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

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

Should FIFA be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize?

In 1956, Jules Rimet, 3rd FIFA president and the ‘father’ of the FIFA World Cup, was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

In 1988, the president of the Swiss Football Association, Heinrich Röthlisberger, nominated João Havelange, FIFA’s 7th president, for the Nobel Peace Prize.

In 2001, the game of football (soccer) was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Swedish lawmaker Lars Gustafsson, who suggested that FIFA could accept the honour on behalf of the sport.

The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded on the annual basis since 1901, with some exceptions such as wartime. There have been quite some controversies about some of the awards, such as to Henry Kissinger in 1973 and recent awards to Barack Obama, the European Union and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Needless to say, the above mentioned nominations related to football were a bone of contention as well. They all share a common assumption: football has the power to connect nations and peoples and promote peace. While the first two nominations attributed that power to the agency of FIFA presidents, the third one recognised the binding potential within football as such. FIFA as its world governing body was perceived as the most appropriate entity to take the prize. Since what Gustafsson called “the sport that helps international relations” (ABC News 2001) refers more or less to institutionalised practice rather than to (innocent) game, I want to answer the following question: should FIFA be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize? In order to discuss the question I will firstly look at some of the principles, examples and controversies surrounding the Nobel Peace Prize. Then I will analyse the role of FIFA in taking forward the ‘peace potential’ of football. My approach to FIFA will therefore be holistic; I will deliberately avoid discussing whether the award should be given to its president (I guess the answer to that is quite clear).

THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE

Nobel-Peace-Prize-medal-002The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to 126 Nobel Laureates since 1901 (NobelPrize.org 2013a). The candidates eligible for the Nobel Peace Prize are those persons or organisations nominated by individuals who fulfil certain criteria, listed here. The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded by a committee of five persons who are chosen by the Norwegian Storting (Parliament of Norway) for a mandate of six years, with possibility of re-election. According to Alfred Nobel’s Will, the prize should be given to those “who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind.” There are five Nobel prizes in the following fields: physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and peace. The peace prize should be awarded to “person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses” (NobelPrize.org 2013b).

According to the original intentions of Alfred Nobel, there are three explicit reasons for awarding the Nobel Peace Prize, which not only reflect how Nobel perceived peace, but what meaning peace had in the broader society in the beginning of the 20th Century. As Bulloch (2008, 583) explains: “‘Fraternity between nations’ evokes an old-fashioned liberal institutionalism and endorses both the state and a system of norms by which to arbitrate disputes between states impartially. The ‘abolition or reduction of standing armies’ is nineteenth-century language for arms control measures, although Nobel must have considered the preponderance of British sea-power to be an essentially benign characteristic of a liberal world order; not a terribly surprising attitude for an enormously rich industrialist whose products were shipped all over the world. Lastly, ‘peace congresses’ in 1901 were not abstract academic conclaves at which the concept of peace was discussed, but instead were hard-edged bargains of interest calculation, the historical hinge points of European order, at which the great powers of Europe gathered together to divide and re-divide the spoils of their 400-year conspiracy of global domination.”

