Football started as a fun game the UK workers developed in the city wards. The process that turned this game into one of the most popular sports in the world and an international competition is really quite interesting and deserves to be studied.
As countries represented by national teams politicised football from time to time, friendly matches sometimes brought reconciliation among countries.
Gestures made in the name of football became the first step for friendship among many fans in the masses that follow football. Football teams assumed the mission of being a role model for their countries and footballers became role models for their societies.
That is why gentlemanship should be an uncompromisable gesture in this sector.
Similar to other major sport competitions, football also has a positive impact on society and could influence international relations. There is, however, an aspect of football that could also be dangerous: fanaticism.
Fanaticism is without a doubt a risky matter not only for this particular sport but also for all faiths and all walks of life throughout one’s life. A fanatic suffers from a deeply rooted disease that makes him feel the need to force the other party to accept what he knows to be true. Due to this reason fanaticism is frequently associated with violence. This has been the case when it comes to football also.
Acts of violence led by fanatic hooligans have caused some serious injuries related to major brawls that break out. On the contrary rather then spilling blood because of their fanatic attitudes, these people should behave gentlemanly towards each other.
The acts of these pro-violence people detract from the positive attributes and beauty of the football game. The rivalry, rage and violent attitudes have gone so far that many pundits refer to teams as “arch-rival” and often times games end with fans duelling and physically assaulting each other.
Without a doubt, the fact that football turned into an entire industry or economic “sector”, has contributed to this phenomenon greatly.
The amount of money that is now involved in this sport has turned this sport into a trade with astronomical budgets that are discussed in the billions. There are also many awards and sponsor fees.
This situation is easier understood when we realise that FIFA made $4.5bn in profit solely from 2014 World Cup.
When we study football with respect to its sociological effects as just mentioned, we see that excitement and exuberance have given way to fanaticism which in turn results in acts of violence and racism up.
The media coverage and language used in the industry has a great importance in this respect. For instance, the competitive games between great teams are always covered by the media in a manner that usually incites a malicious competitive spirit.
Exaggerated portrayals and comments made before and after these matches adds the necessary fuel that incites such behaviours and detracts people from the spirit of the game and virtually turns them into hooligans.
The way fanatics perceive football goes as far as to even make them “risk death” for the sake of their teams.
Undoubtedly it would be quite possible for a person with this mentality to easily commit murder for his cause. The fact that these hooligans in question bring weapons such as knives and prickles to the matches is one of the greatest evidences of this. Indeed seeing a football match that is played to make the audience happy, cause the death of many young people is something we are quite familiar with. Sadly this is not a regional problem but a global one.
For instance, when Argentina defeated Peru on May 24, 1964, during the playoffs in Peru, the fans rebelled and as a result of the commotion 318 people died and another 500 people were injured.
Following the match between two neighbouring countries, El-Salvador and Honduras in the 1970, FIFA World Cup playoffs, a war that lasted 100 hours broke out. The war became known as “The Football War” and caused the death of 2,100 people and left more than 10 thousand people injured. This war ended with the intervention of the Organisation of the American States.
Similarly, in the fights that broke out between the fans of Juventus and Liverpool in the European Cup Finals played in Belgium on May 29, 1985, 39 people died and during the match played in Libya on July 14, 1996, 50 people died. In South Africa on April 11, 2001, 43 people died, and in the World Cup playoffs between Cote d’Ivorie and Malawi played on March 29, 2009, 22 people lost their lives.
In 2012, 74 people died and thousands were injured as the fans of the team Al-Masry took the field following the match played in Egypt between the teams Al-Ahly and Al-Masry. A group of fans set the field afire and the Egyptian army had to take action to maintain the order and safety.
All these incidents we have listed are only a few of the tragic results brought upon by fanaticism in football. It should be stated that racism in football has also reached worrisome levels as well. The players, referees and fans are easily reviled against and insulted because of their countries, their societal status or religions.
It is important that football is taken out of this horrible vice. The statements of people who incite and carry out the propaganda of fanaticism, violence and racism in football, should not be covered by the media; the media should not support racism and fanaticism. Precautions against racist thoughts or a fanatic and violent mindset should be taken. An education system based on love is of crucial importance in this respect.
It is a known fact that acting on prejudices is the basic characteristic of people who are loveless, intolerant, accusatory and discriminatory against others. It should not be forgotten that disdain, refusal, isolation and exclusion that appear together with prejudices would instigate hatred, violence and atrocities among some people.
With a specific education targeting football fans, it would be possible to turn the soccer sector into an educational environment that would lead people positively. This important and far-reaching sports industry should no longer be conceived as a source of hooliganism or anger-fuelled competition and violence. With fundamental changes, more emphasis on love and brotherhood should be featured in the name of football. The responsibility falls onto football teams, media and of course onto footballers in this respect.
From arts to manufacturing, every sector has a great responsibility for attuning the world to love. Football organisations around the world should definitely partake in such a responsibility also.
Adnan Oktar's piece in Gulf Times & Makkah Newspaper & News Today: