532 Words on: Football as a force for good

“The game is for the players” Eastern Suburbs AFC

Nope. Not quite done with that yet.

The old conservative adage of “don’t mix sport and politics” is one of my least favourite sentiments. Apart from being a catch-cry of the worst Prime Minister in New Zealand history it’s lazy thinking that perpetuates one of the worst things about society in this day and age – the fact that people have stopped caring about each other.

The cult of the individual is almost our universal religion, and the sense of entitlement and “I’m alright Jack” it breeds has led to massive problems facing the world (like climate change, poverty and terrorism to name only three) that have no end in sight because individualism can’t fix them – they all need massive collective solutions.

Yet for those amongst us who find ourselves brainwashed by individualism to think we’re powerless to act because “I’m only one person”, football debunks that myth every single weekend. We are not one person, we are part of a team, and a surrounding community, that can do incredible things when we work together well to make a difference.

Should football be used as a political tool to make the world better? Why the hell not?? When the planet is dying, children are starving and innocent people are getting slaughtered, shouldn’t we be using every tool we have at our disposal to do whatever we can? There are plenty of examples of sport being used for evil – Hitler did it, Mussolini did it, Muldoon did it – but that doesn’t mean we should let those colossal fuckers win by taking its potential for good away from us.

And, consciously or subconsciously, we already harness the collective political power of football to some extent. On a macro level, nations whose leaders hate each other meet on the pitch all the time and show how stupid their imagined differences are. On a micro level we all engage with our local communities and combat societal health issues by keeping people active. Everything is political whether we like it or not.

There are also great examples around of kiwi clubs doing much more than the bare minimum – like North Shore United’s recent push to get people cycling to their games and Manukau City raising money and donating gear to a club in Gaza. We should be doing a lot more of this kind of thing. It doesn’t matter if climate change doesn’t concern you or you side with Israel – find something that does concern you and be part of the solution. Because we all have a choice to make and doing nothing is choosing to be part of the problem.

Why should we keep letting other people define us? If we don’t want to be labelled as a game for “poofters, wogs and poms” or flare-wielding hooligans, complaining about it won’t change anything. We have to take the power back and define ourselves. And if we can choose our own identity, why don’t we be the game that cares?

Our game is not for the players. It’s for everyone on the planet Earth.

Ok. I think I’ll probably leave poor old E-Subbies alone now! Love you guys. Honestly.