Football, in 21st century, is still regarded as one of the most celebrated games and its increasing popularity across the world is almost incomparable.
The globalization of the game and consequent establishment of its global market have resulted in its inseparable association with consumerism achieved through ‘commodity fetishism’, the term popularized by Marxist studies to denote the nature of consumer capitalism. For instance, we can mention the famous sporting goods manufacturing company NIKE’s using of the catchy Portuguese phrase ‘Joga Bonito’(‘Play Beautifully’) during 90s to raise the branded value of the game.
On the other hand, there is also a rich history of rebellions, resistance associated with the beautiful game. During and after the Spanish Civil War, Spanish football clubs like Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao revolted against the Fascist regime of General Franco; while, the dictator had stretched his arms towards Real Madrid and exploited the game for his propagandist purpose.
During 1980s, Socrates-led Corinthians influenced a social movement in Brazil, demanding democratic rights for its citizens. They entered the field holding banners with a single motto ‘’ Ganhar ou perder, mas sempre com democracia’’ (‘’Win or lose, but always with democracy’’) written on it. Similarly, history of football has witnessed Argentina National Football team’s protestation against the British occupation of Falkland, Irish rebellion against the empire, movements against racism.
However, this article doesn’t aim at elaborating the game’s role in various movements but at tracing the consumerist orientation that has restricted the consumer’s ability of perception. In India, though the flourishment of Franchise-based game like Indian Super League is problematizing both the footballing and the economic structures, the game acts as a fodder as the consumers remain oblivious about the grave menace. During the FIFA World Cup 2014 and UEFA Euro 2016, the major mass protestations were not treated with least sympathy by the sports media; sporting persons like Romario, Dida were totally neglected following their connection with such movements. Thus, the interest of footballing culture, now-a-days, seems to be confined only in creating market. Such consumerist approach also causes the debasement of the vibrant culture of the beautiful game.
But it is true that the huge fan-base and the marketing policy of the leading European clubs certainly have helped in popularizing the beautiful game all over the world. Football icons alongwith their jerseys, fashion-statements and sporting accessories undoubtedly increase the brand value of the game. Globalisation of the game has erased barriers between the consumer countries. Football has become almost synonymous with the names of the sponsors and their brands. Thus the Premier League of England , since 2001, has earned its reputation across the world as Barclays Premier League .
But there is also a bright side. The movement against racism has got a new impetus by necessary intervention of the footballing authorities. With its growing popularity the game itself has become a voice of universal brotherhood. Thus only time can tell us whether the footballing culture is totally moulded by Capitalist construct or the game resists the very idea.