The Slow Burning Fuse

an atheisitic anarchistic scorcher

Primero Chaca

Having become the preferred sport of the working class, Argentine fútbol in particular, possesses a radical history in its own beginnings. Many of the major clubs that still survive today were created by anarchists and socialists who eventually couldn’t resist participating in the sport, and saw it as an additional space to practice liberatory ideas aside from the workplace and the union. To name a few for instance, Chacarita Juniors, the team quoted at the beginning of this article, was founded on May 1st by a delegation of socialists, many of them workers of Chacarita’s neighborhood cemetery, who gave the club its colors: red for socialism, black for being the undertakers (it’s also contested that it was for anarchism), and white for the purity of their ideas. Independiente, also founded by workers who couldn’t play in the same team as the bosses, chose its name for being “independientes de la patronal”, independent from management. Colegiales was known as Libertarios Unidos, “United Libertarians” in its beginnings, and Argentinos Juniors, formerly known as the “Martyrs de Chicago” chose their name in commemoration of the anarchists who fought for the 8-hour day…

Unfortunately, the rich radical history of fútbol did not stick around for the years to come. As players would start getting bought and sold, fútbol became a thriving business and radical politics quickly left the field and the surrounding scenes. Throughout the 20th century, South America’s excellence at cultivating wonderfully creative players was also its curse. As fans, we had to constantly bid farewell to all our favourite players and realize that our fútbol wasn’t for us; it had become a painful industry of export. A practice whose damages are still felt today when players are put together as a national team yet sometimes don’t know each other, and have never played with each other on the field…

The sport also reflects the quick evolution of a popular institution becoming a highly lucrative industry with earnings in the billions. The push for exponential revenues forces the game to focus obsessively on wins (more earnings) and performance, pushing players to leave creativity and risk aside, in order to create reliable results. It is precisely this toxic relationship that makes products out of players. It’s a limiting affair that stunts their creativity and style, and pressures them to deliver steadily, and constantly. The ones good enough to get noticed are then immediately sequestered into European teams, creating a void in the sport’s folklore, and leaving fans and barra bravas as the only constant components. Sadly, having to reassert the team’s identity is a job that barras take upon themselves. They use to their advantage the rhetoric that no matter what happens, their loyalty is steadfast, they’re always there. In a way, it’s true.

It is thus imperative to make clear the distinction between soccer and soccer under capitalism. Throughout history and still today, it has often been called the opium of the masses, as if its destruction would suddenly make the working class stop chasing a ball to bring upon the revolution, and allow everyone to develop to their full potential. Except we know that soccer doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and it is highly affected by the vultures of greed and profiteering that circle around it. Like any other sport that is practiced for the sake of exercise and enjoyment, it has chances of being developed in liberatory ways. Osvaldo Bayer, a writer and journalist whose works revolve around libertarian movements, mentions in an interview the debates within the Federación Libertaria, and the FORA to create a more cooperative movement in fútbol: “We often discussed how to amateurize fútbol and sports in general. The idea is that profits would be distributed among everyone, and we would allocate funds for children’s education, fútbol schools, and general tasks. The ideas were beautiful”….

As it is, the game makes up such a large part of people’s daily lives in many parts the world over, that it would be naïve not to acknowledge it as a powerful tool we could use to our advantage. It’s worth imagining that if the revolution comes tomorrow, we’re not getting rid of fútbol, the “opium” that gave us so much life, but we’re getting rid of capitalism. We have to take the best assets of the sport and build upon them liberatory ways of enjoying the game, without the pressure of playing for millions or a chance at a better life. Instead, we should play for exercise, for fun, and for community.

From here…


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This entry was posted on January 30, 2016 by in anarchy, Football, Uncategorized.
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