Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs—really does have a lot of class.

When Manchester United footballers Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs got planning permission to turn the historic Manchester stock exchange into a boutique hotel replete with basement gym, spa and rooftop private members’ terrace, they envisaged opening it up to an exclusive and moneyed clientele. Instead, a group of homeless people with little or no money have moved in – with Neville’s blessing.

The hotel, which is undergoing extensive renovations before opening its doors to paying guests, was occupied on Sunday by a group of squatters and housing activists called the Manchester Angels. Instead of the usual response of property owners – rushing to court to obtain an order to get the uninvited new incumbents evicted – the famous ex-footballers who own the building have told them they can stay, not just for a few days, but throughout the coldest months of the winter.

F.C. St. Pauli is “the world’s most left-wing football club.”

It’s also the club that seems most to be in the news these days. In addition to the piece on Shortlist.com, there’s an article from this past weekend article on the Guardian web site.

And then there’s today’s report, in the New York Times:

Ibrahim Ismail had decided to make a placard for each of his five Syrian and Iraqi friends the moment he heard they would receive a free ticket for Tuesday’s soccer match.

“They say, ‘Thank You, Hamburg’, ‘Thank You, St. Pauli’ and “Many Thanks, Germany,’ ” Ismail said, showing off messages he had carefully printed, in German and Arabic, on scraps of cardboard with a black marker.

The six men proudly displayed their homemade signs to thousands of German supporters as they streamed into Hamburg’s Millerntor-Stadion. Almost all of the fans who passed them were wearing black T-shirts with the image of a skull and crossbones on the front, the emblem that is the calling card of F.C. St. Pauli.

A few days earlier, St. Pauli, a team in the second tier of German soccer that has become famous for its punk rock ethos and social conscience, offered 1,000 free tickets for this week’s exhibition against Borussia Dortmund to recently arrived refugees, including Ismail and his friends. The effort was a part of a larger response, sparked by organic gestures by fan groups, that has brought discussion of Europe’s migrant crisis into stadiums across Europe.

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Football (or, if you prefer, soccer) fans and clubs across Europe, particularly in Germany and especially F.C. St. Pauli, are extending a warm welcome and a helping hand to the thousands of refugees currently streaming into Europe.

Many of the refugees invited to St. Pauli’s match with Borussia Dortmund live in camps around the port city, including one that is a few minutes’ walk from the district that gives F.C. St. Pauli its name.

“A chance to meet the neighbors!” joked Christian Prüss, who works for St. Pauli and has been in charge of the club’s response to the refugee crisis.

A few hours before kickoff Tuesday, Prüss was nervously smoking a cigarette inside St. Pauli’s empty stadium as his phone rang constantly. Like others and the club, he views the humanitarian effort as more of a responsibility than an act of charity.

Besides donating the 1,000 tickets, St. Pauli raised 45,000 euros, over $50,000, in 24 hours — enough to help finance a search-and-rescue boat stationed in the Mediterranean.

“Always the club is without money, we are famous for it,” Prüss said of St. Pauli. “But we have credibility.”

The club’s roots are in the working class St. Pauli neighborhood, famed for the Reeperbahn, Hamburg’s red-light district. It was here that the Beatles honed their trade from 1960 and 1962, and where the neighborhood’s social activism and radical politics often bleed into the stands of the Millerntor.

“We think we can provide more than just football,” Prüss said. “Not just about 90 minutes. We have a responsibility for the people around the club.”

Few take that responsibility more seriously than the St. Pauli fans. Since 2004, the Ultras St. Pauli group has been visiting refugee camps around Hamburg, bringing clothes, food and lawyers to help the migrants navigate Germany’s complex asylum applications.

“It is a kind of radical way to support a football club; we are not just supporting a football club but politically, too,” said Lucas, one of the youngest members of the group, which unlike other right-leaning and sometimes violent ultra organizations, campaigns on everything from ending racism to supporting gay rights. As is common with hard-core European supporters groups, Lucas declined to give his full name.

“It’s why I love this club,” Lucas added. “But German society is divided into two parts. One part supports the refugee struggle and wants to help.” The other, he said, believes the opposite. “They think: ‘We don’t need them’, ‘It’s too much’, ‘Go back home,’ ’’ he said. “I can’t imagine how these people think.”

This is an example others—from last year’s St. Louis Cardinals fans to the current politicians in Europe—might want to emulate.

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The 2014 World Cup finals start tomorrow and I can’t wait. I can’t wait to watch the beautiful game, as played by the footballers of 32 nations across the globe—without forgetting about the dirty business the FIFA games have become.

At least that much the Economist gets right. But, not surprisingly, for the editors—”deep-dyed internationalists,” as they see themselves—it’s all about the benefits of globalization on the game of football, which are only hampered by the corruption surrounding FIFA president Sepp Blatter. Nothing, however, about the corporate sponsors of the tournament and the conditions in Brazil that led one of the residents of the Copa do Povo (People’s Cup) flash camp to conclude, “The World Cup is for those in helicopters.”

That’s certainly true for the tiny group of people running—and profiting from—the World Cup. They’ll certainly be crisscrossing the city and arriving at their luxury boxes in the stadia by helicopter. The millions of the rest of us will be watching the matches on television, looking forward to being witness to the unpredictable moments of footballing magic (and, inevitably, frustration and agony) individuals and teams will certainly offer us.

But what would a different World Cup look like? As it turns out, Brazil offers an alternative in its own history, in the form of one of its own brilliant footballers. No, not Pelé. I’m thinking of Sócrates (Sócrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Souza Vieira de Oliveira was his full name), who was the captain of the Selecão and of Corinthians and the leader of the Corinthians Democracy movement. (He died in 2011.)

Eric Cantona presents the story of Sócrates’ attempt to create an alternative to dirty business and to practice democracy within the beautiful game:

 

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I’m really looking forward to the World Cup finals, which start on 12 June. But the events surrounding this most important exhibition of the jogo bonito are making it more and more difficult to enjoy it.

First and foremost, there’s Brazil itself, where eight workers have died in constructing the stadiums, scores of favelas have been invaded by the police, and Brazilians continue to protest the use of public monies to subsidize the finals instead of improving housing, transportation infrastructure, and all the other social programs needed in that country.

Then, there’s construction magnate Mohamed bin Hammam, who acted like “the head of crime organization” in securing the 2022 World Cup finals for Qatar (in addition to the fact that it was insane to award the finals to a country where football simply can’t be played outdoors during the normal timeframe of June-July).

Finally, there’s the match-fixing that occurred in the run-up to the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa.

I’m still going to watch the finals. But they’re clearly not going to be as beautiful as we deserve.