More than just a game? Social meaning of the World Cup for Bosnia and Herzegovina

“Despite its inescapable past, Bosnia-Herzegovina writes new chapter” (Wilson, J., 2014); “The country has been through a lot of tough times, there’s no secret about that, but this is the first major tournament for myself, and for Bosnia, it’s all new and it’s going to be great” (interview with Asmir Begović, Bosnian goalkeeper: Wilson, P., 2014). These were just some of the comments expressing excitement about the debut qualification of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. However, their meaning extends beyond a normal pre-World Cup craziness; the World Cup bears a much bigger potential for the young country, torn by the 1992‒1995 conflict and struggling with inter-ethnic divisions, terrible economic and social situation and stagnated accession process towards the EU membership. Although to be able to answer the question “What is the social meaning of the 2014 FIFA World Cup for BiH?” the World Cup needs to start first, I will try to make some conclusions before the games actually begin. And no doubt, there will be some more posts about Bosnia since this is my dissertation topic, yay 🙂

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Role of football in Bosnian society

Sport, particularly football as a favourite sport of the constituent nations, plays an ambiguous role in Bosnian society. In Yugoslavia, sport was an important tool for reinforcing the state and strengthening the multi-ethnic Yugoslav identity. Towards the end of 1980s, football underwent a strong politicisation and was used by nationalists for personal enrichment, construction of power at local level and political self-legitimisation. When the war started, each ethno-national group organised its own separate football federation and football league. The Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Croats identified with Serbian and Croatian national teams respectively, and not with BiH representative team, which was controlled politically by the nationalist Bosniak party SDA (Sterchele, 2007; Gasser and Levinsen, 2010). Under strong pressure and conditionality of FIFA and UEFA, Croatian and Bosniak federations merged in 2000, and the Football Federation of Republika Srpska joined them in 2002, when one united Football Federation of BiH (Nogometni/Fudbalski savez Bosne I Hercegovine – NFSBiH)[1] was established. One common Premier league was established, although the lower divisions remain ethnically separated at the entity and cantonal levels. The structure of the federation was based on a tripartite presidency and a seats-rotation system between the representatives of each ethno-national sub-federation, following the Dayton political structure. Such governance model was considered non-democratic and inefficient by UEFA and FIFA, which suspended NFSBiH from their membership and all Bosnian teams from international competition in April 2011. NFSBiH was replaced by a normalisation committee that dismissed the past officials and amended the statue by replacing the tripartite-rotational structure with a single-member presidency, based on competence instead of ethnicity (Sterchele, 2013; NFSBiH 2014). “While political institutions have remained wedded firmly to the post-war principles of division, rendering much of the state apparatus unworkable, the Bosnian Football Association has demonstrated that even the most entrenched of bureaucracies can make progress” (Kinder 2013, 161).

The world of football has lead towards partial integration of all Bosnians in a single sports community (Sterchele, 2007).  The unified Bosnian Premier league has increased travelling of football fans to away matches in ethnically different towns and there have been a lot of renewed encounters of people, who had known each other before, but were separated by the conflict (Sterchele, 2010). Furthermore, “Telecom Premier League of BiH has long ago, but particularly this year, showed that football in Bosnia and Herzegovina has overcome national and entity divisions” showed a survey by the Bosnian press agency Patria (Sport.ba 2014). Namely, in the majority of the Bosnian clubs, the players come from all ethnic backgrounds and are selected on the basis of their performance rather than ethnicity, which was not always the case. As well, the Bosnian national team has become more multi-ethnic over the last decade and an increasing number of Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Croats support it (Kinder, 2013). On the other hand, a lot of football matches in the Premier League, but mainly in the lower divisions, are still characterised by riots, violence and slogans and offences based on the use of war symbolisms. Serbs fans are called ‘četnik’ by the Croat and Bosniak opponents, while Croats are called ‘ustaš’ and Bosniak are insulted with the word ‘balija’.[2] Although national and war symbolisms are used also by Bosniaks against Bosniaks, Serbs against Serbs or Croats against Croats and are therefore used not only to express somebody’s ethnic belonging, but rather to provoke football opponents as much as possible, it seems that the memory of the war is far from gone (Sterchele, 2010). According to Azinović et al (2012), football hooliganism is one of the main factors for fuelling nationalism and inter-ethnic violence, especially because football clubs are used instrumentally by political elites and young people are easily mobilised for violence and riots as a form of their collective expression of dissatisfaction (juvenile delinquency is very high as a result of lack of opportunities, failing education system and ineffective political and economic reforms).

BiH-slaviHowever, the recent qualification to the FIFA World Cup has witnessed people from different ethnic backgrounds coming and celebrating together. Bosnian national team, the country’s first truly multi-ethnic organisation, inspired by starts such as Edin Džeko and Asmir Begović (ethnic Bosniak), Zvjezdan Misimović (ethnic Serb) and Boris Pandža (ethnic Croat) sends a strong message of unity and cooperation and presents a source of national pride. While BiH “is at a standstill in the European integration process while other countries in the region are moving aheadˮ (European Commission 2013, 1), its emergence as a footballing nation and its participation at the 2014 World Cup have significantly increased its presence on international stage. What is therefore the social role of the World Cup for such a complex society that seems to be on the margin of international affairs?

