With the current Fifa World Cup bringing in audiences from all over the world, one thing can be declared without any shred of doubt- soccer is popular. But if we were to listen to the words of Jorge Luis Borges, the famous writer from Argentina, soccer, and stupidity went hand in hand. One of the nominees for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1965, Borges absolutely despised the culture or the mania that soccer brought into the country.
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There have been times when people from countries that are not participating in the world cup end up being more enthusiastic about it- as they get seduced by the cosmopolitan air, the colorful pageantry, and also the nostalgia for the beautiful game- something all of us must have played at least once in our lives. But, one does need to understand that any World Cup that is organized is just the surface, the facade for a lot of evil that is underground.
Soccer Breeds Stupidity, and Vice Versa?
Should one love and be enthusiastic about the World Cup even when it highlights issues like deepening poverty, corruption, and even exploitation? The current WC in Qatar has a death toll for the workers involved in creating the stadiums. The place itself has enforced several Human Rights violations, and one can’t simply turn a blind eye to the rampant corruption that FIFA propagated for quite some time. And yet, when the World Cup is upon us, the mania for it rises. Most of the advertisements that we see on TV, newspaper reports, Tweets from celebrities, and arguments among rival fans- all help us enmesh ourselves in the game. So, would it be better to be a relative outsider and manage to create a difference between the sport itself, as well as the jingoistic bigotry and violence to is usually associated with the games in several parts of the world?
For Jorge Luis Borges, soccer and stupidity are almost synonyms. And being an Argentine, he has a full vision of what actually transpires in games. All of us must have, at some point, read about gang violence that emanated after games between River Plate and Boca Juniors. This soccer-mad country has extremely deep-rooted social divides, and hence violence plays quite a large role in the sporting vision of the country. The author actually posits that it is quite impossible to separate the beautiful game, from the not-so-beautiful fans.
According to Shaj Matthew, Borges believes that the mass mania and fanaticism for the game is a symbol of dogmatic nationalism or fascism. Matthew also writes about how sporting heroes are often used by authoritarian regimes to drum up support. The recently concluded Brazilian elections would highlight that. Bolsonaro drummed up massive support after having several high-profile footballing giants in the country like Neymar Jr. and others promote him. The bond that fans share with the game and the players can often be used negatively by political groups- something Borges absolutely resented.
The Game Of Soccer Has Turned Into A Religion- And Being A Fanatic Does Leave A Lot of Vulnerabilities
In one of Borges’ short stories, “Esse Est Percipi”, the writer tries to show how soccer has now started breeding stupidity. In fact, this short story can also explain his resentment towards how the game has transformed. Halfway into the story, it is found out that the game in Argentina has actually stopped being just a game- and is now quite akin to reality TV. In this universe, the representation of the game has replaced playing the game. So, in his story, fans end up following games on TV and in newspapers- which are completely nonexistent- simply because they are too fanatic and gullible to question any part of it.
From a particular perspective, it could be assumed that Borges laments how the beautiful game has been turned into just a Hydra with many different ideologies. One of the heads would be the media for being complicit in creating this mass hysteria for the game- which has transported it from being a means to derive pleasure to being something that can twist and turn public opinion.
Borges hates that soccer can be used for manipulation- for according to him the popularity of soccer can be ascribed to how people simply don’t want to question the things around them. When they are faced with a game of soccer, they turn into automatons, barely able to have some semblance of the world around them. This is their idea of being a part of something that is greater than themselves. While some may turn towards religion, others make soccer their religion. And just like most religions, soccer can manipulate the minds of the fans- warping them according to the need of the hour.
Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons