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Turkish Football Is a Major Money-Maker for Pro-Government News Outlets At The Expense of Player Safety

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The Ziraat Turkish Cup is Turkey’s second-biggest football competition, providing a space for lesser-known clubs to shine. While not quite the FA Cup, the Ziraat Turkish Cup does provide smaller clubs with useful income: Entering the group stages nets clubs 50,000 USD, with an extra 40,000 USD for each win and 20,000 USD for each draw; qualifying for the last 16 by finishing in the top two provides another 100,000 USD. But the Ziraat Turkish Cup is not only a money maker for football clubs—it is also a money maker for the pro-government ATV Television channel, which holds the rights for broadcasting cup matches (a typical match day program can be seen here).

The owner of ATV (and its sister channels ASpor and A2, the latter which was created in 2016 seemingly exclusively in order to broadcast cup matches) is the Turkuvaz Media Group, which also owns major newspapers like Sabah, Takvim, and sports daily Fotomac. The CEO of Turkuvaz is Serhat Albayrak, the brother of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s son-in-law Berat Albayrak. TV revenues are ever-increasing in the age of industrial football, and the case of ATV and the Ziraat Turkish Cup represent an interesting example of how industrial football can be used by the government. The Turkish cup used to be a standard knock out competition until 2012-2013, when the group stages were devised. Clubs qualifying for the group stages play home and away series with each team in the four-team groups, Champions League-style. Unlike the Champions League, however, these games take place between the end of November and the middle of January during the league season. This means that in some weeks teams play three games—during the coldest time of the year in Turkey. I emphasize this last point because it means that players are exposed to a greater risk of injury due to a combination of fatigue, cold temperatures, and dangerous playing conditions.

As a football fan, it is worrisome to see this type of greed which seek to increase profits with seemingly no concern for the well-being of players. The fact that this revenue is designed to bolster a pro-government media group is even more worrisome. In the end it means that fans are left to watch matches that are less football and more ice hockey. The match program for the Cup’s third match day on 28-29 December 2016 reported that six of the eleven matches were to be played in snowstorms. Four matches were even slated to take place in below-freezing temperatures, with the low for the Atiker Konyaspor-Gumushanespor match predicted to be -6 degrees Celsius! While sports fans in the United States are used to unnecessary games being played for the sake of making money (why does the NBA play an astounding 82-game regular season, for instance?), in Turkey criticism has come mainly as a result of Turkuvaz Media Group’s involvement. Below are some of the more ridiculous images from this season’s Ziraat Turkish Cup so far.

 

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On 20 December 2016 Besiktas’s Match With Boluspor was Stopped Multiple Times Due to Blizzard Conditions. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.ajansbesiktas.com/yogun-kar-yagisi-maci-duraklatti-2929h.htm

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Besiktas Eventually Muddled to a 1-1 Draw With Boluspor, While Boluspor’s Coach Said “It would be Wrong to Expect Anything Resembling Football In These Conditions”. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.fanatik.com.tr/2016/12/27/ziraat-turkiye-kupasi-nda-kar-tehlikesi-1269188
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On 21 December 2016 Gaziantepspor Hosted Kirklarelispor in a Match Where the Lines Were Barely Visible and Referee Murat Ozcan’s Hair Actually Froze. Images Courtesy Of: http://www.cnnturk.com/spor/futbol/zorla-mac-oynattilar-hakemin-saclari-dondu?page=1
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On 15 December 2016 Gumushanespor and Kizilcabolukspor Played on What Was Basically a Sheet of Ice While the Referee Struggled To Keep His Footing. Images Courtesy Of: http://spor.internethaber.com/buz-ustunde-oynanan-macta-kayan-kayana-1739134h.htm

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On 14 December 2016 Turkish Giants Galatasaray Faced 24 Erzincanspor in Sub-Zero Temperatures on a Pitch Unfit for Football. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.sabah.com.tr/spor/futbol/2016/12/14/galatasaray-24-erzincanspor-maci-oncesi-zemin-korkuttu
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On 20 December 2016 Atiker Konyaspor and Gumushanespor played out a 1-1 Draw on Another Frozen Tundra. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.fanatik.com.tr/2016/12/21/gumushanespor-atiker-konyaspor-mac-sonucu-1-1-1268240

 

While everyone has focused on the poor playing conditions on the field, there have been other developments off the field.  On 18 December 2016 President Recep Tayyip Erdogan opened the new Akyazi Sports Complex—and Black Sea club Trabzonspor’s new stadium—alongside the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Tani. Mr. Erdogan used the event to inaugurate other state-led development projects in the Black Sea region, including 423 housing units, a dental health hospital, seven schools, 3 university dormitories, a stray animal shelter, and two Koran course buildings among other things. While these latter construction projects have nothing at all to do with football, they represent part of what stadium building means for Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP): A modernization project fueled by construction and designed to bolster a faltering economy. The result of such projects is likely to be similar to the restructuring of the Ziraat Turkish Cup. Construction provides short-term economic gains that are not sustainable in the long term, just like increasing the number of cup matches may provide short-term income boosts for pro-government entities but the diminishing quality of the football overall will only serve to lower interest in the Turkish Cup in the long run.

Globalism Vs Nationalism In Turkey

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Yet another bomb was detonated in Turkey over the weekend, this time in the Central Anatolian city of Kayseri. A public bus was targeted by a car bomb, resulting in the death of 13 off-duty soldiers and 56 wounded. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed the PKK, a Kurdish separatist group, for the bombings saying “The style and goals of the attacks clearly show the aim of the separatist terrorist organisation is to trip up Turkey, cut its strength and have it focus its energy and forces elsewhere. We know that these attacks we are being subjected to are not independent from the developments in our region, especially in Iraq and Syria”. Interestingly, the Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) condemned the bombing in a statement that read, in part, “our call is towards ending the politics, tone and language that creates tension, polarization, hostility, chaos and conflict both in terms of internal and foreign affairs”.  Although the party has talked a good game, the fact that they are still close to the PKK has roiled many in Turkey; that they were swift to condemn the attack however suggests that they might realize that the recent shift in the PKK’s tactics will not be good for anyone.

 

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The HDP Talk a Good Game, But Can They Follow It Up With Concrete Actions? Image Courtesy Of: https://twitter.com/hdpdiplomacy/status/810059726667055104/photo/1

 

After the bus bombing protestors in Istanbul and Kayseri ransacked HDP offices in an alarming display of anger that—if left unchecked—could lead to the kind of violence motivated by ethnic difference that has been proven to lead to much worse.

