I love sports. I watch them, I play them, I read about them, I talk about them with friends, always trying not to sound too bro-ishly knowledgeable, even though I usually am. ;-)
I've been so conflicted the past several days by the nature of sport. The meta-narrative that encompasses the global sports marketplace has moved so far beyond the frivolity of stick ball in the cul-de-sac or kids shooting hoops after school. The pick-up soccer of so many kids' youth grows up and fades into a global scheme of underhand deals, machismo, abuse and greed. Yes, greed is the prime mover, that which compels people who ostensibly love soccer as much as I to become blinded by power and money and to tarnish the joy of the game that started for them on a beat-up patch of grass in their hometown.
As elated as I am for the start of the World Cup, the chance to cheer on my US National Team and to see Joga Bonito on display, I am well aware of the discontent within the very borders that will host the games. Many Brazilians, though they love futebol, feel hoodwinked by their government or by FIFA and bemoan the lavish spending on football pitches while children go hungry, while infrastructure crumbles.
Millions will gather to celebrate soccer, and their respective countries. People from different backgrounds, economic classes, regions will be unified under their flag, unified in their love for the sport. But then the greed. How many sex slaves and prostitutes will roam the streets of Brazil in these coming weeks forced to work by greedy pimps who know the business opportunity at their doorstep. This teeming, young, largely male mass of people will go looking for something other than football between games, and what abuse, drugs, coercion will have been wrought to make sure they find it.
I love soccer, I hate the global business. I hate the betting syndicates that rig matches, the rich, powerful men in suits who make decisions for their own good rather than the good of the game or the globe. The opportunistic pimps who take advantage of what should be a celebration and turn it to a nightmare for many women and girls.
And Then There's Qatar
As if the tension in Brazil doesn't cast enough pallor on the Copa Mundial, allegations of tremendous sketchiness abound in Qatar's successful bid to host the 2022 World Cup. The whole effort may topple if the allegations are proven. The cynic in me feels there is little hope of that happening, but maybe, just maybe I'm wrong. Maybe there is too much evidence stacked against the greedy SOB's who have taken over our game, the beautiful game and made it into a trade-able commodity.
But in Qatar, the scourge is far greater than bribery, blackmail or whatever else powerful people did to rig the vote. Qatar has turned into a modern slave-state thanks to the World Cup. Too many migrant workers have already died in Qatar under terrible, hot, slave-like labor conditions, and there are many stadiums left to build. One life lost was too many, how many more are greedy construction corporations who are hand in hand with the Qatari government willing to sacrifice?
So, you see, I'm conflicted, determined to pull good and beauty from the sport and do what I can to fight the greedy, ugly parts.