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Chris Slatter

My Blog


The Beautiful Game

Tags: violence world cup fifa 
I don’t know about you, but while watching the World Cup I’ve been spending some time researching the culture of football. ‘Soccer’ the Americans call it. So do the Australians; to Italians it’s ‘calcio’ while the Brazilians call it ‘futebol’. Well, you all knew that, but do you know what the point of the game is? If you just said ‘the point is to win at any cost’ then you would be historically accurate. In early days, according to the games’ governing body FIFA, it was called Cuju and occurred in China as a military exercise in the centuries before the Common Era.
In early England, football was played between competing towns and villages. ‘Mob Football’ it was  called, apparently as a comparison of the game with warfare. In Florence, a version of the game has remained unchanged since medieval times and is still played today. ‘Calcio Storico’, literally historic football, is gloriously and enthusiastically violent with players attempting to cripple their opponents by kicking and punching them until one side has the ascendancy. It’s a lot easier to score goals if your opponent has been driven away in one of the waiting ambulances.
Our delight in witnessing violent spectacles is part of our character, it seems. From the gladiatorial games of Roman times to public executions, many of which are still held around the world today, we’ve loved it. We’ve howled our approval, screamed at the victims, mocked the losers and thoroughly enjoyed the event. So when Colombia’s Juan Camilo Zuniga jumped on Brazilian star Neymar in their recent quarter final clash and broke his spine with a deliberate and well-aimed knee, it was part of the culture.
This brutal act was the Brazilian manager’s fault, screamed the newspapers. Luiz Felipe Scolari had provoked the challenge, journalists said, by demanding that his players assault Colombia’s James Rodriguez to neutralize his skill and artistry. Others blame FIFA for their referees who have been too reluctant to issue yellow and red cards in case this slows down the game. As if coloured pieces of paper can control warriors intent on winning at all costs. The true culture of football could be seen in the crowds and on the pitch of virtually every game. And it was typified by the swaggering performance of Netherlands goalkeeper Tim Krul who contemptuously harangued each Costa Rican penalty taker individually before going to stand between the posts.

But does violence and aggressive contempt for opponents make it a better game? For many fans the answer must be ‘yes’; crowds have been howling their approval for years, for centuries, in fact. No one speaks out against soccer violence so prevalent on the pitches of Brazil, not even the revered Gary Lineker who in his career was never shown a yellow card for a foul. There was even some grudging respect from him for Tim Krul’s unsporting display of gamesmanship. All of which would be okay, I guess, so long as this behavior is confined to professional players in competition. They’re getting paid for it. One day though, it may be your son who comes home with smashed teeth, or a broken leg, received on the school playing field from players who have learnt their skills by watching the professionals. Then it’s not okay, is it? 

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About Me

I have been an advertising copywriter, film director, teacher of screenwriting and a television producer. I have worked for some of the world's largest advertising agencies in Australia and the UK before attending the London Film School for two years.

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