 

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Ultra Nationalists Attack HDP Building in Kayseri. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.insanhaber.com/guncel/son-dakika-kayseri-de-hdp-binasina-saldiri-h81889.html

State media—which, as always, is suspect—reported a more refreshing story about nationwide anti-PKK protests, including many in mainly Kurdish areas such as Hakkari province and Diyarbakir province. The Anadolu Agency story reports that “Mehmet Akdeniz, the provincial head of Confederation of Public Servants Trade Unions (Memur-Sen) in Sirnak, said people from all walks of life including Turks, Kurds, and Arabs united for Turkey. ‘The PKK terrorist organization that wanted to smash this brotherhood attacked our people who were going to work and school, and the soldiers who were going on weekend leave’.” The Twitter feed for Kurds News posted pictures and videos of Kurds protesting the PKK, corroborating the Anadolu Agency story. If this is indeed true—that Turks, Kurds, and Arabs united for Turkey—then that is notable.

 

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Kurds Protest the PKK All Over Turkey. Images Courtesy Of: https://twitter.com/newskurds

 

As Mr. Erdogan pointed out, these attacks are not independent from what is happening in Syria, and one of the perpetrators of the 10 December 2016 Vodafone Arena bombing was revealed to have come from Syria.

The relationship between the violence in Syria and Turkey represents the tensions between nationalism and globalism that have ben revealed by both Brexit and Donald Trump’s election victory in the United States. The YPG, the Syrian offshoot of the PKK, have no ties to Turkey or Syria while the concurrent rise of ISIS/ISIL/DAESH in Syria and Iraq has shown the abject failure of Syrian and Iraqi nationalism, revealing the “imagined community” aspects of both countries’ nationalisms (which where only formed out of the remnants of French and British colonialism). Because the YPG similarly have no respect for national identity, they think nothing of committing brutal attacks on Turkish soil, attacks which only serve to alienate what little sympathy they may have at this point. The vast majority of Kurds and Turks have no qualms with one another on an interpersonal basis. However, if the PKK—perhaps in collusion with the YPG—continue their campaign of cowardly attacks on Turkish security forces and civilians alike, they will be further marginalized. The widespread support for security forces in the wake of the stadium bombing shows that the majority of Turks—regardless of ethnic background—are preferring unity to division. This is why the United States’—particularly during the Obama regime—continued support for the YPG in Syria has been such a bone of contention for Turkey. For all the talk of human rights that emanates from Washington, the bureaucrats and politicians seem blind to the fact that normal citizens—like myself—feel unsafe in the Istanbul subway because another bomb could go off at any moment. In Ankara, the climate is so tense that a “State of Emergency” has been declared at sporting events and fans will no longer be able to park their cars near stadiums or bring bags to games. Supporting groups who engage in this kind of violent terrorism that effects daily life should never be tolerated.

But the contradictions of “human rights” are evident for all to see, and the re-settlement of Syrian refugees is just one example of this. Current US President-elect Donald Trump has voiced his opposition to the further settlement of Syrian refugees in the past, saying  “We’ve admitted tens of thousands with no effective screening plan. We have no idea who we are letting in. You’ve seen what happened.” Many on the left in the United States dismiss Mr. Trump’s rhetoric as “Islamophobic” or “xenophobic”, but the problematic results of resettlement have been seen. After a 22-year-old Syrian refugee was arrested for groping a 13-year-old girl in Lowell, Massachusetts, “The city manager of Lowell told his local newspaper Tuesday [07/12/2016] that he was not even notified by the U.S. State Department or its resettlement contractor that Syrians were being delivered to his community.” This follows some of the secrecy surrounding Mr. Obama’s resettlement plan reported by WND:

 

The chairmen of the House and Senate judiciary committees are demanding the Obama administration provide details of a secret resettlement deal in which the U.S. has agreed to take up to 1,800 mostly Muslim asylum seekers who have been rejected by Australia as illegal aliens.

Congress only learned of the deal through media reports two weeks ago and, according to a letter sent to administration officials by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., the deal is not only a matter of grave national security concern, but it could be illegal.

Notably, the only sites reporting on these kinds of things are Christian outlets like WND or Breitbart, which claims that the 110,000 migrants President Obama plans to bring to the United States will cost Americans 70.4 Billion USD over the next 75 years. State media—which is viewed as “legitimate” by many Americans—has remained conspicuously silent on these issues.

Perhaps that is because President Obama’s tenure has been—to put it nicely—characterized by many less than effective policies in the Middle East. Famous media personality Colonel Oliver North went so far as to call it “genocide”:

 

In the Middle East, the legacy of the Obama admin is genocide, a horrific refugee diaspora and a complete destabilization of the Middle East.

When Obama made his grand apology tour, utopian Arab spring speech in Cairo in June 2009, Syria had 23m people.

Today 12m people have been displaced; 400k+ Killed in Action; and 1.6m wounded.

Syrian civil war, Obama bug-out from Iraq, rise of ISIS, the IS invasion of Iraq, Al-Baghdadi’s “caliphate,” the overthrow of Gadhafi, global spread of radical Islam to 38 countries – all because of the Obama administrations weakness & failure to lead.

Even state media (The Washington Post) ran an editorial on 15 December 2016 critical of President Obama’s failures in the region:

The administration creatively pioneered a third option, which it pursued not only in Syria but also in Ukraine and elsewhere: Between action and inaction, it chose inconsequential action. There is the Obama doctrine! We backed moderate Syrian rebels, but not as seriously or as generously as the immoderate Syrian rebels were backed.

 

That state media in the United States should voice these kinds of opinions is notable, even if the editorial does not underline the fact that some of the Obama administrations actions did have consequences; opposition to President Assad would never have gotten this strong without American “action”. Now millions more have died in Syria than ever would have under a (relatively) stable Assad regime. But human rights told us that President Assad was a “bad man”, right? On the surface, yes. But beneath the surface there are real geopolitical ambitions that could only be achieved through a destabilization of the region and the regime.

The reason I bring this up is because, after being back in Istanbul for a week, I can feel a tension that didn’t exist in the past. A past before the Syrian war, a past before weekly bombings. And the fact that President Obama had a hand in creating this environment is something that—as both an American and a Turk—I find deeply disturbing. One way that the Syrian conflict has seeped into Turkish daily life is the presence of three million refugees. Mr. Trump thinks they would have a problem settling into American society; given that they have problems in Turkey—itself a Muslim country—adds some credence to his argument. Take this story from the Washington Post, about how Arabic signs are being taken down in Istanbul’s Fatih district which has become “Little Syria”.

 

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What Happened to Turkey’s Language Revolution? Arabic Dominates Storefronts in Istanbul. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/arabic-signs-face-removal-threat-in-istanbuls-little-syria/2016/11/25/ddc2cd10-b322-11e6-bc2d-19b3d759cfe7_story.html?utm_term=.5be3679a9154

 

While Turkey has opened its borders to Syrian refugees, allowing them access to education and even giving them business opportunities (much of the Arabic language signage mentioned in the story above is for restaurants), the hospitality seems to have been lost on some of the Syrian business owners. The Post reports that “Some Syrian residents are vowing to ignore the order, seeing it as an assault on their culture,” and a dual national Turkish-Syrian restauranteur predicts that attempts to remove the signage will be resisted by violence; Mehmet Basil Souccar said “You can be sure that if they enforce this order, there will be a very ugly picture in Aksaray”.

Mr. Souccar’s comments are—to me—disgustingly disrespectful. Turkey is not Syria. Refugees are guests, and as such they should do their best to adjust to their new surroundings. To threaten violence against the country that is hosting you is extremely disrespectful, to put it in as kind of terms as possible. If we want refugees to be tolerated in the era of globalism, we cannot afford to focus on ethnic difference to the extent that it renders assimilation impossible and creates an “us vs. them” mentality. But it is part of the struggle between globalism and nationalism that was unleashed in the post Cold War era and that is now coming to a head following the disastrous policies of the West in Syria.

The responses to this struggle are varied, but ignoring the enduring power of nationalism would be a mistake. The decision of the PKK to target the state in public settings—like a soccer stadium and public transportation—could prove to be a mistake. If Turks and Kurds can come together, recognizing their common destiny as citizens of one country and work together for a more equal society, then there may be a way out of the current vortex of violence that is hovering over the country. In order to do this, however, a less fascistic and more inclusive brand of civic—and not ethnic—conception of Turkish nationalism must be cultivated. The failures of globalism have shown that no government can force people to think in a certain way, that is up to the individual.

 

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Image Courtesy Of: https://mulpix.com/post/953431286256553315.html

Sports Figures Support Turkey’s War on Foreign Currency

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Since the Gezi protests of May 2013 the Turkish economy has become more and more vulnerable; the failed coup of 15 July 2016 and several violent incidents—perpetrated by both ISIS/ISIL/DAESH and Kurdish separatists—have only precipitated a decline that was a long-time coming. Mustafa Sonmez’s column at Al-Monitor gives a useful outline of how the situation got so dire. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) built their reputation on a strong economy and received an average inflow of 38 Billion USD over the past fourteen years, but most of this money was spent domestically—especially in large scale construction projects and consumer loans (after all, people need money to afford the luxury high-rises that have popped up around Istanbul in the last decade). This means that there were no foreign exchange gains; Turkey still does not export anything (even footballers) to a significant degree. The end result of this? As Mr. Sonmez notes “The dollar’s appreciation against the lira since 2013 will be 60% by the end of 2016 if its rise this year is contained at the current 12%.”

 

The Sharp Downfall Of the Turkish Lira (All Figures Courtesy Of : http://www.xe.com/currencycharts/?from=TRY&to=USD&view=12h)
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Clearly, this is bad news for the Turkish economy and those in the country who earn their money in honest ways. In a bid to combat the Lira’s downward spiral, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the country on 5 December 2016 “those who keep foreign currency under their mattress should come and turn them into liras or gold”. Subsequently, Turkey’s main stock exchange Borsa Istanbul, changed all their assets into dollars while Mr. Erdogan’s spokesman said on 8 December 2016 that the President had changed all his foreign currency into Liras. As is to be expected, opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu was left wondering whether the shoeboxes of foreign bills belonging to Mr. Erdogan’s associates that were uncovered during a corruption inquiry in 2013 were exchanged as well.

This “war on the Dollar” has also taken some interesting turns. Hurriyet Daily News reports that some restaurants would give free food and drink to those who converted Dollars or Euro into Liras, while one bus company offered free bus tickets and even one marble cutter offered free tombstones to those who show proof of converting 2,000 Dollars. It is ironic that tombstones should be offered, since the decision to convert foreign currency to Liras—in this climate—could be construed by some as economic suicide for low-income individuals and families.

Interestingly, many famous people have also joined this crusade, including footballer Aydin Yilmaz. Former Sivasspor footballer Jacques Faty is seen in a picture proving that he converted foreign currency into Liras , although the fact that he now plays in Australia may mean that his contribution to the “crusade” is questionable. On 8 December, Galatasaray captain Selcuk Inan announced that he would accept a new contract in Turkish Liras and we will wait and see how many other footballers choose to follow suit, since—in the globalized world—football is intimately tied to the global economy.

 

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Celebrities Follow Their Leader. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.sabah.com.tr/magazin/2016/12/09/vatansever-unlu-isimler-dolar-bozdurmaya-kostu

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.haberler.com/eski-sivassporlu-jacques-faty-dolarlarini-9038038-haberi/

 

The most high profile participant in this frenzy is former Turkish great (and AKP Deputy) Tanju Colak who took an astounding 80,000 USD to an Istanbul change office, saying “we came here to make fun of the Dollar, to burn the Dollar”. Indeed, some of those waiting to exchange their money were allegedly seen burning one Dollar notes (clearly, none were bold enough to burn one hundred dollar bills!).

 

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Mr. Colak (L) Trades In His Greenbacks While The Change Office Employee Looks On With Joy (R). Image Courtesy Of: http://www.yenisafak.com/spor/selcuk-inan-tl-teklifini-kabul-etti-2577034

 

As if the spectacle of a former professional footballer burning money was not ridiculous enough, the coach of Osmanlispor (a team close to Ankara’s AKP mayor Melih Gokcek) Mustafa Resit Akcay asked the state to come and take 20,000 USD from him. Normally, citizens are reluctant to allow the government to take money from them; I am reminded of a graffito I once saw that asks “why do we need police to protect us from thieves when the government already steals from us?” In Turkey—as is so often the case—the logic is turned upside down. Mr. Akcay said (author’s translation):

 

Siyasetçilerimizden, bütün siyasetçilerden, devleti yönetenlerden, müsteşarlardan hepsinden özür dileyerek, haddimi aşmadan bu ülkenin bu ekonomik savaşında devletim gelip benden 20 bin dolar alsın. Ve bu aldığı parayı bana 10 sene sonra mı öder, 20 sene sonra çocuklarıma mı öder, nereye öderse ödesin. Vergi dairesinden bir tane adamı yollasın bana, ben de ödeyeyim, paramı vereyim, helali hoş olsun. Ama bunu yaparken devletime bir nezaketsizlik yapmak istemiyorum. Özür diliyorum eğer bir nezaketsizlik varsa.

