‘Nonpolitical’ fans need a moment of reflection – football and politics are inextricably linked

Taking the knee is a political act but not in the way it’s been indoctrinated, writes Laura Lawrence.

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In German author Thomas Mann’s 1918 essay Reflections of a Nonpolitical Man, he explored the theory of the “politicisation of everything”, which at the time he disliked.

I can hear the England Fans FC ambassador making a fake snoring noise already.

When the Dapper Laughs lookalike turned up on Sky Sports News last week his existential crisis about communication wasn’t the only noteworthy act. It was the solidification that for balanced reporting, the discourse around taking the knee and its supposed connection to Marxism became the official other side of the story.

The politicisation of football.

The ambassador wasn’t really spoiling us with details of his argument but, in some ways, he wasn’t wrong about the gesture being political. It is a political act but not in the way it’s been indoctrinated.

Politics doesn’t just evaporate because you’re bored with hearing about it. In the same way that images of Phil Foden’s hair don’t disappear from your Twitter feed when you mute the words.

Politics is the way international tournaments are chosen, where the unsuitability of countries hosting is swept aside in the name of global development and amid allegations of a thick envelope of cash.

It’s in the countries playing international football and how the geopolitics of whether Ukraine v Russia and Albania v Serbia should play each other and how safe those matches would be.

It’s in the medical support for current players, to save lives on the pitch, or the research and acceptance of responsibility for past players descending into dementia from heading the ball.

It’s in the USA women’s team asking for equal pay where they are the leaders in their sport but judged solely on their genitals.

It’s in the unfit owners who buy historic football clubs and strip them for parts and the football organisations that allow it.

Politics is in your matchday experience from the copyright text in the programme and the image rights the players’ control.

It’s the issue of minimum wage for the teenagers who make you miss the start of the second half because they need a calculator to add up £2.10 for two teas. It’s in the tax of the sugar in those cuppas.

The replica shirt you wear is subject to strict safety checks to ensure you’re flame retardant against the flares smuggled into the ground.

It’s in the health and safety stadium compliance, the access and egress of making your way to your season ticket seat.

It’s in the funding of the police and their behaviour as well as the fans.

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Politics has to be there in the inquiries when those things go tragically wrong.

And it’s definitely there when black players are asking to be treated as equals.

Which are the politics that bore you, boo boys? The ones that keep you safe? The ones that generate taxes? Or is it just the parts that have consequences for your discrimination?

When Mann wrote his essay, he was a keen advocate of Germany’s advance on Europe in WWI. By the end of WWII, he was pro-Stalin. He wasn’t as apolitical as his essay claims.

It probably doesn’t matter to those who boo and yell Marxism at any passing dissenter. Those who claim tradition and nostalgia as an argument for being unpleasant.

Politics should be removed from football, they cry. Now let’s get on with singing Ten German Bombers at the Nobel Laureate. 

Follow Laura @YICETOR

1 Comment on ‘Nonpolitical’ fans need a moment of reflection – football and politics are inextricably linked

  1. Yeah a game is a game why mix it with politics

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