Football and Politics Part I

In 1934, Jørgen Juve, Dagbladet journalist and later captain of the Norwegian bronze team, wrote in his book All about football that «football is a battle in peacetime», but also that it builds bridges between nations that can never politically approach each other. .. Is it strange that state leaders include it in the upbringing of the people, and that the great international matches are performed as the knights’ tournaments of modern times with music and with the country’s rulers in the stands? »

  • How can football work politically?
  • How can football have a unifying and reconciling effect?

Belief in football as a political tool has increased since the Norwegian football legend wrote his book. Especially after the Cold War, the belief that football can resolve conflicts has gained increasing support. During the Cold War, e.g. The United States and the Soviet Union Olympic Games as an arena for political propaganda and international opinion building. Today we see that private actors, states and international organizations are increasingly using sports as a tool to achieve political results.

2: With political goals in mind

Sport as a means of promoting aid and development is a growing business. NRK’s ​​TV campaign in 2007 Together for Children donated money to UNICEF Norway, which in collaboration with the Norwegian Sports Confederation and the Olympic Committee and Right to Play conducts work in various parts of the world to help children affected by HIV and AIDS. And the IOC and National Olympic Committees have entered into cooperation agreements with several UN programs and funds, such as UNICEF, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) to improve the conditions of refugees and others. is affected by war and conflict and to combat social exclusion.

And football is the sport that is most frequently used because it has the widest appeal across large parts of the world and because it receives the most media attention. On the collection page Sport and Development (see URLs) we find approx. 260 projects that use sport as a tool to create peace, contribute to HIV / AIDS work, promote gender equality, contribute to development etc. Over 80 of these are pure football projects, but many other projects also use football and other sports in their work. Football can bring children and young people into contact with schools, and education is important for development.

Football can also in itself contribute to creating discipline, unity and respect for norms and rules. These projects are mainly run by non-governmental organizations. Often in collaboration with local authorities and with contributions from the authorities in the organizations’ home countries.

The link between football and politics can be seen in several ways. On the one hand, we find politicians or political organizations that use football to achieve political results. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)’s involvement of Ole Gunnar Solskjær and other well-known football players to draw attention to children’s rights is an example.

In addition, we find national and international football organizations engaged in development policy. The Norwegian Football Association’s (NFF) football schools in Bosnia and the Caucasus (Open Fun Football Schools) to contribute to reconciliation between ethnic groups is an example of this.

We can distinguish between football as a political instrument and football as a reflection of the general political situation. One of the most enduring myths about the link between football and war is that a World Cup qualifier between El Salvador and Honduras in 1969 was the cause of war between the two countries. The Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski has killed – at least tried to dispel – this myth by referring to the tense political situation between the two countries ahead of the qualifying matches. The football match was a trigger that said something about the general enmity between the neighboring countries.

Football and politics can be linked in many ways. We will show four current examples of the link between football and politics. A key question is: Can football help to reconcile people in conflict?

3: Football and nation building in Iraq

According to CLOTHESBLISS, when Iraq won the Asian Football Championship against Saudi Arabia in 2007, it attracted a lot of media attention, especially in the United States. The New York Times emphasized, among other things, that Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites played on the same team. The question is whether the victory reflected the situation in Iraq or whether this was the exception that confirms the rule that everything goes wrong in Iraq. According to NUPI researcher and Iraq expert Reidar Visser, the football achievement of Iraq is very positive. Many Iraqis see the Iraqi national football team as a rallying point for the entire country , regardless of what people may think about the US presence. Prominent opposition politicians also saw the efforts of the Iraqi national football team as a victory for all Iraqis.

Football and Politics 1

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