 With all due apologies to our politicians, all politicians, those who run the state, and the councilors, I ask—without overstepping my bounds—for the state to come and take twenty-thousand dollars from me in the midst of this country’s economic fight.  Maybe they we will pay this money back to me in 10 years, or back to my children in 20 years; however they pay it they can. They should send one person from the tax collector’s office, let me pay, let me give my money, it’s all ok. But as I do this I don’t want to be rude to my state. I apologize if I have been ungracious.   

It is an interesting stance to take, and I cannot fault Mr. Akcay for his nationalism, but it is also an example of the troubling results of globalization and global financial interdependence. The same push back that brought the UK Brexit and the US Donald Trump is now leading to economic nationalism in Turkey.

With currency experts calling this a “currency crisis”, CNBC reported that many American companies are facing trouble in Turkey. With the country downgraded to below investment grade—the latest bombing on 10 December confirming fears—foreign capital has been given another reason to avoid Turkey. As of now, some companies—like GE and Pepsi—are increasing their presence in Turkey. But how long will this last?

The Voice of America expressed fears that this economic nationalism could go to dangerous levels. Atilla Yesilada, a consultant at Global Source Partners, said:

 

While the patriotic Turks may heed him and will probably exchange their currency holdings, you got to remember that 48 percent of these people don’t vote for him, and they are scared, and many of whom may choose to take their money abroad. Assuming only 10 percent of domestic savers choose to send their money abroad, that would be $9 billion and that would be huge […] That’s where danger lies; action brings reaction. If the government in consultation with banks and the central bank,[sic] realizes those skeptical of the government are taking their money outside the country on a large scale, then you will have capital controls, like [C]hina. You will have limits on what money you can take out and that will really scare foreign institutional investors, who have 80 billion dollars invested in Turkish financial markets, so you might see a chain reaction of them scrambling for the door.

 

Indeed, capital controls would be disastrous for the Turkish economy, and could even affect the football world. Turkish teams are already suffering on the international stage, if their purchasing power is curtailed it could get even worse. Given that international capital has not pulled out completely, the situation is still fluid and I myself have heard rumors of smaller companies that have decided to pull out of Turkey. In the travel sector, for instance, the Los Angeles Times reported that Albania—the same Albania that used to be off-limits to foreigners during the Cold War under the Enver Hoxha regime—has now replaced Turkey on the cruise circuit.

While I believe that the trend towards reversing some of globalization’s more devastating side effects will continue throughout the world in the post-Brexit and post-Trump world, it will be important to watch for the results of this type of economic nationalism. These are worrying times, perhaps not for the ruling elite (and famous celebrities like footballers) who likely have stockpiles of cash and are using this as a cheap publicity stunt, but certainly for the normal citizen who struggles to make ends meet as it is. Encouraging the everyday person to trade in their foreign currency for one that has lost 11 percent of its value in the last month alone will not help, rather it will exacerbate their difficulties.

 

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Gold Values Have Plummeted Over The Last Month. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.bigpara.com/altin/cumhuriyet-altini-fiyati/1ay

 

By encouraging people to buy gold, for instance, the value of government issued coins has actually gone down; on 1 December 2016 the value was 887.90 Turkish Liras but following Mr. Erdogan’s announcement on 5 December 2016 the value has fallen to 855.29 on 15 December 2016. For a working class Turk in a country with a 1,300 Lira minimum wage, that loss of over thirty Liras in fourteen days means a lot. This is why it is unfortunate that footballers—extremely wealthy celebrities that are looked up to by people from all walks of society—should be following the government in encouraging those with much less wealth to do things that may not be in their immediate best interests, economically at least.

Turkish Football Unites a Country in the Face of Terrorism

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The day after a violent attack outside of Besiktas’s Vodafone Arena left more than forty dead and dozens injured, the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK) claimed responsibility. As I wrote earlier, the attack can be seen as a threat from Kurdish separatists who have been emboldened by the deepening crisis in Syria. In such a divisive environment, with emotions running high and hope running low, it was refreshing to see that sports could—even in a country where it more often divides than unites—bring people together.

Cumhuriyet newspaper wrote a moving piece entitled “The Line Between Life and Death Outside the Stadium”, remembering the victims of the attack, including the stadium’s head of security Vefa Karakurdu and stadium store employee Tunc Uncu—a young man who paid the ultimate price for doing his job: selling football shirts. The Besiktas club chose to cancel the season tickets for their cup match on Wednesday, announcing that all proceeds would go to the victim’s families, while club president Fikret Orman reminded everyone that “No one has the strength to divide this country”.

On Monday night, 12 December 2016, Besiktas’s main fan group Carsi will begin a march to the stadium at 19:03 (7:03pm) with the slogan “[This] neighborhood is ours, [this] country is ours, [this] love is ours”. Here, the football fans are using their role as an important actor in Turkish civil society, doing what the current government has failed to do—unite people regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity, behind a common national cause. In a country where democratic institutions have been constantly weakened, organic social movements like these are essential. As their post reads, they aim to do it “without separating anyone” and “without saying young or old, male or female, me or you”. They have invited all fan groups to join them, shoulder to shoulder, and I hope for a massive turnout. In this case, sport has the potential to unite people behind the common cause of the country—not the arbitrary divisions of ethnic background that drove the TAK to carry out such a disgusting attack.