The FIFA World Cup, national identity and international recognition

Although the membership in the United Nations (UN) is de facto recognition of state’s sovereignty and its independent existence in the international community, being admitted to FIFA (or comparably, to the IOC) is a clear signal that a country has been accepted as a nation state by the international community. Despite FIFA’s claim that granting the membership to a national football association is guided by decisions already taken by the UN, BiH and Palestine for example were given provisional membership of FIFA before their status as sovereign nation states had been recognised by the UN General Assembly (Sugden and Tomlinson, 1998), and The Faroe Islands (Denmark) and Bermuda (England) compete independently although they exist under the umbrella of their parent sovereign states (Wiztig, 2006). Becoming a member of FIFA, “the United Nations of Football”, which has more members than the UN itself (FIFA, 2014b), becomes a medium for newly independent states and/or small and resurgent nations to register their presence in the international arena both on and off the football pitch (Sugden and Tomlinson, 1998; Tomlinson and Young, 2006).

Furthermore, the FIFA membership is important because it gives the national teams the right to play international matches and to take part in international competitions. International football is a part of the process through which modern nation-states have been made and proclaimed. ‘Our team’ at an international match intrudes in our daily routine, reminding us of with whom we stand with regard to our fellow nationals (Sugden and Tomlinson, 1998). Sport is a carrier of identity (identities) because it draws on emotions of a person. It is an important platform for expressing collective identity, which is on one hand inclusive for the members of a certain imagined community (Anderson, 1983), yet exclusive because it creates a high degree of social stratification, national and ethnic divide and therefore cross-community conflict. Especially differing and contrasting views on what constitutes a nation and/or a state make the role of sport in inter-community relations and nation-building even more problematic (Nieman et al, 2011; Sugden, 2010). This is quite the case in BiH, where the Bosnian Serbs and the Bosnian Croats prefer to identify with their respective countries of ethnic origin more than with the Bosnian state. However, according to the FIFA Statute,[3] only one association is allowed to be recognised in each country, meaning there is only one association (NFSBiH) presenting BiH in global football.[4] Such a unified representation of BiH internationally widens the imagined community of all Bosnians, regardless of their ethnicity ‒ The FIFA World Cup namely generates a number of occasions “when nations are embodied in something manifestly real and visible” (Smith and Porter, 2004, p.1). National identification and unification are stronger when the imagined community (Anderson, 1983) participates at an important and internationally broadcasted international event. Such a unified representation of BiH at the World Cup will be enhanced due to the multi-ethnic composition of the national team, which has become one of the greatest promoters of BiH in the world (Šarčević, 2013).

Grèka - BiH

The role of global media in imaging the nation

FIFA World Cup is one of the most dramatic and high profile spectacles in global sports and therefore a platform for national pride and prestige. It is also one of the major global media events, producing discourses of identity and globalisation and transmitting information and representations about the participating states to billions of people (Tomlinson and Young, 2006; Horne and Manzenreiter, 2006). Huge media coverage of the World Cup therefore has the power to change foreign perceptions about a state, improve its image by emphasising its good sports performance and therefore help the country reposition itself in the international community (Lincoln and Monnington, 2002). In the case of BiH, international media seems to be keen in portraying BiH as a country that has risen from the ashes and is leaving its past behind; its players are represented as “the children of the war” who are now Bosnia’s golden generation, “uniting a once bitterly divided nation” (Beanland, 2013):

“/…/ for the first time in 20 years, this victory and this team brought together a nation torn apart by economic turmoil and political and national differences for so long. These young men showed that a united Bosnia can stand tall and proud and take its place as an equal among equals at the world stage” (Cubicle No More, 2013).

Once I stood in soccer field-turned-graveyard in Sarajevo. Now free Bosnia qualifies for World Cup for the first time. Congratulations!” (a comment by the CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour, who used to report on the war in BiH, on Al Jazeera: Fadilpasić, 2013).

Especially the debut participation at the FIFA World Cup, with the help of global media, therefore a) increases a state’s visibility in international affairs and b) changes foreign public’s perceptions and its international reputation. This is especially important for small or less powerful states that don’t appear in the world news headlines often. An example is Croatia, which “arrived for their maiden shot at the FIFA World Cup in 1998 as virtual unknowns” (FIFA, 2014c), just seven years after its declaration of independence, and registered its international presence through securing the third place in the tournament. A small, post-war country from the Balkans therefore became a world football-superpower in the eyes of the international public. Emerging and small states are much more excited when they make the international news and often cite the international media in their own national or local news report – being mentioned in internationally renowned media becomes news in itself. Slavica Pecikoza, the spokesperson at the NFSBiH, confirmed an increasing interest of international media in the Bosnian national team: “For the preparations of our team in Sarajevo between 15 and 27 May, 92 journalists, cameramen and photo-reporters from all around the world have been accredited. We don’t even count anymore, how many there are. We have a lot of work, but we are all proud that BiH is in the media centre of the world attention, and this time for beautiful things” (Al Jazeera Balkans, 2014). Being in the centre of the global attention therefore represents a source of national pride and self-confidence, which Bosnians lack otherwise.

