Anarchist Football (Soccer) Manual
(Table of Contents & Introduction)
1. Introduction 2
2. History – Truths and Myths about Football as a Working Class Sport 3
3. The Ugly Sides of Contemporary Football – and the Fight against Them 17
4. Football and Politics 30
5. Football for Anarchists (A Theoretical Approach) 43
6. Anarchist Football in Praxis 45
7. References 47
One of the favorite quotes of most radical and intellectually schooled football fans is Albert Camus’ concession that “everything I know about morality I know from football”. It’s balm for the soul of those who have had to endure everything from contempt to suspicion to ridicule by both radicals and intellectuals for their love of the game. For in radical and intellectual circles football has often been described as nothing but a dumb circus in which “22 adults run after one ball”, and the opiate-of-the-masses argument has had a very secure place in these circles for a long time.
In the last about 15 years this has changed. Especially in Europe, the embrace of postmodern diversity and ‘irrationalism’ has brought enough self-confidence to a lot of radical closet football fans to declare their passion for the sport openly. It even became a hip thing to talk about (and theorize/intellectualize) in radical forums, and playing football suddenly had a certain air of coolness, like you dared enter forbidden terrain. On a more tangible political level, fan initiatives were founded that tried to “reclaim the game” both from increasingly corporate management and right-wing fan culture. Similar developments have taken place in Central and South America, albeit with some notable differences – which we will talk about in the course of the text.
In North America the situation of soccer has been a different one to start with. Not established as one of the big national sports with a big professional league, soccer was easy to embrace as an alternative sport in recent years, both by liberal middle class folks and political radicals. Arguably, soccer has become the sport within the continent’s anarchist community. Hardly any anarchist event goes down these days without anarchist soccer on the itinerary, and a fair amount of metropolitan centers sport anarchist soccer tournaments and leagues. The situation is similar in Australia and New Zealand, only that soccer is up against rugby and cricket instead of American football and baseball.
Given the status football/soccer has achieved within the anarchist movement, we thought it might be time to compile an anarchist football/soccer manual – to share some history, inform about football culture, raise some hopefully interesting questions with regard to the sport, and provide information on football-related projects within the anarchist movement. We would like to make our intentions clear though: “Football, as the embodiment of a need to communicate and to share, is one of the greatest concepts of humanity,” it glares from one website passionately dedicated to the game (1), and even though Carlos Fernández from the Arsenal collective in Chicago didn’t “seek to romanticize or intellectualize play” when he wrote his quintessential North American anarchist elegy to football, “Pitched Battles. Football and Anarchism” (2), we are not sure if he doesn’t fall short of his self-professed ambition when he claims that “bringing football and anarchism together is a natural, symbiotic thing”, after explaining earlier on that “there are certain powerful ways in which the football field, or pitch, duplicates the social field.” Now, Carlos is a comrade, and we see his paper as an important document of the recent fusion of anarchism and football, but we think that our own approach is a little more modest. We do not want to portray football as a more anarchist sport than any other, and we are not sure what football can do for the revolution – we just grew up with the game in Europe and (despite all the shameful aspects of political and economic abuse and exploitation – which will be addressed in more detail in the text) never lost an interest in the game – to the degree where we’re obviously motivated enough to put this pamphlet together.
We do believe, however, that football can be part of the revolution – and that (again, despite all the problematic socio-political dimensions surrounding the game) it does not have to stand in its way; in other words: we think that it is no problem if it is enjoyed by those revolutionaries who do enjoy it – on the way to the revolution and beyond.
By selecting what to include in the text, we have tried to satisfy the interests of both: anarchists who are followers of the professional game (and who might also play themselves, but not necessarily), and comrades who like to play but have no interest in following the professional side of the sport at all. So, as the say, we hope there is something in it for everybody.
(2) in: Arsenal: A Magazine of Anarchist Strategy and Culture, Issue One, Spring 2000.