Enjoy the World cup but don't be oblivious to the reality of the political symbiosis.
Here is an artical from an Ex (Watford) footballer who is now a great thinker and author.
A socialist's guide to the World Cup
> Whether you're cheering on the boys from Brazil or
> avoiding the television at all costs, keep an eye on
> the political dynamics of this year's World Cup.
> by Simon Black June 9, 2006
> As World Cup fever grips the globe, many progressives
> will be sighing at the prospect of another sporting
> spectacle distracting the "masses" from the pressing
> issues of the day -- the classic "bread and circuses"
> argument. There is a tendency on the North American
> Left to disdain sport: its competitive nature, the
> corporatization of its grand events, its inherent
> masculinities and cultures of exclusion.
> Some of this critique is grounded in good sociology;
> some of it bears an irrational disdain for that in
> which one does not participate or enjoy. In many
> sports, but especially in "the beautiful game,"
> politics and the game have a symbiotic relationship.
> Politics can influence and be influenced by what
> happens on the field of play. The World Cup is no
> My parents immigrated to Canada from Liverpool in the
> 1960s; growing up, soccer and socialism were the main
> topics of discussion in the Black household.
> Conversations at the dinner table moved seamlessly
> between football and politics, England's chances in the
> World Cup and the NDP's chances in the upcoming
> I only committed my life to socialism after being
> rejected as a professional soccer player (a brief stint
> with the English Premier League's Watford FC is my
> footballing claim to fame).
> In many countries, soccer is a terrain of political and
> ideological struggle like the media or the education
> system. Teams in Europe often have decidedly partisan
> political followings. Lazio of Rome was the club of
> Mussolini and retains a large fascist following today.
> Italian club A.S. Livorno has long been associated with
> communism and banners of Che Guevara can be seen waving
> in the stands at the team's home games. Clashes between
> Livorno's supporters and the fans of right-wing teams
> can dominate match day in this picturesque Tuscany
> When asked to play a friendly match against the
> Zapatistas, left-leaning club Inter Milan gladly took
> up the offer encouraged by its bohemian supporters who
> see their team as a counterbalance to AC Milan, owned
> by former right-wing Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
> In the UK, Glasgow Celtic were an organizing ground for
> the cause of Irish liberation and a haven of Catholic
> solidarity in a hostile Protestant and Unionist
> In Spain, FC Barcelona is the home of Catalan
> nationalism. In the era of fascist rule, the team was a
> serious aggravation to General Franco and his
> sympathizers who supported Barca's fierce rivals Real
> Madrid. But for those on the Left who are ignorant of
> soccer's rich political history and are greeting the
> onset of World Cup madness with a yawn, here's a quick
> socialist's guide to the big tournament. I hope it will
> pique your interest enough to watch a game or two.
> Colonial legacies
> The great Trinidadian intellectual C.L.R. James
> believed that the English-speaking Caribbean truly
> gained independence from colonial rule when the West
> Indies defeated England in cricket. A victory for the
> colonies signaled a shift in the national psyche from
> subordination and inferiority to confidence and pride,
> cultivating a fervent nationalism. Thus anytime a
> former colony goes up against its colonizer, far more
> than just a game is at stake.
> Long independent, the nations of Togo, Trinidad and
> Angola will face their colonizers in the first round of
> World Cup 2006. Both soccer minnows, a victory for Togo
> or Trinidad will set off waves of celebration in the
> home country.
> Yet the Angola versus Portugal match is arguably the
> most exciting and politically stimulating of the first
> round. Angola waged a brutal struggle for independence
> against Portuguese rule (and later against U.S. and
> South African influence) gaining independence in 1975.
> Angolans will be hoping their team rises above the
> favoured Portuguese in a game that will be charged with
> political symbolism.
> Iranian fervour
> In his wonderful book How Soccer Explains the World: An
> (unlikely) theory of globalization, Franklin Foer
> describes the political tremors that can result from a
> victory of the Iranian national soccer team. Iran's
> victories can unleash popular sentiments that buck
> against the theocratic rule of the mullahs. The
> celebrations that greet Iranian soccer success make the
> country's rulers uneasy: people eat, drink and be
> merry, dancing in the streets and saying things aloud
> that they otherwise would not dare to say.
> Upon a team victory, Foer notes that what is normally
> restricted to the private sphere of the Iranian
> household bursts forth occupying public space as people
> take to the streets in celebrations that can and do
> morph into demonstrations against the government. The
> ayatollahs attempt to hijack the success of the
> national team for their own purposes but the team
> itself maintains a cautious independence from the
> government line. How Iranian success or defeat plays
> out in this era of U.S. sabre-rattling over the
> country's nuclear program will be interesting.
> Social movements
> There are other World Cup news stories worth following
> that are not directly related to the games themselves
> but have everything to do with politics.
> Having legalized prostitution, Germany's *** industry
> is gearing up for a massive boost in business. Yet
> women's groups are concerned with the trafficking of
> women for ***ual slavery to meet the demand created by
> a massive influx of male tourists into the country. A
> number of NGOs have criticized world soccer's governing
> body FIFA for not doing enough to raise awareness about
> trafficking and forced prostitution. Only recently have
> FIFA and German authorities begun to address these
> complaints. A number of NGOs plan to stage protests
> during the Cup's festivities.
> Oxfam has led a coalition of anti-sweat NGOs (the Fair
> Play Alliance) to protest the working conditions under
> which the uniforms and shoes of the participating teams
> are made. Oxfam's report, Offside! Labour Rights and
> Sportswear Production in Asia, puts the spotlight on a
> number of large multinational corporations who have
> failed to clean up their supply chains and address the
> continuing abuse of workers' rights. Anti-sweatshop
> groups will use the World Cup to stage demonstrations
> against the big apparel companies like Nike and Adidas.
> As Oxfam points out, while players like England's David
> Beckham receive millions in sponsorship deals, the
> people who make his shoes receive little more than
> pennies. Pressure is being put on the superstar players
> to convince their sponsors to clean up their acts.
> Whether players use their power and influence to help
> stamp out sweatshop abuses remains to be seen.
> So whether you're cheering on the boys from Brazil or
> avoiding the television at all costs, keep an eye on
> the political dynamics of this year's World Cup. Before
> you vilify the overpaid athletes participating,
> remember that for many of them, football has been their
> means of social mobility, rising from the ghettoes of
> Sao Paulo, Tehran or Manchester to the world's biggest
> sporting stage.
> And for those of you who still can't see what all the
> fuss is about, keep in mind the words of a famous
> English coach (and Lefty) by the name of Bill Shankly,
> "Football isn't a matter of life and death, it's more
> important than that."
> Simon Black is a Toronto writer.