While foreign media keeps portraying Bosnia’s participation at the World Cup as a source of the national unification, the analysis of national and local media shows a bit contrasting and more complex results. While international media claimed that the massive celebrations across BiH on 15 October, when BiH defeated Lithuania and qualified for the World Cup in Brazil, were attended by all three ethnic groups, some of the comments on local news websites negated such perception. Bosnian Serb official television RTRS did not even broadcast the match between BiH and Lithuania, choosing to show Serbia’s qualifier with Macedonia instead (SuperSport 2013). “In Republika Srpska, the victory was accompanied with a mood that was ‘colder than cold’” (Slanjakić 2013). I have done some media analysis to understand a) how media maintains or tries to change inter-ethnic relations; b) to see the readers’ comments and try to get some basic insight into how ‘normal’ people from different ethnic backgrounds see Bosnia’s participation at the World Cup. I will not share all of it here (I need to save it for my diss), but to sum up the findings I would say that there is still a lot of nationalism and inter-ethnic hatred. Bosniak Serbs’ and Bosniak Croats’ media has been reporting on the Bosnian team relatively neutrally, and not much differently from reporting on other teams. Reactions by the readers have been more diverse. Some Bosnian Serbs or Bosnian Croats claim their support for Serbian team (which is not at the World Cup so some of them feel they will have no team to support) or Croatian team. On the other hand, there are also many Bosnian Croats and Bosnian Serbs congratulating BiH and even encouraging their friends to stop enhancing the old divisions. While the Bosnian team seems to be a great source of pride for Bosnians, the majority of Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Croats see Serbian and Croatian national teams as their primary teams and source for expression of their ethno-national identity.

Double role of the World Cup for BiH that might not last too long

Drawing from the theoretical approach to the World Cup and from the media analysis, it looks like that the World Cup has two main social meanings for BiH: potential to be a tool for national/inter-ethnic reconciliation and identity/nation building; and a source for increasing the presence of BiH in the international community.

Firstly, it would be naïve to say that the World Cup will bring a complete reconciliation. The analysis of domestic media has shown that some Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Croats are still very hostile towards the Bosnian national team. However, keeping in mind the state of Bosnian football some ten years ago, when football was completely divided along the ethno-national lines, multi-ethnic team and the fact that many Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Croats do support the ‘Dragons’ are a success in themselves. “More Serbs and Croats support our national team. /…/ Now it’s a natural thing that Serbs and Croats from Bosnia play for Bosnia. Things are better than they were before,” said NFSBiH’s spokesperson, Slavica Pecikoza (Beanland, 2013). The World Cup might therefore contribute to nation- and identity-building, since “it is much easier to imagine the nation and confirm national identity, when 11 players are representing the nation in a match against another nation” (Hobshawm, 1992, p.143). All three constituent nations are more likely to identify or at least support the national team since it includes players from all the ethnic backgrounds:

“The fact is that on the football pitch a pass does not discriminate between a Muslim and an Orthodox Christian. Miralem Pjanic (an ethnic Bosniak) will not refuse a pass from Miroslav Stevanovic (an ethnic Serb) because of events that took place while they were children and were far beyond their control. It is the trust that the goalkeeper Asmir Begovic (an ethnic Bosniak raised in Canada) has in defenders Emir Spahic (an ethnic Bosniak born in Croatia), Boris Pandza (an ethnic Croat) /…/” (Dedović 2013).

In terms of identity/nation building in BiH, it is important to understand Smith’s (1998) argument that nations are founded on ethnic communities of groups. Ethnic symbols provide a source which distinguishes ‘us’ from ‘them’ – and this symbols are still very persistent in BiH. Thus certain states, such as BiH, must draw on a diverse selection of cultural resources to construct cultural common denominators – such cultural elements must be credible and speak to common sense (Edensor, 2002). Edensor furthermore adopts Billig’s (1995) concept of banal nationalism, which claims that national identity is grounded in the everyday, mundane details of social interaction, habits and practical knowledge. Football as a favourite sport of the three ethnic groups, and the World Cup as ‘opium of the masses’ can therefore serve as common cultural denominators. However, national identity is facilitated also by the state’s legislative framework, which delimits and regulates the practices in which people can partake (Edensor, 2002) – as a consequence of the Dayton model, the legislative, political and educational framework in BiH unfortunately presents an obstacle rather the facilitator for reconciliation and identity building. In BiH, structural and institutional divisions are too strong to be simply overshadowed by football.

Secondly, the media coverage of the World Cup and pre-World Cup events already seems to be contributing to the increased presence of BiH in international news – and this time not because of the war, but because of their success. While this is important for Bosnia’s image abroad and for its repositioning in the international community, it is relatively different from the reality. It could be argued that the global media is portraying the unifying power of the World Cup in order to legitimise the World Cup by presenting it as a source of the good (especially when the World Cup in Brazil is at the same time target of many critics and is gradually losing its legitimacy in the eyes of global public) – stories about poor Bosnia that has risen to be a world footballing power that will bring together the divided population make much better headlines than protests in Brazil. Regardless of such concerns and of the fact that the World Cup doesn’t offer a solution to all national problems, such reporting provides an opportunity for the collective expression of pride and harmony rather than difference and might facilitate reconciliation (Van Koningsbruggen, 1997).

