I never understood the point of football, says Marie Le Conte in Medium. I would always just “smile politely” when people talked about it. Then, during the 2014 World Cup, it clicked: watching and discussing football allows you to not do any work in a socially acceptable way. I loved seeing countries go up or get eliminated. “It was a joy to watch England do so poorly, because I am French and I wanted them to crash and burn.” I supported Iran “because their players were beautiful” and I backed Argentina in the final because of a lovely holiday I once had in Buenos Aires.
In the Euros this month, I’m supporting France, Scotland and England “in that order”. Before Scotland’s game on Monday at 2pm, “I sprinted to the nearest pub and sat there, the only person in the room, drinking a bottle of gluten-free Peroni”. For the first 10 minutes I didn’t even know which team was which. At the age of four I must have been informed about the concept of the goal. I have not felt the need to build on that knowledge. “Ball goes in; ball doesn’t. What else could you possibly need?”
Should we boycott the World Cup?
Sports boycotts were a political “weapon” during the Cold War, says Miquel Echarri in El País. America and dozens of other countries boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics as a protest against the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan the previous year. Many athletes instead competed in a “geopolitical charade” called the Liberty Bell Classic, a mock Olympiad held in Philadelphia. James Walker, who won the 400-metre hurdles there, clocked a better time than the Olympic winner. Four years later, in retaliation, Russia and other Eastern Bloc countries boycotted the Los Angeles Olympics.
Some activists are now proposing a boycott of the 2022 World Cup because more than 6,500 immigrant workers have died building the stadiums and infrastructure in the host nation, Qatar. It’ll never happen: China and Russia have held big sporting events recently while only paying lip service to democratic values. Qatar, one of the richest countries in the world, is pumping billions into sport. But the failure to boycott countries that trample over human rights is a backward step, says the Spanish sportswriter Toni Padilla. Waffling on about “cultural exchanges” simply isn’t good enough. Whenever nations compete, on the track or on the pitch, politics is never far away.