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Carsi Do Their Civic Duty. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/spor/643766/cArsi__Besiktas_ta_patlamanin_oldugu_yere_yuruyecek__Semt_bizim__ask_bizim.html

 

The fact that this attack has even brought fans from bitter rivals Bursaspor and Besiktas together shows that, even in the darkest of times, there can be something positive. If it wasn’t the case life wouldn’t be worth living; another example of how football is our live in microcosm. Bursaspor fan Çağıl Alperen Çörten told his friend’s story on social media: Mr. Çörten’s friend had tucked his Green and White Bursaspor scarf into his jacket on the way to his sister’s house, when the bomb went off. As he took shelter in the chaos, he hadn’t realized that his scarf had been revealed. It didn’t matter; Besiktas fans took the Bursaspor fan to safety, fed him, and got him to his sister’s safely. One Bursaspor fan group Tweeted that “Bursa is ours, Besiktas is ours. The country is above all else. We thank Besiktas fans for their thoughts, terror has no color”. This latter point is important; the “color” can be interpreted both in football terms but also in ethnic terms.

 

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Bitter Rivals Re-Unite In The Face Of a Graver Danger. Images Courtesy Of: http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/futbol/643770/Sosyal_medyanin_konustugu_paylasim___BJK_dusmaligi_benim_icin_bitmistir_.html

 

Another important development is that the police—criticized for their heavy-handed tactics during Gezi—have been embraced by the people once more. The young officers who died are just human beings like the rest of us, tools in a bureaucratic system that they likely cannot fathom. As in the United States, it is important to understand that law enforcement does not always mean to repress, and that all police are not the same. There are good and bad officers of the law, just as there are good and bad people. Galatasaray’s Twitter page reminded us that we need to stand together; recognizing that the good people in life must stick together is the first step in actually standing together.

 

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Galatasaray Send a Good Message: https://twitter.com/Galatasaray/status/807983178677948416/photo/1

 

When Galatasaray footballer Selcuk Inan was called to the stands by fans, he made the unprecedented move of bringing a police officer with him.

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Selcuk Inan’s Unprecedented Move. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/futbol/643816/Selcuk_inan__Elim_ayagim_bosaldi_.html

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Selcuk Inan Is Not Alone During His Long Walk. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.fanatik.com.tr/2016/12/11/galatasarayli-taraftarlardan-polislere-moral-destegi-1266770

 

In football culture, the police are often seen as the enemy; any football fan can tell you that ACAB means “All Cops Are Bastards”. In this case the fans didn’t agree, chanting for the police, and Mr. Inan ended up calling his trip to the stands “the longest distance of my life”.

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Galatasaray Fans Voice Their Support For Police Officers Outside The Turk Telekom Arena. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.fanatik.com.tr/2016/12/11/galatasarayli-taraftarlardan-polislere-moral-destegi-1266770

 

Moved by Mr. Inan’s long walk, Yasin Oztekin took another unprecedented step—he celebrated his goal with…police officers, while footballers did the same in an amateur match elsewhere in Turkey (http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/futbol/643694/Golu_atti…_Polislere_kostu_.html . This display of unity was moving, and shows that the only division that matters—at least to me—is the one between good and bad people, kind and cruel people.

 

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A Moving Moment. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.fanatik.com.tr/2016/12/11/yasin-oztekin-az-kalsin-aglayacaktim-1266774

 

The tale of two football coach’s response to this tragedy is telling in this respect. In the wake of the attack Romanian coach Marius Şumudica, who had recently agreed to coach Turkish side Gaziantepspor, backed out. Following the attack Mr. Şumudica re-signed with his team in Romania just hours after bidding his players farewell, saying “I wouldn’t go to Turkey [even] if I got one million Euros a month”. While Mr. Şumudica cannot be faulted for fearing for his life, it wasn’t the most professional of responses. Contrast this with former Besiktas coach Slaven Bilic’s response. Now at West Ham United, Slaven Bilic is one of my favorite figures in the sports world. After his team’s draw with Liverpool, Mr. Bilic had this to say:

“I would like to dedicate these points to people in Turkey because we were there for two years, me and my staff, and they are following us big time. I feel for them, my prayers are for them, it’s unbelievable what happened there. I was all around the world, working or on holiday, and they are maybe the best people I ever met. So it’s very sad what’s happening in one of the best cities and one of the best countries…not because of the nature of the country but because of the people. They are so friendly, so good, so warm and everything, that it’s basically tearing me apart what’s happening there. Big condolences for the families of the victims.”

 

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Slaven Bilic, One Of My Favorite Figures In World Football. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/news/slaven-bilic-dedicates-west-ham-9439540

 

I could not have said it better myself. The Turkish people are certainly some of the warmest and kindest people that I have ever met, and I know for a fact that the way they treat foreign guests is amazing. I know it from the way my American father fell in love with the country, I know it from my own experiences. This is why we must—as humans—separate the governments from the people. I might not agree with what the Turkish government does, but I know that the people are not the government.

This is why the divisions in the United States are to troubling—one might not think the same way as someone else politically but it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t like them as a person. On the flight from Miami to Istanbul a few days ago I spoke with a former U.S. Marine of Palestinian descent who told me “I am Palestinian, like you are Turkish. I feel Palestinian, like you feel Turkish. But I am also an American just like you are an American. I don’t believe in attacking foreign countries, but if America comes under attack at home I will defend my country”. This is the kind of sentiment that I agree with, and that is why I find the situation in both Turkey and the United States so troubling. The divisions perpetuated by governments—whether between ethnic Kurds and ethnic Turks or African-Americans and White Americans, the GLBT community and the straight community or males and females—do not help anyone. The globalizing world has tried to deepen these divisions, weakening the nation state in an attempt to reduce humanity to one history-less mass; one whose only values lie in consumption. The nation-state does not have to be a force of fascist notions of superiority, it can also be one that unites people of all backgrounds under common human values. Unfortunately, it is when we blindly allow governments and politics to dictate our values, without questioning anything, that we face a grave danger.

A Marginal Sociologist’s Take On America V: Dispatches from the (Battle)Field of Academia

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A few weeks ago I woke up to some very alarming news reporting that the San Francisco Teacher’s Union was offering a lesson plan to area high school teachers that describes U.S. President-elect Donald Trump a “racist and sexist man”. Regardless of one’s political beliefs, such indoctrination of high school students is reprehensible. To me it seems like an attempt to re-engineer society in the way that communist societies did. A quote I have used before, from Miroslav Vanek and Pavel Mucke’s Velvet Revolutions explains it nicely:

Among other things, they launched a campaign against ‘reactionary’ values and ‘bourgeois and petit-bourgeois relics,’ with the goal of controlling as many ‘human souls’ as possible and creating a ‘new human being’ within a ‘progressive’ society constructed (or rather re-arranged) according to the Soviet Model (Vanek and Mucke 2016, 10).