Bosnia soccer national team fans celebrate their 2014 World Cup qualifying match victory over Lithuania, in Sarajevo

Similarly as in the case of South Africa, where it wasn’t clear whether the 1995 Rugby World Cup would be transformative or would only create a temporary diversion from domestic problems (Nauright, 2010), it is questionable what the long-term effect of the World Cup will be for BiH. BiH has been currently experiencing the most terrible floods in its history and although it is sad, the tragedy has brought the people together – both ordinary people, who help each other regardless of their ethnicity or religion, and athletes from Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia (Džeko, Đoković, even Ibrahimović from Sweden) and all Bosnian football clubs, which is quite a precedent in Bosnian history. Džeko wrote on his Facebook profile:

“I have mixed feelings because I believed that our participation at the World Cup would unite us, but unfortunately, we have been united by the tragedy. Hundreds of people are helping – humanitarian organisations, sports organisations, companies, individuals, and this only shows that we always have to stick together, not just in a disaster, but also in happiness and joy”.

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The World Cup has a potential to bring the people together even further and accelerate “bridge-building that still eludes peace-makers and politicians” (Kinder 2013, 154). On the other hand, the potential effect of the World Cup on unity and reconciliation will probably be severely undermined by the national election in October, which will reproduce old nationalistic discourses. As well, the World Cup lasts only for a month while other factors of inter-ethnic relations (such as divided school system, nationalistic media, Dayton political system etc) will continue to exist. I cannot make any firm conclusions since the World Cup is yet to happen. The World Cup (as the opium of the masses) has the potential to temporarily heal some of the old wounds, bring the people together and present BiH in a positive way. However, it shouldn’t be an illusion about unified Bosnian society – the reality is still far from reconciled Bosnia.

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[1] Its official name includes both Croat and Serb words for football (nogomet and fudbal) in order to avoid disputes.

[2]Četniks were the Serbian royalist paramilitary combatants during the World War II and the ustaši belonged to Croatian fascist anti-Yugoslav movement. Both names  are used as derogatory terms. The word balija used to describe descendants of Turks of Ottoman Empire in the Balkans and has become an insult for Bosniaks, used by Croats or Serbs (Sterchele, 2010).

[3] FIFA. 2013. FIFA Statues, July 2013 Edition. Chapter II, Section 10: Admission, Paragraph 1, p.19.

[4]Although the football association of Republika Srpska wanted to play international matches, it was never recognised by FIFA and therefore the football team of Republika Srpska cannot represent Republika Srpska internationally.

 

References:

 Al Jazeera Balkans. (2014) Veliki medijski interes za bh. ‘Zmajeve’, 14 May. Available: http://balkans.aljazeera.net/vijesti/veliki-medijski-interes-za-bh-zmajeve (Accessed 18 May 2014).

Anderson, B. (1983) Imagined Communities, London: Verso.

Azinović, V., Bassuener, K. and Weber, B. (2012) Procjena potenciala za obnovu etničkog nasilja u Bosni I Hercegovini: Analiza sigurnostnih rizika (Assesing the potential for renewed ethnic violence in Bosnia and Herzegovina: A security threat assessment) [online], Sarajevo: Faculty of Political Sciences, University of Sarajevo, and Atlantic Initiative. Available: http://www.atlantskainicijativa.org/aibos/images/stories/ai/pdf/brosure/Analiza%20sigurnosnih%20rizika.pdf [Accessed 30 April 2014].

Beanland, Christopher. 2013. The pride of Sarajevo: How football is uniting a once bitterly divided nation. The Independent, 26 October. Available: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/the-pride-of-sarajevo-how-football-is-uniting-a-once-bitterly-divided-nation-8899773.html (Accessed 15 May 2014).

Bieber, F. (2006) Post-War Bosnia: Ethnicity, Inequality and Public Sector Governance, New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

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Dedović, Edin. 2013. The Bosnian national football team: a case study in post-conflict institution building. Open Democracy, 14 October. Available: http://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/edin-dedovic/bosnian-national-football-team-case-study-in-post-conflict-instituti (Accessed 15 May 2014).

Edensor, T. (2002) National Identity, Popular Culture and Everyday Life, Oxford: Berg.

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Fadilpasić, S. 2013. Crazy celebrations in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Al Jazeera, 16 October. Available: http://blogs.aljazeera.com/blog/europe/crazy-celebrations-bosnia-and-herzegovina (Accessed 7 May 2014).

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Gasser, P. K.  and Levinsen, A. (2010) “Breaking Post-War Ice: Open Fun Football Schools in Bosnia and Herzegovina”, Sport in Society: Cultures, Commerce, Media, Politics [online] 7 (3), pp.457-472. Available: <http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1743043042000291730&gt; [Accessed 8th November 2013].

Hobshawm, E.J. (1992) Nations and Nationalism since 1780: Programme, Myth, Reality, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hopkins, V. (2014) “We are hungry in three languages”: citizens protest in Bosnia, Open Democracy, 13 February. Available: http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/valerie-hopkins/we-are-hungry-in-three-languages-citizens-protest-in-bosnia (Accessed 17 May 2014).