The negative definition of peace as the absence of war is not sufficient; however, there is no universally accepted ‘positive’ definition of peace. The reason for the non-existence of the definition might be the changing conceptions of the concept of peace, which are reflected also in awarding the Nobel Peace Prize, which “has always reflected something important about prevailing ideas concerning the concept of peace” (2008, 575). In the initial period after 1901, the Nobel Peace Prize inherited a set of broadly liberal ideas about peace between states. The prevailing conception of peace was therefore one of peace as order. Here are some of the examples of individuals and organisations awarded: The International Committee of the Red Cross, Thomas Woodrow Wilson, Frank Billings Kellogg, UNHCR etc. (NobelPrize.org 2013c). In the general mood of the 1960s, the prize gradually adopted a clearer disposition towards the idea of peace as justice. The changed focus was made complete when the award to Kissinger in 1973 caused a wide public dissatisfaction and political embarrassment. Since then, the committee has slowly widened out the criteria to incorporate all forms of social and restorative justice, and has navigated the end of the Cold War to reflect a broadly cosmopolitan sensibility. As a consequence, awards have been made that introduce environmental degradation and a condition of poverty as legitimate causes of violence, issues which present more mundane aspects of the search for peace and stability (Bulloch 2008). The examples range from Martin Luther King, Amnesty International, Doctors without Borders, the UN, IAEA, to Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Muhammad Yunus and his Grameen Bank, Al Gore and IPCC etc. (NobelPrize.org 2013c). After the events of 9/11, the paradigm changed and the idea of peace as justice was partly replaced by the idea of peace as order. This doesn’t mean that ‘peace as justice’ is no longer important, but it has become to bear the assumption that security cooperation is a precondition for justice. “Therefore ‘peace as order’ can be subtly reimagined away from the absence of war between states, and towards ‘peace as human security’ (Bulloch 2008, 590).

It could be argued that some of the recent awards were awarded according to the perception of ‘peace as human security’: in 2008, to Martti Ahtisaari for his efforts to resolve international conflicts; in 2009, to Barack Obama, for his efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between people; in 2011, to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkol Karman for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women’s rights to fully participate in peace-building work; in 2012, to the EU for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe; and in 2013 to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) for its extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons (NobelPrize.org 2013c). However, Milharčič (2013) argues that some of the recent awards were based only on the potential of individuals and/or organisations to bring peace and not on actual contribution to peace or security. He calls this ‘the award for a good intention’. According to him, the prize is given to people and organisations that actually haven’t done what they were awarded for. I agree on that point with him.  For example, the award given to Obama early on in his first term was based on the premise that he would pursue peace and end existing violent conflicts. His promises to close Guantanamo and withdraw the US troops from Afghanistan were soon forgotten. His failure to provide for a solution in the Middle East, especially in the conflict between Palestine and Israel, increasing number of drone attacks and consequently dead civilians kind of support the argument to revoke his prize (which is not possible). The EU was awarded the prize in the midst of cooperation in the intervention in Afghanistan, supporting the project of racial purity of the West Bank, huge protests in Greece because of the austerity measures imposed by the insensitive Troika, collapse of some of the European economies, and despite the failures in Srebrenica and inability to deal with the refuges in the Mediterranean (Milharčič 2013). It must be noted though that this is a very one-sided argumentation. The EU has put a lot of effort into conflict prevention in its neighbourhood and in other regions – successfully prevented conflict between Macedonia and Albania in 2001 is just one of the examples (although managed together with OSCE).  Furthermore, promoting democratic ideals and human rights, binding different European nations together etc. are long-term processes whose results are not directly visible. We can’t know what would happen on the European continent if the EU wasn’t there, but it’s definitely a question worth asking. The point I want to make is the following: some of the recent Nobel Peace Prizes have been awarded to institutions and people that did indeed strive for peace, but their success was two-fold. Furthermore, the awards were given in the times when some other controversies were surrounding the work of the Laureates (such as Guantanamo in the example of Obama; economic crisis in the case of the EU etc.). It is in the light of these awarding principles as well as of the three above-mentioned perceptions of peace – as justice, human security, and friendly relations between nations – that I want to develop the arguments whether FIFA should or should not be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Kofi Annan

FIFA AND THE QUEST FOR PEACE

FIFA is an international non-governmental organisation and world’s governing body of association football. When FIFA was established in 1904, it had only seven members, all of them European. Today, FIFA recognises 209 national associations, which makes its membership larger than the one of the United Nations. FIFA’s mission is: For the game. For the world. As the slogan explains, FIFA’s role doesn’t end with promoting football. One of the largest global organisations has set itself another goal: a better future for the world.

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 The world is a place rich in natural beauty and cultural diversity, but also one where many are still deprived of their basic rights. FIFA now has an even greater responsibility to reach out and touch the world, using football as a symbol of hope and integration.

We see it as our mission to contribute towards building a better future for the world by using the power and popularity of football. This mission gives meaning and direction to each and every activity that FIFA is involved in – football being an integrated part of our society. (FIFA 2012a)

You can watch the video about FIFA’s mission here.

How is this mission implemented? Or is it just a rhetoric, aimed at gaining better image of an organisation whose legitimacy is declining? There are three main channels which enable FIFA to pursue its goal of a better future and that the results of these could present a base on which to award FIFA the Nobel Peace Prize. These are: 1) organisation of the FIFA World Cup and other international matches and tournaments, 2) its status of international non-governmental organisation, 3) its Social Reponsibility (CSR) programmes. The arguments will be accompanied by some criticisms and controversies which question the eligibility of FIFA to win the Peace Prize.

1)      Organisation of the World Cup and other international tournaments and matches

fifa wcThe FIFA World Cup is the global sports mega event where people of different nationalities, races and ethnicities come together. For one month in four years, the notion of the global village loses its abstract meaning and becomes very concrete (the same holds true for the Olympics). The spirit of the World Cups is normally a very positive one, and when people come together in such an atmosphere, it’s much more likely that they will develop friendly relations with other fans, accept their differences, understand and respect them. It could be argued, however, that the World Cup is a very exclusive event. Not a lot of people can afford to see the World Cup matches live which creates a temporary elite, taking part in the ‘happy global village’, and the periphery, which is excluded from sharing the spirit of global friendly relations. The prices of the tickets and other expenses as a result of the World Cup should definitely be reduced in my opinion. However, the World Cup is watched all over the world, so even if one is watching the World Cup behind the TV, one can get the idea of the whole world coming together. Although the basic principles of the World Cup are competition and commercialisation, the event sends a positive picture that the world can come together in peace and in the spirit of fair play. It therefore doesn’t come as a surprise that FIFA adopted a new principle of handshake for peace at the 2012 Congress. “With this new protocol, the referee and team captains will now not only shake hands before the match starts, but meet again at the same place on the pitch directly after the final whistle, closing the game with the ‘Handshake for Peace’” (FIFA 2012b). Interestingly, the commitment to handshake of peace was introduced in a partnership with the Nobel Peace Centre. Is this just the way for FIFA to get closer to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee? Kramer (2000) is very critical of such initiatives and Blatter as the president – according to him, Blatter has set his sights on the Nobel Peace Prize. He claims that Blatter takes advantage of every public opportunity to emphasise the beneficial effect of FIFA and that he does it in order to improve his image and not so much because he really cares about Africa and other places where FIFA is developing football. But despite all the buzzwords about future of humanity, the reality of the World Cups doesn’t end with nations coming together in a peaceful way. In order to build proper infrastructure, hundred thousands and even millions of people are displaced, without any rights guaranteed. Merchandising and licesing rights protect corporate sponsors instead of people – local population is unable to sell their products in the areas around the stadiums or another official venues so FIFA’s “greater responsibility to reach out and touch the world” doesn’t really extend further than to its corporate partners.

Another reason why the World Cup and international matches per se have a potential to bring nations together, has been explored in the previous blog post. International matches are attended by state’s representatives and therefore offer a positive and informal environment for sports diplomacy. Again, the potential is two two-fold: on one hand, international football matches enhance friendly relations, but on the other hand, they encourage nationalistic expressions and therefore enhance hatred and negative feelings towards the opponents. See the previous blog post for more.

