This weeks readings were focused on defining the intrinsic, but complex relationship between politics and sport within different civilizations. The articles, “While the World Watched” and “A Dream Re-Routed” reflected an inherent and historical correlation between these two societal entities.
The first piece, written by journalist Wright Thompson, described the contextual circumstances, underlying political and humanitarian issues, and the identifiable cultural principles that majorly composed the experience and legacy of the 1978 World Cup in Argentina. Throughout the 20th and 21st century, winning the World Cup has been considered universally to be a uniquely defining moment of historical achievement, global recognition, and unified patriotism for every participating nation. Its value has not lessened with time and within the modern era, each individual nation’s fervent desire to bring home a World Cup trophy reflects more than simply a transcontinental love for football. This athletic achievement inherently represents a unified, societal demand for globally recognized respect, and winning the World Cup will immediately cause a countries’ collective identity, political autonomy, and cultural distinctions to gain a level of undeniable credibility. This heightened level of patriotism can be easily identified within Argentinian culture in regards to their 1986 World Cup victory; but as the article details, the present-day idea of this “heroic” 1986 national team and their victorious legacy has been intentionally manipulated and emphasized in order to overshadow the prior Argentinian achievement of 1978 and the devastation it gradually became associated with. In order to accurately visualize the deeply felt trauma and cultural sensitivity that will permanently define this historical moment for many Argentineans, the author analyzes different personal experiences and memories of diverse citizens who were persecuted, censored, and subjected to unimaginable methods of torture by their own government during the late 20th century and the 1978 World Cup. These previously unknown, primary experiences that occurred within the same physical location and time period as a historically renowned event provide the audience with a better understanding of the connection between sports and politics. The World Cup is often associated with athleticism, teamwork, patriotism, and unity; but for the countless victims and survivors of the “Dirty War”, it is difficult to imagine the level of sorrow and resentment which is identified to that period of their nation’s history. It is probably more accurate to assume these survivors associate the World Cup with political exploitation, political distrust and division, and ideological discrimination instead of the other previously stated characteristics.
The second article, “A Dream Re-Routed” analyzes the experience of two teenage brothers named Lizandro and Diego Saravia, who both deeply loved the game of soccer and held a promising opportunity to play at the collegiate level in the United States (their immediate families’ home for over 8 years) before they were unexpectedly and unfortunately deported back to their native El Salvador. Both Lizandro and Diego were high school graduates and benevolent members within their local community, and their illegal emigration to the United States was a decision made by their guardians and happened when they were both too young to consent or decide their own path. Ultimately, the sole reason for the boys becoming identified by ICE, taken from their families without a chance to say goodbye, and then sent to a foreign place that was so unfamiliar and intimidating, was due to Lizandro’s truthful communication with the federal agency regarding his collegiate soccer scholarship. The authors, Priya Desai and Ben Teitelbaum, were able to present these personal experiences of the two young players in order to highlight the unjust and unfortunate connection between politics and sports that can re-shape someone’s life for the better or for the worst. Thankfully, both boys were given an opportunity to play soccer at a university in Nicaragua, but it was heartbreaking to identify the political influence of strict immigration protocols within the lives of two good-natured athletic players.