Horne, J. and Manzenreiter, W. (Eds.) (2006) Sports mega-events: social scientific analyses of a global phenomenon, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Kinder, Toby. 2013. Bosnia, the bridge, and the ball. Soccer & Society 14 (2): 154‒66. Available: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14660970.2013.776465 (Accessed 15 January 2014).

Lincoln, Allison in Terry Monnington. 2002. Sport, Prestige and International Relations. Government and Opposition 37 (1): 106–34. Dostopno prek: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1477-7053.00089/abstract (8. november 2012).

Mahmutčehajić, R. (1999) “The War Against Bosnia-Herzegovina”, East European Quarterly 33 (2), pp.219-32.

Nauright, J. (2010) Long Run to Freedom: Sport, Cultures and Identities in South Africa, Morgantown: Fitness Information Technology.

Niemann, A., García, B. and Grant, W. (Eds) (2011) The transformation of European football: Towards the Europeanisation of the national game, Manchester: Manhester University Press.

Nogometni/Fudbalski savez Bosne I Hercegovine ‒ NFSBiH. 2014. Istorija. Available: http://www.nfsbih.ba/bih/tekst.php?id=7 (Accessed 14 May 2014).

Press Online Republika Srpska – Press RS. 2013. BiH na svetskom prvenstvu u Brazilu, 15 October. Available: http://pressrs.ba/sr/video/video_vesti/story/46889/(VIDEO)+BiH+na+svetskom+prvenstvu+u+Brazilu.html (Accessed 10 May 2014).

Smith, A. (1998) Nationalism and Modernism, London: Routledge.

Smith, A. and Porter, D. (Eds.) (2004) Sport and National Identity in the Post-War World, Oxon: Routledge.

Sportal.rs. 2014. Slavje u Federaciji BiH: Zenica, Mostar, Bugojno i Incko pozdravljaju Džeka I družinu, 16 October. Available: http://www.sportal.rs/news.php?news=111568&com_page=1#comments_box (Accessed 16 May 2014).

Sport.ba. 2014. Više Bošnjaka u Borcu nego u Sarajevu, u Širokom samo Hrvati i Brazilci, 3 April. Available: http://www.sport.ba/fudbal/vise-bosnjaka-u-borcu-nego-u-fk-sarajevo-u-sirokom-samo-hrvati-brazilci/ (Accessed 7 May 2014).

Sterchele, D. (2007) “The Limits of Inter-religious Dialogue and the Form of Football Rituals: The Case of Bosnia-Herzegovina”, Social Compass [online] 54 (2), pp.211-224. Available: http://scp.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/54/2/211 (Accessed 7 December 2009).

Sterchele. D. (2013) “Fertile land or mined field? Peace-building and ethnic tensions in post-war Bosnian football”, Sport in Society: Cultures, Commerce, Media, Politics [online] 16 (8), pp.973-992. Available: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17430437.2013.801223 [Accessed 15th January 2014].

Sugden, J. and Tomlinson, A. 1998. FIFA and the contest for world football: Who rules the peoples’ game?, Cambridge: Polity Press.

Sugden, J. (2010) “Critical left realism and sport interventions in divided societies”, International Review for the Sociology of Sport [online] 45 (3), pp.258‒272. Available: http://irs.sagepub.com/content/45/3/258 [Accessed 16 April 2014].

SuperSport. 2013. Bosnia’s qualification highlights ethnic split, 16 October. Available: http://www.supersport.com/football/world-cup-2014/news/131016/Bosnias_qalification_highlights_ethnic_split (Accessed 15 May 2014).

Tomlinson, A. and Young, C. (2006) “Culture, Politics, and Spectacle in the Global Sports Event – An Introduction”, in Tomlinson, A. and Young, C. (Eds.), National Identity and Global Sports Events: Culture, Politics, and Spectacle in the Olympics and the Football World Cup, New York: State University of New York Press.

Topalbećirević, Sabahudin. 2014. Reprezentacija BiH, igrači, navijači, mediji. Brze Vijesti, 6 March. Available: http://www.brzevijesti.ba/clanak/7624/reprezentacija-bih-igraci-navijaci-mediji (Accessed 17 May 2014).

Van Koningsbruggen, P. (1997). Trinidad carnival—a quest for national identity. London: Macmillan Education.

Wilson, Jonathan. 2014.  Despite its inescapable past, Bosnia-Herzegovina writes new chapter. Sports Illustrated, 28 April. Available: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/soccer/news/20140501/bosnia-herzegovina-world-cup-dzeko-yugoslavia/index.html (Accessed 9 May 2014).

Wilson, P. (2014) Asmir Begović: I am proud to play for Bosnia, country has been through a lot, The Guardian, 15 May. Available: http://www.theguardian.com/football/2014/may/15/asmir-begovic-bosnia-stoke-world-cup-2014-brazil (Accessed 16 May 2014).