I have seen these sentiments in my own graduate seminars, when a student proposed that the best way to end discrimination in America was to “educate them at an early age”. She proposed teaching children as young as five about same-sex marriage. While her aims are certainly noble, I can think of at least a few parents who wouldn’t be very happy with this—and rightly so. Parents have a right to raise their own children as they see fit, that is not the state’s job. I argued that engineering societies—through education—is a slippery slope but it, predictably, fell on deaf ears.

 

Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s very readable novel Herland was assigned in one of my seminars and—if one gets past the extreme feminist perspective—one can see that Gilman is warning against a totalitarian, and borderline fascistic, society where the community, rather than families, educate children. The only result is a sort of brainwashing, where all emotions—specifically human emotions like love—have been erased. Of course my fellow sociologists could not see this, they could only opine on how utopic a society without men would be. They could only opine on how a misogynist male rapist is the same as the misogynist male who opens the door for a woman because “she is too weak”. As much as they may not like it, I personally will continue to open doors for women. It is, after all, the right thing to do to help out fellow human beings—male or female.

To me this kind of discourse, at a university no less, is disturbing. It is a totalitarian thought process completely detached from reality; this kind of societal engineering is the purest form of the rationalized society Max Weber warned against. The worst thing is that this hate emanates from ostensibly “progressive” people; the people who organize cry-ins and lobby for “safe spaces”, the same people who have made “I’m offended” the new buzz phrase of America. But do they ever stop to think about how equating rapists with those who open doors for women is problematic? Or that saying “being white is racist” is a racist statement in and of itself? The short answer is…they don’t.

At a small get-together with friends a few weeks ago the conversation came to my personal life. A student I am friendly with asked me if I was worried about my (Turkish) girlfriend coming to visit me in the U.S. I asked why I would be afraid? The student said “Because Trump will put her in a camp for being a Muslim”. I wanted to ask the person to specify what kind of camp—labor or death—but resisted. The truth is, this kind of discourse is offensive to me; insinuating that someone I love could be murdered is extremely hurtful. But I don’t blame this person for their misguided views since it isn’t their fault.

Arguably, it all boils down to the failure of America’s education system. Examples have been pouring in from campuses all across America in recent days. At UNLV, a math professor was shamed for daring to use the term “illegal aliens” rather than the politically correct “undocumented immigrants” on his personal Facebook page. Apparently, free speech is no longer the norm on American campuses. At my former school, the University of Texas, a professor of philosophy admitted that he cannot teach his course because of political correctness. Professor Daniel Bonevac said:

Students clam up as soon as conversation veers close to anything controversial and one side might be viewed as politically incorrect. The open exchange of ideas that used to make courses such as Contemporary Moral Problems exciting doesn’t happen […] For decades the University of Texas at Austin has been an ideal place to do that. Students bring a wide range of opinions. They’re open-minded. They argue for their own views vigorously while listening carefully to the other side and treating its advocates respectfully […] One or two students who don’t share those qualities mentioned above can shut down discussion and destroy such a course.

I can sympathize with Professor Bonevac because I have seen this toxic environment in my own classes.

The worst part is that, even when the metaphor of “battleground” used above becomes real, educators still don’t know how to react. After a brutal attack on students at Ohio State University, one student said administrators “are more scared of the Right and Trump than they are of this terrorist attack that just happened on our campus. It’s sickening to me because I feel like they are gambling with my life in order to reach this multiculturalism lie that they worship in all of my classes — and it’s crazy.” If you don’t believe it, just look at a Facebook post from The Ohio State University’s Director of Residence Life.

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A Strange Post Made Stranger By the #Hashtags. Image Courtesy Of: http://usherald.com/liberal-apologists-already-urging-sympathy-osu-terror-attacker/

 

In short, this is ridiculous. There was a vicious attack, yet instead of condemning it a University official is saying something quite different. In a bid to pay respects to the attacker, the University is actually insulting the victims. It is an odd situation indeed, and it shows a fundamental lack of moral sense. The question is, how did we get here? I would argue that it is a result of the  most glaring example of America’s failure to educate: the censorship of literature.

I am a proponent of literature since I believe that the best fiction can tell a person more about life than most positivist social science research. Auguste Comte may argue with me but I stand with my perspective, especially after a Virginia school district decided to erase certain literary masterpieces from their curriculum: “The Accomack County Public Schools (Virginia) have banned the classic books The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird because a parent complained about the racial slurs contained in them”.

This is saddening news since it doesn’t bode well for the American education system. Two weeks ago I saw at my own university library the perils of this failure to recognize literature’s value. I asked the student working at the front desk for a copy of The Great Gatsby. The student asked me the author, and I—incredulous—just said “Fitzgerald”. The response? “Which one…F. Scott?”. The idea of a university student not knowing the author of one of the most enduring classics of American literature is disconcerting to say the least. Education is not just about 2+2 being 4 or elementary Spanish or French. It is also about achieving a certain level of culture, a view of the world that only literature can provide.

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A Masterpiece. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4671.The_Great_Gatsby

It would be helpful if educators focused less on political indoctrination and more on making the students of our country well-rounded citizens; giving students the valuable skills of critical thinking and emphasizing individual thought is one of the most important—and long-lasting—gifts of education. It is dismaying to see the quality of education slowly decline as educators are more focused more on presenting personal political views in the classroom than teaching things of real value. Politics are ephemeral, literature is eternal.

Why the Blast at Istanbul’s Vodafone Arena May Prove to be A Pivotal Moment For Turkey

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I arrived in Istanbul today for what I thought would be a relaxing vacation with my girlfriend. I jokingly told my friends something could happen, since tragic “events” have a way of ocurring when I leave or arrive in Turkey. Unfortunately tonight, I was proved right. And it pains me that my simple joke was prescient. I don’t write this post from Istanbul just because the attack happened outside of a stadium and that it relates to sport, I write it because it may truly be a pivotal moment in Turkish history.