The World Cup as a global event, comprising multinational corporations, media, tourism, financial and political sector, involves a lot of developmental programmes. They come both from FIFA (for example, 80 million $ founding from FIFA to the 2010 Fifa World Cup Legacy Trust intended only for developmental projects) and its partners – Coca Cola being in charge of the project for clean water, Hyundai/Kia taking care of educational programmes, Sony leading the project Dream Goal 2010 with the aim to alleviate extreme poverty and hunger, prevent spread of AIDS, malaria and other illnesses etc. (Neirotti et al 2010, 35‒57). There are also other benefits, such as investments into infrastructure and public services, increase of tourism, new jobs etc. However, these are  mostly temporary, short-term benefits and inherent care for people is questionable. The main beneficiaries are sadly not people, but major corporations and powerful sectors. This is not to say that such programmes are completely without benefits – especially educational campaigns, clean water projects etc. can be of real help to the local population. Altough this fits into marketing and branding purposes of the funding companies, such concerns shouldn’t just diminish some practical impacts.

There is one strong argument why FIFA’ World Cups are contrary to the principle of peace, especially peace perceived as justice. The infrastructure for the World Cup is being built on the exploitation of the poor. One case is Qatar. Thousands of migrant workers will spend the next 9 years building the stadiums ahead of Qatar’s 2022 World Cup in terribly harsh conditions (no water, no safety, living in crowded rooms…), often doing 12 hours shifts in the heat with little regard for their general health and safety. The International Trade Union confederation predicts that if the current mortality rates are maintained, up to 4000 migrant workers may die before a ball is kicked in 2022. Another problem is the Kafala sponsorship system, which binds every single employee to a sponsor or employer, so that they are not allowed to leave that employer’s job or even the country without their permission. Thousands of migrant workers are therefore stuck in Qatar, with no legal protection at all. FIFA must have been aware of this system before awarding the World Cup to Qatar (Rodriguez 2013).  Blatter’s comment to this was: “But I will also touch on this concern which concerns many people in the world and that is the working conditions in that country but we can’t be the ones who can change it. It is a responsibility not only for Qatar but the construction companies, and there are many European companies working there. We cannot turn a blind eye but we cannot make a direct intervention – but the Qatar government have confirmed they will do so.” (Burnton 2013). Brazilian workers are working in similar conditions – some officials are comparing them to the slavery-like ones. The recent protests have sent a clear message that the World Cup will only harm the people instead of benefiting them. While the Brazilian government is spending millions of dollars on the World Cup infrastructure, the quality and availability of the basic public and social services are falling. FIFA’s responses were similar in both cases: working conditions and public spending are in the hands of governments, FIFA cannot interfere in internal affairs. In the light of Blatter’s claims of FIFA’s worldwide responsibility and a strong duty to society, such comments come as a joke. While it’s true that FIFA can’t change national legislation, there is a principle of conditionality available. If FIFA can impose conditions for the quality of stadiums and other infrastructure, demand that countries change their legislation in order to host the World Cup (the Dutch parliament released FIFA’s demands or so called Government Guarantees which governments need to sign in order to host the event – you can see them on Andrew Jenning’s website, the link is here)  why doesn’t it impose stricter demands regarding workers’ rights? If FIFA want to keep calling itself peaceful and accountable, it will firstly have to take much more active approach in tackling the negative externalities of the World Cups and actually focusing on people and their rights.

 

2)      FIFA as an international non-governmental organisation (INGO)

International organisations have emerged in the system of complex interdependence. They have the capacity to connect people in relation to common causes beyond national boundaries. Therefore, they have the power to bring people together, whereby friendly relations are an inherent value. The status of international non-governmental organisation has helped FIFA promote peace in two ways: 1) having a power to bind nations, and 2) being independent and unaccountable to any government.