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The World Cup advertising and the problem of sex tourism in Brazil

Adidas, which has been the official sponsor of FIFA and the World Cup since 1970 and extended the sponsorship contract with FIFA until 2030, released the 2014 World Cup T-shirts in February. They triggered a lot of controversy and consequently Adidas had to pull them out. The reason for outrage was the sexualised representation of Brazilian women and due to the problematic scale of sexual tourism in Brazil (both as a foreign perception/representation and as reality) the Brazilian tourist board Embratur demanded their withdrawal.

Adidas

 

One T-shirt presents a sexy woman in bikini with open arms, which leaves an impression that she is inviting men to come to Brazil (or to her), and the words ‘Lookin’ to score Brazil’ might imply a different way of scoring than just scoring a goal. The heart on the other T-shirt (I love Brazil) strongly resembles the upside-down buttocks of a woman.

I suggest you to read the blog by Nicole Froio on the Guardian about hypersexualisation and stereotyping of Brazilian women here.

The Brazilian authorities complained against sexual presentation of Brazil and Brazilian women. They are strongly tackling the problem of associating World Cup in particular and Brazil in general to sex tourism. Embratur President Flavio Dino said in a letter sent to Adidas: “The Brazilian people and especially the Brazilian women deserve that respect. Companies should never treat the bodies of Brazilian men and women as tourist attractions.” Embratur is trying hard to prevent the sale of products that link Brazil’s image to sexual appeal, since they want to re-image Brazil in the eyes of the foreigners. For example, in 2012 the Ministry of Tourism asked 2,100 websites linking prostitution and pornography to Brazil to remove official travel branding. One reason for governmental intense campaigning to shed the countr’y reputation as a destination for sex tourism is the general goal of establishing a positive image about the country, which the World Cup, because of its global appeal and media coverage can help develop (not with such T-shirts of course). Secondly, the reason for a very strong reaction by the Brazilian government is the actual problem of sex tourism in Brazil. The Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff, responded to the incident on Twitter, although not directly referring to Adidas. She wrote that Brazil is happy to receive tourists at the World Cup, but that it’s at the same time ready to combat the sexual tourism:

Dilma

Prostitution in Brazil is legal, and due to poverty and inequalities a growing number of children are involved in it. Global sexualised representations of hot Brazilian women, very likely topless and in hot pants or thongs, are just adding to the problem. The World Cup can play a two-fold role: it can, through government’s and NGOs’ campaigns, increase the awareness about the problem (I think there will be even videos played about the problem of sex tourism on flights from Europe to Brazil during the World Cup); it can, on the other hand, increase the problem itself since there will be higher demand due to a big number of tourists, as well as higher supply since the women and girls will probably see the World Cup as an opportunity to increase their earnings. Solution? Campaigns – definitely. Tourists’ responsible and mature behaviour – absolutely (though not really likely I guess, I still remember how some of men from our group behaved in South Africa, for example one of them paid a hot dog and a can of coke to a woman to get her into the bed). Advertising like these two Adidas’ T-shirts – absolutely not. However, the problem is much more structural and the government and other actors have quite some work to do to eliminate or at least decrease the problem. It will be interesting to observe what role the World Cup will play in such endeavours.

Warning to free-riding brands at the FIFA World Cup

As the Marketing Magazine reports, FIFA has issues a warning to brands looking to boost sales through World Cup-related marketing, stating that non-sponsors should “refrain from attempts to free-ride” on interest in the tournament. See the original article here.

The warning follows the launch of a digital campaign by Peugeot called #KickItToBrazil, which will see the carmaker transport a football from Paris to Brazil via 30 countries, arriving at its destination on the eve of the start of the World Cup. Consumers will be able to track the progress of the football through dedicated Facebook and Instagram pages using the hashtag #KickItToBrazil, as well as via a microsite. Peugeot already denied any ambush plans and said it is looking to create a “strong link” between the brand and “multiple generations worldwide”, in particular outside Europe where the company said it is experiencing “strong growth”.

The company also hopes to raise awareness of its Forestry Carbon Sink sustainability project in Brazil, through which it has already planted two million trees representing 50 different species.

FIFA declined to condemn the campaign specifically. However, the organisation has warned that only sponsors may seek to capitalise on interest surrounding the tournament, which kicks off on 12 June. A FIFA spokesperson told Marketing: “We ask companies to respect the exclusivity to brand association with the FIFA World Cup that FIFA has granted to its commercial affiliates, by avoiding activities that might create a commercial association.” “The contribution of FIFA’s commercial affiliates is vital to the success of the 2014 FIFA World Cup and we therefore ask companies to refrain from attempts to free-ride on the huge public interest generated by the event.”

The practice of “ambush marketing” hit the headlines in during the last World Cup in South Africa in 2010, when FIFA initiated legal action against brewer Bavaria, after it employed 36 women to attend a match between the Netherlands and Denmark, in orange clothing. FIFA subsequently dropped the case after the two parties agreed an out-of-court settlement.

Official sponsors of the World Cup in Brazil include Budweiser, McDonald’s, Johnson & Johnson and Castrol. More about FIFA, its corporate sponsors and the marketing rights soon!