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Image Courtesy Of: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/10/bomb-outside-istanbul-football-stadium-causes-multiple-casualties

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Images Courtesy Of: https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/2372661/fifteen-dead-istanbul-football-stadium-bombs/

On the night of 10 December 2016, after Beşiktaş’s Superleague victory over rivals Bursaspor, a vicious attack took place outside of Beşiktaş’s Vodafone arena. At the outset the BBC reported 15 dead and 69 wounded from an attack that consisted of a car bomb and suicide bomber. As of 3:00am CNN Turk (a branch of Turkish State Media), was only reporting 20 wounded and no dead. At 4:27am, the same CNN Turk reported 29 dead and 166 wounded. So…why the silence until after four in the morning, when most (sensible) people are asleep? Why the changing casualty figures, when foreign media was reporting higher numbers? I believe this reluctance to tell the truth stems from the fact that the government knows that they are facing a huge—and possibly pivotal—challenge.

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At 3:29am there was no mention of numbers. Image Courtesy of the Author.

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At 4:27am, when most (sensible) people are asleep, numbers are announced. Image Courtesy of the Author.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan released a statement that read: “A terrorist attack has been carried out against our security forces and our citizens. It has been understood that the explosions after the Besiktas-Bursaspor football game aimed to maximise casualties. As a result of these attacks unfortunately we have martyrs and wounded.”

Sadly—like so much in Turkish state media—this statement doesn’t tell the whole truth. The fact that Mr. Erdogan claimed that the attack “aimed to maximise casualties” is, in fact, false, and therein lies the danger. If the perpetrators—whoever they may be—wanted to maximise casualties the attack would have taken place during the game, when the 43,500 capacity stadium was full. The fact that the attack took place two hours after the match and didn’t target civilians, but appeared to target police, shows that there was some sort of twisted restraint in this attack.

Here, it seems that the target of the stadium was chosen in order to send a message, a twisted and violent message that says “We can do worse damage if we wanted to. Right now we are attacking the state, not citizens. But if we want to target citizens, we can do that too”. Indeed, if the attack had taken place during the match, it would have been even worse (given that already 29 have been confirmed dead, the statement “even worse” is contextual). And that is the scariest thing about this attack. It is tragic that there were so many casualites in (yet another) senseless act of violence, but it is chilling that this may only be a prelude to much worse in Turkey. And if that is indeed the case, we as human beings, need to be aware.

The Chapecoense Plane Crash As Collective Effervescence: The Response of the Football World Shows the Human Side of Football In The Face Of An Inhumane Industrial Football (and Extreme Capitalism)

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A Tragic Disaster That May Have Lasting Consequences. Images Courtesy Of: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-38152105

 

Monday’s tragic air crash, which killed 71 of 77 passengers, has grabbed the world’s attention. Since football is the global game, it has allowed us all—as football fans—to have a rare moment of “collective effervescence”, a sociological concept defined by Emile Durkheim as an event that can bring people together by unifying a group. In this case, the group is—quite literally—global society. The outpouring of support from all walks of society, regardless of nationality, has been refreshing to see in a world that is becoming more and more fragmented. But some speculations as to the cause of the crash are worrisome, as they reveal a systemic failure where the desire to make a profit was put above the duty to preserve human life.

The introduction to Routledge’s Soccer and Disaster, a book I have used in my own research, explains this kind of mourning:

The links between sport, social identity and community have been a central focus of much sport sociology and history, and these links have often been thrown into sharp focus at the time of air crashes and other incidents that have resulted in the untimely deaths of football players and managers. The deep, emotional connections that football supporters have with ‘their’ teams ensure that when tragedies befall team players and other club representatives, fans often feel an acute sense of shared loss. In the wake of many of the air crashes that have blighted football, supporters and wider communities have gone into deep mourning, expressing their connection to those that have died (Darby, Johnes, and Mellor, 2005: 3).

Perhaps the only positive to result from this unfortunate disaster is that the outpouring of support—for a South American air disaster—has come from all over the football world, showing that a tragedy in the global South is recognized in the global North; the economic and cultural lines that divide the world have been transcended by this horrific accident. Again, Routledge’s Soccer and Disaster notes how this has not always been the case:

Images of some crowd disasters, such as Hillsborough (1989) where 96 Liverpool fans died, were broadcast around the globe and have become lodged in the game’s public history; yet others that took place outside the western world, like the Lima tragedy in 1964 or the disaster in Buenos Aires four years later, are remembered far less widely beyond those immediately affected (Darby, Johnes, and Mellor, 2005: 2).

Below, we see how truly international the response has been, encompassing both the local and the global. Brazil’s famous Corinthians Tweeted their condolences while also encouraging “all clubs [to] unite and pray for people’s lives”:

 

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/29/football/chapecoense-forca-chape-neymar-social-media/index.html

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/11/chapecoense-tributes-pour-football-world-161129091628532.html

 

As Chapecoense’s fans prayed in the churches of their home town, their rivals in Colombia also sent messages of condolence. Atletico Nacional called for Chapecoense to be named champions of the Copa Sudamericana, the cup they had been traveling to play for, while fellow Colombian side Millonarios also sent a message:

 

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-38151694

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/29/football/chapecoense-forca-chape-neymar-social-media/index.html

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/11/chapecoense-tributes-pour-football-world-161129091628532.html

 

Throughout South America similar feelings poured in. Both the Argentine FA and Mexican FA sent similar messages while flags flew at half mast outside the South American Football Confederation’s headquarters in Paraguay:

 

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/29/football/chapecoense-forca-chape-neymar-social-media/index.html

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/11/chapecoense-tributes-pour-football-world-161129091628532.html

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-38151694

 

In Europe too, the support has been steady. In England Arsenal, Chelsea, and Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney all sent messages. Liverpool fans, perhaps due to their own experience with collective trauma, commemorated the Chapecoense disaster during a match:

 

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Images Courtesy Of: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/11/chapecoense-tributes-pour-football-world-161129091628532.html

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-38151694

 

In Spain, Real Madrid held a collective minute of silence ahead of a training session while Barcelona and Sevilla both sent condolences as well. Individually, former Sevilla coach Unai Emery and Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas also Tweeted their support:

 

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-38151694

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/11/chapecoense-tributes-pour-football-world-161129091628532.html

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/29/football/chapecoense-forca-chape-neymar-social-media/index.html

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/11/chapecoense-tributes-pour-football-world-161129091628532.html

 

Elsewhere in Europe there was support from Portugal’s Benfica (who played the last match with Italy’s FC Torino before the Superga disaster in 1949), from top German sides Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, and Bayer Leverkusen, and Turkish side Galatasaray.