Firstly, internationalisation through the expansion of the FIFA family and the promotion of harmony among nations and power blocs has always been fundamental to FIFA (Sugden and Tomlinson 1998, 7). FIFA’s power started to rise after the collapse of the British Empire, when new independent states sought for membership in FIFA, which gave the organisation a worldwide membership. FIFA therefore became a forum for discussions between former colonies and colonisers. Sugden and Tomlinson (1998) see FIFA also as a platform for resistance. Football was used in the struggle for liberation in many African countries. “In the absence of economic and military might, newly independent African nations discovered in football a medium through which to register their presence in the international arena” (Sugden and Tomlinson 1998, 130). In the 1970s, FIFA was run by João Havelange, whose mission was to make FIFA a universal organisation. He increased the number of participants in the World Cup, provided materials to underdeveloped associations, helped underdeveloped states construct and improve football infrastructure and provide technical and medical teaching. His strive to turn FIFA into a world power, binding all nations, was acknowledged when he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize 1988. His rhetoric of universality and peace was adopted by his secretary and the current FIFA’s president, Sepp Blatter. As Kramer (2010) notices, Blatter tries to present himself Africa-FIFA-trophy-artas the champion of the poor, as a “statesman on a mission of peace”. His big success was bringing the World Cup to Africa – however, he also brought the World Cup to Qatar, despite all the environmental and human rights concerns. Contribution of Havelange and Blatter to development of football in Africa is undeniable; however, it has to be noted that there are other (selfish) interests behind. One is definitely the presence of commercial sponsors and the market potential of emerging countries, and FIFA, itself an offshore financial centre, and being financially bound to its commercial partners such as Coca Cola, Adidas, Sony etc., is highly aware of this. The second reason is the principle of equal voting rights. A big number of newly independent states in the time of decolonisation therefore presented a new ‘market’ of potential votes for Havelange, and it was actually the votes of the Third World that helped him become the president. Africa’s status as the key electoral constituency in the struggles for the FIFA presidency in 1974, 1998 and 2002 is deeply explored in Darby’s (2003) article. He claims that those seeking the FIFA presidency have always sought to present themselves as the advocates of African football – Havelange’s election manifesto, Johansson’s efforts to establish an Afro-European concord, and Blatter’s GOAL project and support for a World Cup hosted in Africa are all a proof of this. Kramer (2010) therefore accuses Blatter of being an opportunist when it comes to the politics of sports. He is said to be merely “using his self-declared weakness for Africa — he has recently been calling it a “love story” – to curry favour among poorer member countries and thereby to secure votes from their football associations.” Regardless of the selfish interests it has to be admitted that FIFA as an international organisation did help bring nations together and it did made possible for newly independent countries to declare their international presence in a peaceful and sporty way.

fifa

Secondly, FIFA as a non-governmental organisation is not accountable to any government. It’s governed by the Swiss law (which offers FIFA as a registered non-profit organisation a tax exemption, how appropriate 🙂 ), but its member associations don’t represent their states of origin in political terms. While the states are bound by the international law not to intervene in internal affairs of the other states, FIFA is much freer in that sense. For blatterexample, Blatter paid a visit to the Iranian president in the beginning of November, and he made a straightforward appeal to the Iranian authorities to end the prohibition for women to attend men’s football matches that has been in force since the 1979 Islamic revolution. I am sure that much more fuss would be made if Obama suggested that – it would be considered as the interference of the US into domestic affairs of Iran. Another example is the role of FIFA in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. FIFA’s involvement as mediators has brought Israeli and Palestinian football officials closer together; under FIFA’s patronage, delegations from both countries agreed to each appoint a liaison officer to facilitate the movement of players in and out of Palestinian territories. Palestine Football Association is a full member of FIFA and Blatter has consistently defended their rights. FIFA can therefore significantly contribute to peace between Israel and Palestine – football, namely, is never completely separated from the politics. Here you can watch a promo video about their cause. In the case of Iran Blatter said: “I did not intervene to change the law but, as the president of FIFA and defender of football in Islamic countries, I had to present this plea to the political authorities” (Yahoo Sports 2013). However, a question remains: if FIFA sees itself as a defender of football, human rights and fairness, why doesn’t it speak up in Brazil and Qatar? It’s obvious that FIFA’s pleas for peace are motivated by different interests and that their activities for promoting peace, no matter how good and successful they are, are very inconsistent. As well, the fact that it’s unaccountable to any government (except partly to the Swiss one since it is established under the Swiss law) makes it exempt from international law as well. Switzerland is quite famous for money laundering, protected bank accounts, not dealing properly with corruption – there is no better safe haven for FIFA, is it? Peace, understood as human security and justice, requires accountability, responsibility and transparency as well.

