Tag: football

The Effects of Football on Politics

The Effects of Football on Politics

Fans watching football


Maybe you once saw politicians sitting in the stands at a football (world cup games). Or a politician who ceremoniously opened the Olympic Games with a speech. At major sporting events, you can see at first glance that sports and politics have something to do with each other.

This can also be seen elsewhere, for example in the discussion about the daily sports lesson at school. But the connections go even further. In Austria, the federal government and the federal states determine which sports are promoted (federal government) and how the sport may be practiced (federal states).

The Federal Sports Promotion Act regulates how top-class sports, and junior and popular sports are promoted. The measures in the fight against doping, an unauthorized form of performance enhancement by medical means, are also laid down in the law.

Currently, sport is anchored in the “Federal Ministry of Arts, Culture, Public Sector and Sport” (as of February 2021). But other ministries also deal with the topic of sport, for example, the Ministry of Health.

In Austria, in the field of sports, the laws are enacted in the federal states. For example, they determine which safety precautions must be met when skiing. The interests of sports clubs and sports associations vis-à-vis politics are represented in Austria by the umbrella organization “Sport Austria”.


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However, politics does not only influence sports when it comes to subsidies and laws. Major events such as world championships and Olympic Games are popular worldwide, with millions of people watching. Again and again, politicians try to use this for their own purposes. They want to increase their own popularity or distract from unpleasant topics, such as human rights violations in their own country.

Examples of this are the planned 2022 Summer Olympics in Beijing and the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. China and Qatar are criticized for treating ethnic minorities and guest workers in their own countries. These two groups often have to work in dire conditions without having basic human rights.

You can find more examples of the interplay between politics and sports in the timeline.

On the other hand, sport also influences politics … and society: it can help people feel (more) belonging to their nation and strengthen the sense of community. Especially in young countries, it is easy to observe that sporting successes help to develop a common identity. In Austria, this was the case in the years after the founding of the Second Republic, for example through the successes of Austrian skiers at the Olympic Games.

An international example of the impact sport can have on a country’s politics and society was the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa. Only a year earlier, Nelson Mandela had been elected President of South Africa in the first free elections. South Africa was a divided nation due to decades of apartheid (the oppression and systematic discrimination of people with dark skin). South Africa surprisingly defeated the team from New Zealand in the World Cup final and won the world championship title.

Mandela’s presentation of the World Cup trophy to the captain of the South African rugby team was a symbolic sign of the rapprochement and reconciliation between people of white and dark skin in the country. Fittingly, there is a quote from the late former South African President Mandela: “Sport speaks a language that politicians do not speak.”

Politics is Football While Football is Certainly Not Politics

Politics is Football While Football is Certainly Not Politics

Soccer ball in a soccer field


The World Cup is still thundering on as you can read the news all over hesgoals.

Football results are relatively simple. 2-0, 3-5. In politics, things are more complex. For example, party A gets 44 percent of the vote, party B gets 42.8 percent, and then there are almost always the other parties, which do not occur in football.

It is often said that football has nothing to do with politics – or at least, shouldn’t. That is already difficult to maintain when you look at the enormous commercial importance involved in professional football, but sometimes it is literally not true. In 1978, I remember, the World Cup was played in Argentina by dictator Jorge Videla. Freek de Jonge shouted: Blood on the Pole. I believe there was exactly one Dutch professional footballer who listened to it.

But more important than the pious plea that football has nothing to do with politics is this observation: politics is not football.

“If we politicize everything, there is a threat of a tribal struggle, a struggle of everyone against everyone. Then there is no longer any question of living together.”

Or is it? Monday, June 25, was the day Erdoğan and his AK Party won the election with some 53 percent of the vote. The secular, socially democratic CHP under Ince, an opponent of Erdoğan, amassed some 31 percent. With the support of the extreme nationalist action party MHP, Erdoğan is assured of a majority and can implement his dream presidential system.

In an orderly state governed by the rule of law, the winner of the elections is not just the boss; there is always a significant minority that also needs to be heard. In this sense, Erdoğan is more of a footballer than a politician: the winner takes all. The losing party, the minority, is the loser in this case and there is no such thing as a second place – any more than in a football match.


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In politics, unlike football, it is not only about game technique, control, and team spirit; in politics, disposition plays the greatest role. What is just, what is right, what is closest to the good life? Fundamental contradictions become visible here. That is why it is so important that after the elections all participating parties recognize the result because the civil war is lurking. In politics there are winners, but there should be no victors. The majority plus one does not equal 1-0.

From Turkey to the United States, where Trump is stretching the line between winning and conquering by the day. Trump’s spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, for whom I don’t feel overwhelming sympathy despite her last name, was recently turned down at a restaurant. She had gone with her company to Lexington, Virginia, a town about 300 kilometers from Washington D.C. There would be eaten in the restaurant the Red Hen – ‘in de Rooie Haan’, think of the former VARA radio program. But the owner refused to serve her.

After all, hadn’t this Sanders talked about separating parents and children at the Mexican border on radio and television? Didn’t this woman know how to provide an alibi for all of Trump’s policies? Yes, Sanders is Trump’s spokesman, it’s her job. But Sanders didn’t come that night to give a speech or hand out flyers. She came to eat.

Now, as the owner, you can refuse certain customers. No one has to let a man in with a machine gun in his hand. You can judge your customer on behavior, especially if that ‘can lead to unrest’. But it’s a thin rope: In the 50s, African Americans led to unrest in all-white restaurants, not because of what they did but because of what they were.

The refusal to admit spokesman Sanders is celebrated by the anti-Trump movement as an “act of resistance.” But I don’t think it’s a victory, at most a pyrrhic victory, a sham success. Because if we start politicizing everything, including a visit to a restaurant, then there is a threat of a tribal struggle, a struggle of everyone against everyone. Then there is no longer a question of living together, but of a meeting of hooligans.