Peugeot

New protests against the World Cup in Brazil

The first anti-World Cup protest in Brazil this year was attended by around 2000 protesters in Brazil’s largest city, Sao Paolo, as well as in 6 other cities. There is outrage that Brazil is spending more than $20bn for this summer’s World Cup, but not investing in public services and taking care of their own people. Demonstrators gathered in front of the Sao Paulo Art Museum and then headed out to another part of the city chanting slogans against the tournament:

If we have no rights, there will be no Cup.”

As the AP reports: “By rights we mean the people’s right to decent public services,” said university student Leonardo Pelegrini dos Santos. “We are against the millions and millions of dollars being spent for the Cup. It is money that should be invested in better health and education services and better transportation and housing.”

Demonstrators hold a banner that reads "There will be no World Cup" during a protest against the 2014 World Cup in Sao Paulo

Student Juliana Turno said “This is a small sample of the protests that will happen when the World Cup begins.”

See the video on Al Jazeera.

protest jan 14

BRAZIL-CONFED-PROTEST

 

Waving flags, carrying banners and chanting different slogans against the FIFA World Cup, the demonstrators took to the streets.  The Anonymous Rio protest group reffered to the protest as the first act in its “Operation Stop the World Cup” campaign. The event started peacefully but police later clashed with some protesters. Some “Black Block” anarchist demonstrators attacked an empty police car and tried to overturn it, while others torched a small car and smashed the windows of banks. Police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets, dispersing the crowd. More than 100 demonstrators were detained.

In Rio de Janeiro, about 50 protesters gathered in front of the Copacabana Palace hotel, holding signs blasting the World Cup. After about an hour, the crowd moved onto a main street that runs along Copacabana beach, halting traffic as police watched from the side.

Another activist group sat on lavatories on Ipanema beach in the city to protest against what they say is a lack of basic sanitation in the city. Activist group My Rio said the aim of the protest was to raise awareness of the thousands of litres of untreated sewage they say is pumped into the sea off the city every day. Some 70% of Rio’s sewage is untreated and flows into the sea off Copacabana, Ipanema and the Guanabara Bay. These beaches are due to host several of Rio’s events at the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics.

“To me it is unbelievable that there’s not basic sanitation in a city like Rio.”

cegrab-20140126-024616-319-1-252x337

cegrab-20140126-021242-319-1-252x337The protests are obviously signalling public dissatisfaction with hosting the World Cup and the Olympics since at same time the state lacks basic public and social services. There is always a question of legacy of the sports mega events (SMEs). There is a big trend in developing countries to host SMEs as a tool of their sports diplomacy in order to pursue some of their (foreign policy) goals, such as showcasing themselves on the global scale, nation branding, repositioning, attracting foreign investments, increasing tourism etc. As the host of both the next football World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016, Brazil has an opportunity to show the world the vitality of its emerging power. However, Brazil’s soft power and its recent public diplomacy efforts to attract visitors to the World Cup and to convince them about Brazil’s exotic and passionate culture are seriously endangered by the protests. A successful national brand cannot be established if there is a big discrepancy between domestic and foreign policy. While the World Cup will definitely bring some benefits, only a small percantage of the population will benefit. Brazil should therefore seriously rethink its spending. The role of the state is to take care of their citizens, provide them with basic services and put their demands before the demands and expectations of FIFA, IOC, corporate sponsors and as well – us, the international (sports) public who is looking forward to the spectacle without questioning its legitimacy. It’s probably too late to prevent the World Cup from happening, but it’s not too late for structural reforms and tackling inequality. If there’s money for the stadiums, there should be money for hospitals and schools as well.

protest

Sustainable tourism at the Brazil World Cup? – FAVELA EXPERIENCE

There is always the question about the benefits of the sports mega events for the local communities. It is an undisputable fact that the ones who take the greatest advantage in economic terms, aren’t the local people, but multinational corporations, fancy hotel resorts, airline companies and of course organisations in charge of the events (FIFA, IOC, local organising committees…). Is there a place for sustainable tourism at the FIFA World Cup in Brazil? Is there a way to avoid expensive hotels and instead experience true Rio and at the same time contribute to the local community? Favela Experience, a start-up created by Elliot Rosenberg, certainly promises so.

As The New York Times reports, Favela Experience offers affordable accommodation for the time of the World Cup. Since the demand for rooms during the tournament highly exceeds the supply (Rio and nearby resort cities for example have only about 150,000 hotel beds for as many as 300,000 expected visitors), the prices are rising to an average (!) of around $460 a night, which is roughly double what they regularly cost. Residents of favelas are therefore trying to make the most of the city’s acute shortage of lodging for the event. They are renting their homes to fans who will come to Rio for the World Cup, but at much lower prices – Favela Experience is offering private rooms (for 1-2 guests) in favela residents’ homes starting at €75 ($100) per night and entire apartment rentals (for 3-6 guests) starting at €150 ($200) per night. Besides the lower prices, an additional benefit for tourists is an authentic experience of Brazilian homes, culture, food, music and nightlife. As the description on the Favela Experience’s page says: “Stay with welcoming favela families who are eager to share their culture with you. Join your host family for home-cooked meals, watching a football match, an impromptu samba lesson, or a trip to the local market. You’ll build meaningful relationships with warm, honest, and resilient people, and you’ll go far beyond sightseeing, beaches, and hotels.”