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3)      FIFA and Corporate Social Responsibility

CSR has become an important trend in the entrepreneurial sector. Since the field of sport cannot be eliminated from the other social issues, sports organisations are increasingly embedding CSR in their mission – to bring positive consequences for the society as well as to improve their reputation. FIFA started to actively involve CSR into its strategy in 2005 when Federico Addiechi became the Head of the CSR department. FIFA’s radical change in SCR strategy transformed from a reactive approach to an extremely proactive approach (Neirotti et al 2010). In the year of 2010, 22 % of all the expenses were spent on developmental projects – a total of $ 794 million (FIFA 2010, 19). The strategy to achieve FIFA’s mission of building a better future by channelling the power of football is divided up into five core areas (FIFA 2013a):

People: providing a safe and healthy working environment for all of their people

Game: ensuring that the game of football reflects the highest values of society

Events: organising international tournaments since they offer exceptional platforms to raise awareness, highlight particular issues and implement projects and campaigns on the ground

-Society: providing resources and engaging with its member associations, commercial affiliates, development agencies and others to provide children and young people with valuable resources and know-how

-Planet: addressing environmental issues (global warming, environmental conservation and sustainable management) seriously and mitigating negative environmental impacts linked to its activities.

Some of the key (constant) projects/areas of CSR are:

Football for hope – initiative that uses power of football to achieve sustainable social development; programmes, conducted in partnership with some NGOs, which try to address social problems that young people face – these include HIV/AIDS, education, integration of disabled children, conflict management, peacebuilding etc (FIFA 2013b).

FIFA against discrimination– abolishing all forms of discrimination in football by a) raising awareness, for example with FIFA’s Anti-Discrimination Days and the initiative Say No to Racism; b) punishing those who are behave contrary to the principle of non-discrimination (FIFA 2013c).

-Fair Play – evaluating and rating behaviour on and off the pitch, giving the FIFA Fair Play Award, organising FIFA Fair Play Days, overall promotion of the principle (FIFA 2013d).

Taking care of the environment – zero emission building of FIFA headquarters, project Green Goal, implemented at the World Cups (curbing carbon emissions, promoting green technology etc.) (FIFA 2013e).

Goal Programme – funding member associations to implement projects designed to develop football in their countries; the programme is essentially aimed at associations with the most pressing needs as an expression of solidarity (FIFA 2013f).

I strongly suggest reading an analysis of CSR activities in South Africa at the time of the World Cup.

The demonstration of programmes and their analysis shows that there was a wide spectrum of CSR activities. Similar projects are planned for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, see the Sustainability Strategy here.

Mr AddiechiThe majority of CSR activities aim at alleviation of poverty, environmental protection and children’s development and education. All of these are issues that can prevent future conflicts and build peace – not immediately, of course, but in a long-term. According to Bulloch’s (2008) analysis of different perceptions of peace, FIFA’s CSR activities therefore contribute to peace understood as justice. Although racism is still a persisting issue in world football, it has to be acknowledged that FIFA has tried a lot to wipe it out of football. New anti-racism resolution was adopted at the FIFA Congress in Mauritius this year, on the basis of which first or minor offences will result in either a warning, fine or order for a match to be played behind closed doors, while serious or repeat offences will be punished by a points deduction, expulsion or relegation (BBC 2013).

