Football: Mafia, business or sport?
December 11, 2016
SAN SEBASTIAN —This Sunday’s edition of many popular newspapers around Europe all included references to a small, but for the most part partially ignored fact: the sport of football (or soccer as Americans call it), is run and managed by top executives that have little or no ‘interest’ (ironically speaking) in sport.
Quite the contrary, many times it has everything to do with amassing illegal and sinful amounts of money at the cost of impulsive, emotionally driven and at times, mentally disturbed consumers, who spend their savings in supporting fictitious sports teams that offer nothing or very little in return: the compensation of knowing that they (supposedly the fans) are victorious, important and talented.
This farce is lived out not only every Sunday in Europe, but now – thanks to on-demand television and other profit-thirsty multinationals, during the week as well. Fans can see their favorite teams play at the stadium or at their nearby (or not so nearby) football stadium, on LCD television sets at bars or even in the comfort of their own homes if they are willing to pay the price. And the sad truth of the matter is that if ignorance is bliss, the ignorance of football fans across the world about the money and profits generated by such fleeting and superficial pleasure may very well be the source and the solution to world crises.
Unconvinced? Let’s take a look at some of the facts and figures surrounding the ‘professional’ career (if kicking a ball through a goal can be considered as such), to verify whether or not people have been systematically misguided into believing that football is a sport or at most a comfort or interest worth pursuing.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, José Mourinho, Lionel Messi, Neymar Jr. … these are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to taking a look at the massive, lopsided and downright sinful amounts of money that the ‘business’ (mafia?) of football moves in Europe and sadly enough, around the world.
What makes the headlines in the newspapers across Europe is what makes it even more pathetic: no concern for the incommensurate, hedonistic salaries of these sports figures – but the fact that they might be evading taxes. Tax evasion is the least of our concerns.
How can you pay Cristiano Ronaldo, let alone any human being for that matter – the likes of €400,000 per goal? Who else do you know can make € 203 million euros at the age of 31? Has it ever crossed your mind where all that money comes from? Sure, you hear (and even see) the media hype surrounding these sports figures: they sell their own brand of football cleats, underwear or in Messi’s case, maybe run some retro restaurant. The buck doesn’t stop there: casinos, hotels, restaurants…. all in the name of famous sports figures.
The real shame in this scenario is that we fans are fools enough to watch games or matches of 22 people running around a football in uniforms paying massive amounts of money in ticket sales, rented pay-per-view television and possibly even souvenir-related uniforms and badges that represent nothing more than the superficial image of a city or a football club that neither represents nor provides society with support, upright values, role models or even money to meet the needs of their own fans nor those of their season ticket holders.
Some (not all) football fans, even turn into basket cases or fanatics that are willing to place their lives and the lives of their friends in danger to defend the name of their football team. More than football teams, they are reminiscent of the street gang phenomenon in the urban canters of the United States or even D.F. in Mexico.
They are sheep without a shepherd – and rightly so. Their stars and role models do nothing more than collect and amass fortunes at incomprehensible rates. The most pathetic ‘stars’ even make public appearances at children hospitals, elderly homes or even poor houses to enhance their image as “likeable, even admirable” human beings that have earned some honorific titles that guarantee their ethereal status.
Exaggerating? I think not. Take the case of Diego Armando Maradona in Argentina – the footballer (soccer star for Americans) turned repented drug addict runs his own religion since he retired over twenty years ago. This is not the “dark” or “hidden” side of football — this is football today. It is not a fun-loving, family and healthily competitive athletic activity — it has been turned into a mafia run by football clubs and politicians that abuse their power and influence to blind the citizens of their cities, of their entire countries…placing false hopes of salvation or compensation for the harsh realities they live day to day.
So is it okay if I am a Madrid, a Barcelona, an Osasuna or a Real Sociedad fan? Sure…you can even be a fan of Logronés… what matters is the sport and entertainment value – but let’s remember that entertainment value has a price and should never exceed the hours of hard labor and dedication that everyday ordinary citizens exercise in their own profession. Branding and marketing “experts” are cunning sharks that bite at the worst of times – inviting unwary consumers to spend inordinate amounts of money on t-shirts, tickets and other emblematic material that contribute nothing but airs of vain glory to our society today.