 

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/11/chapecoense-tributes-pour-football-world-161129091628532.html 

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/29/football/chapecoense-forca-chape-neymar-social-media/index.html

 

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/11/chapecoense-tributes-pour-football-world-161129091628532.html

 

Even the new Wembley Stadium, the epitome of football’s extreme capitalism and erasure of the past, lit the arch in Chapecoense’s colors. So what does this kind of unprecedented international support for Chapecoense mean? To me it shows the transnational force that football really is, an opportunity to create some sort of meaningful connection in an increasingly fragmented world that has continually pressured local and national voices into silence.

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-38151694

 

But there is also another side that shows the effect of this transnational extreme capitalism. After news broke that the plane may have run out of fuel, fans were understandably angry. Part of the reason is that like any other part of culture, sports is not separate from the political; as the Guardian reports:

The tragedy came at the end of what has been a horrendous year for Brazil, as bad news and political upheaval followed tragedy. An epidemic of the Zika virus has been blamed for an outbreak of the birth defect microcephaly, but nobody understands why it is concentrated in Brazil’s poorer north-east. Economists are struggling to understand why South America’s biggest economy refuses to grow out of its worst recession in a century.

Public life has been darkened by a sprawling bribery and kickbacks scandal at state-run oil company Petrobras that has led to the jailing of dozens of politicians, executives and intermediaries. The scandal helped drive the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff in August – though she was never accused of graft – and allegations now threaten her successor and former vice-president, Michel Temer.

The Chapecoense air disaster might become an introspective event for Brazilian society, much like the 1987 Alianza Lima disaster was for Peru (also see Panfichi and Vich in Soccer and Disaster). One very readable story on the Economist’s blog gives us a few clues as to why this disaster connects capitalism, sports, and society. Focusing on reports that the plane ran out of fuel, the Economist focuses on why? The plane was scheduled to stop in northern Bolivia for fuel but never did, and “According to O Globo, a Brazilian news outlet, the first leg of the journey from São Paulo to Santa Cruz de la Sierra was delayed by around one hour. That meant that the refuelling stop in Cobija was not possible, as the airport there shuts down at night. So, the pilot opted to fly directly from Santa Cruz de la Sierra to Medellín”.

The Economist further explains that the range of the plane was less than the distance between the airports of São Paulo and Medellín;

The range of the plane model, a British AVRO RJ-85 jet, is 2,965km with a full tank of fuel, according to JACDEC, an air-safety website. That is less than the distance between the two airports. Global civil-aviation regulations state that any plane flying internationally must carry enough fuel to make it to an alternate airport, and enough to fly for 30 minutes after that. And yet somehow, the plane was on course to arrive safely. Mr Quiroga had requested for priority to land with air-traffic control, but he was rebuffed: another plane had a fuel leak and needed to land first. Only after that, when the jet had already begun to descend, did he declare an emergency.

It is not clear how or why the last-minute change in flight plan was approved. According to El Deber, a Bolivian newspaper, airport officials in Santa Cruz de la Sierra raised several questions about it. Mr Quiroga reportedly made various verbal guarantees that the plane had enough fuel for the trip.

This is macabre news indeed, and the Economist further uncovers things I have not seen in the main-stream (state) media:

Other considerations may have been on the pilot’s mind. Mr Quiroga was a co-owner of Lamia airlines. As such he had a unique set of incentives in this situation. Postponing a chartered flight in a time-sensitive industry is not good for business. Once in the air, telling officials that the plane is running out of fuel is less than desirable: the penalty for any firm being caught flouting regulations is huge. It is too early to say whether such factors played a part in his decision-making.

It is also unclear why a top-tier football team was flying to a major sporting event with an airline like Lamia in the first place. The firm was founded in 2009 in Mérida, a small city in western Venezuela. Last year Lamia Bolivia, a separate business entity, was set up. The airline claims to specialise in chartered flights, particularly for football teams. The only functioning plane it has ever owned is the 17-year-old jet that crashed into the muddy Colombian mountainside.

The players of Chapecoense were not the only footballers to fly with Lamia. Few airlines provide chartered flights in Latin America, and none does it cheaper. “A flight that another company charges you $100,000 for, Lamia offered for $60,000,” an industry insider told La Nacion, an Argentine newspaper. Among Lamia’s customers were Atletico Nacional, Chapecoense’s would-be opponents in Medellín, and Argentina’s national football team. The squad’s luminaries, including Lionel Messi, perhaps the greatest player of all time, boarded the doomed Lamia plane just two weeks before the crash, flying from Buenos Aires to Belo Horizonte for a World Cup qualifier.

The influence of extreme capitalism—through industrial football, in this case—is not hard to see and it is tragic given the importance of the Chapecoense team to its community. After all, football should be about the community and not money. The pilot did not want to hurt the business he owned—since the bottom line was more important than human life—and therefore chose not to report the gravity of the situation. This—if true—is just personal greed. As for the Chapecoense team choosing to fly with Lamia? This, again, can be chalked up to economics. A savings of $40,000, as reported above, is significant for a team that has to make money in the world of industrial football. Do I think that cutting corners on air travel—to save money for the club at the expense of human life—is acceptable? Of course not, it is reprehensible! But do I understand how it could happen? Unfortunately, in the era of industrial football (and extreme capitalism), where money is one of the few guiding “principles” humanity has left, then I do understand why a team can make such a choice resulting in this kind of heinous tragedy.

It leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and even leads me to believe that Ronaldinho’s offer to play for the club is just a publicity stunt to get him back into football. I hope he proves me wrong, but in the era of industrial football nothing will surprise me. I hope that this collective effervescence can spawn a new resistance to industrial football, but given the results of Hillsborough—which only increased the rationalization of stadiums in the name of “safety” that served to increase the accumulation of capital, I am not so sure. As Darby, Johnes, and Mellor explain:

It took the 1989 disaster at Hillsborough for the country’s [England’s] top stadia to be totally overhauled. The move to all-seater grounds in the English game’s top two divisions may have been underpinned as much by the desire to eradicate hooliganism as it was to ensure the safety of fans but it had a radical impact on not only the game’s built environment but also the whole culture of fandom. Ticket prices escalated and leading stadia became more sanitized, maybe even quieter (Darby, Johnes, and Mellor, 2005: 5).

I hope Brazilian and world football take a lesson from this tragic event and put a stop to the trend where money is coming to be valued over human lives. I stand in solidarity with the Chapecoense club and mourn this (seemingly) preventable disaster.

Rest In Peace.

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-38152105

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