However, the CSR activities get criticised mainly for two reasons. Firstly, quite some projects at the World Cups bring only short-term benefits. In countries like South Africa and Brazil it’s not enough to be there for a month and then leave. FIFA is partly aware of this problem – Mr Addiechi confirmed that these programmes need to incorporate a legacy component that allows them to last beyond the World Cup (Neirotti 2010, 3). The 2010 Legacy Trust has recently published a report about the legacy of the World Cup 2010 in South Africa, which is showing promising results (FIFA 2013g). Of course, in order to get the big picture, reading just a FIFA’s report is not enough – talking to the locals in South Africa would probably give different answers. Sustainability should absolutely prevail over improving image of FIFA and its sponsors when planning the CSR activities. Secondly, FIFA’s main sponsors in CSR are multinational corporations such as Adidas, Coca Cola, McDonalds, Castrol, Budweiser, Sony, BP. While one controversy definitely stems from the fact that some of these MNCs come from sectors such as fast food, alcohol and oil industry, which probably won’t really contribute to development in underdeveloped regions, the bigger issue here is the self-promotion of these companies. “Many businesses only use their CSR initiatives to generate positive public relations material, rather than for legitimately altruistic and humanitarian reasons. In fact, when speaking with FIFA CSR Director Federico Addiechi on 16 June 2010, he admitted that FIFA committed this exact sin as recently as ten years ago, noting that the organization judged CSR success via “Return on Image”. However, Mr. Addiechi stated that FIFA has turned a corner in this regard, and is truly committed to improving the countries in which it holds events.” Really? How exactly are they improving life in favelas in Rio by displacing people? Commitment to protect workers in Qatar is obvious in their excuse that they are “not the United Nations”.

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CONCLUSION

 The question whether FIFA should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize is definitely controversial. In the light of recent corruption and match-fixing scandals, prioritising profits over people, trying to distance themselves from human rights issues in hosting countries, the first and obvious answer would probably be no. Its autocratic regime of ruling doesn’t help either (I can’t believe Blatter is going to run for the president again). However, some of its activities and programmes are bringing positive change to the society – both on a global and a local level. Even if it’s just for improving the image, there are certain positive impacts. The very basis for such a power is the global popularity of football – it’s easier to connect people and send messages of peace and friendly relations through the most popular game on the world than by politics for example (see the previous blog post). So the nomination by Lars Gustafsson didn’t come out of blue.

The organisation which claims to have a global responsibility beyond the field of football should not remain silent and passive around the issues of workers’ exploitation and displacement of people as a consequence of new stadiums. The organisation whose principle is fair play, should not be involved in corruption and other scandals on such a massive scale (see BBC Panorama documentary, FIFA’s Dirty Secrets). The organisation which has the principle of environmental protection embedded in its CSR strategy, should not award the World Cup to Qatar. However, as the awarding of the Peace Prize in the last decade suggests, none of the recent Laureates is purely good and without any flaws. Surely, the EU doesn’t contribute to peace without some negative effects and without political scandals. So if one follows the logic of the recent awarding principles, FIFA kind of fulfils the criteria to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. While Obama and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons received the award not so much for what they had done, but for what they were about to do (Milharčič 2013), FIFA has actually achieved a lot in its 109 years of existence. Its contribution to peace and friendly relations should not be completely overshadowed by corruption, controversial financial activities and other issues, although these deserve the most serious critique. Although FIFA, just like the EU or Obama, does have a potential to bring peace, its practices contradict the very principles of peace and justice. We should keep in mind that both the Nobel Peace Prize and FIFA’s developmental programmes and promotion of football as a means for better future stem from Western liberal values. And these (sadly) allow for quite some deviation when pursuing higher goals, don’t they? Machiavelli’s logic of the ends justifying the means is therefore still very alive, and apparently, both FIFA and the Nobel Peace Prize Committee are following it. Although I am a huge lover of football, I don’t think FIFA, especially in the current situation and with its current structure and functioning, should be awarded the Peace Prize. But I do think both FIFA and the principles of awarding the Nobel Peace Prize should seriously reform themselves. With a serious and complete reform FIFA would contribute much more to humanity than with its bragging about its contribution towards building a better future for the world.

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