What is more important, is the chance of the locals to be ‘part of the event’ and their opportunity to earn some money. With deaths, accidents and terrible working conditions of construction workers, displacement of people, bribery scandals at the Brazilian Football Association, expensive transportation projects and the public spending benefiting the tourists, but not the Brazilians, the legacy of the event remains a bone of contention. People are aware that there won’t be a lot of long-term benefits so they are trying to seize on the immediate opportunities and offering accommodation is one of the best ways to do it. However, hosting tourists might have some long-term advantages as well.  Living with a local family might help break stereotypes about favelas that are still perceived as places with high rates of crime, violence, drug smuggling and poverty. If fans are satisfied, they will spread the word in their home countries and since the sustainable tourism is becoming increasingly popular, favelas might gradually gain from tourism.

Nonetheless, safety is still an issue. As The New York Times reports: “Big security challenges persist, like the abuses by the police recently revealed in Rocinha, but living standards have increased in some communities with Brazil’s stronger economy over the last decade. Basic services like public health clinics and cable-car transportation systems have been introduced and homicide rates have fallen sharply in some areas. The effort has also opened new parts of the city to tourism, and some favelas have taken on a chic allure, appearing as backdrops for fashion shoots and videos.”

Favela Experience is offering some safety tips:

SafetyTips

SafetyTips

Living in favelas at the time of the World Cup is certainly more risky than staying in a fancy hotel, but I am sure this is a great opportunity to become familiar with everyday life of the Brazilians living in favelas, meet the locals and experience their culture, distance yourself at least for a bit from commercialised World Cup and of course, to contribute something to the local communities. At the World Cup 2010 in South Africa I visited Soweto which is perceived as the most dangerous part of Johannesburg, but my experience was completely different – I met the nicest and friendliest people who were inviting us in their homes, children playing on the street (I will never forget how happy two of them were when I gave them my big yellow scarf and a sandwich), young men selling their handmade products and women cooking. World Cups are great events, but we should keep in mind that there’s always a wider context to that. Such local experiences are beneficial both for fans, as well as for the locals – it’s using the local residents’ services that will really contribute to the legacy of the World Cup.

favela6

World Cup Groups

tweet lovren

This is just one of the numerous tweets that appeared as a result of the FIFA Final Draw on the 6th of December. I copy-pasted it since I am kind of happy and excited that Croatia is playing against the host country, Brazil 🙂

The opening match of the tournament will see Brazil play against Croatia (Group A) on 12 June 2014. Here are the groups for the 2014 World Cup:

groups

The Group of Death is probably the Group G, especially because of Germany and Portugal. Although the European teams are perceived to advance most easily, everything remains open – we saw quite a performance of the Ghanian team at the last World Cup in South Africa (my love for Africa of course makes me support Ghana). Portugal has one of the best players, Christiano Ronaldo, who lead his national team to the World Cup. However, a single dominant man will not be enough to beat the opponents – the Portuguese team as a whole will have to perform better than in the qualifiers if they wish to advance. Expectations might be high, but they are mainly focused on Ronaldo. It’s a similar situation as it was in the case of Argentina at the last World Cup. Everyone expected a miracle from Messi who was a shiny star in Barca at that time (I’m not saying he isn’t anymore), but he was quite in a shadow in his national squad. Although Germany is according to the rankings the best team in the group, the US might appear dangerous. Their national manager is Jurgen Klinsmann, who has already led German national team as well. He is therefore quite knowledgable about the German team. rankings group g

Another group that could be considered as a Group of Death is the Group B, with Spain and Netherlands repeating the 2010 final. Asked if Spain were in the toughest group, Del Bosque said: “No, I don’t think so, the group with Uruguay, Italy and England is also tough.” While Spain is still the first on the FIFA rankings, the Netherlands is placed ninth, and Chile and Australia 15th and 59th respectively. Being the latest European champions (both of 2008 and 2012) and the world champions (2010), Spain is definitely one of the main candidates for the winner.

Stay tuned for analyses of respective groups and teams, and until then a little teaser:

ticketing update

New category: FIFA World Cup 2014

I am starting with a new category, which is (not surprisingly I guess) the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil. This category will cover developments, events and issues surrounding the FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brazil. The posts will range from news articles, analyses, presentation of teams etc. Starting on 6th of December with the Final Draw, stay tuned!

You’ll be able to follow it here.

For a start, here’s the latest news about the completion of the 2014 World Cup stadiums:

FIFA admitted on 3 December that some of the stadiums for the World Cup would not be completed until the deadline in January. The Curitiba stadium, the most problematic one, will not be finished even until the end of February so new sources will be needed. The (slow) progress in construction of the stadiums is one of many concerns regarding the World Cup. Especially after the collapse of a crane at the new Corinthians in São Paolo which killed two construction workers, the public is becoming more and more concerned not only about the completion of the stadiums, but mainly about their safety. But maybe we shouldn’t be worried only about the safety of the stadiums, but also about the safety of the construction workers? About what kind of pressure all these deadlines put on the workers, that aren’t paid sufficiently for what they do and that are most certainly not working in safe and healthy conditions? The preparation of the World Cup has many faces, and not all of them are nice and shiny.

(source: The Guardian)