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Euro 2012: Withering away of the state
Patriotism is a post-war relic! No, please don't jump off your seats in this part of the world. We are talking about Europe and the three-week long football pageant that the white man's world will celebrate in the playing fields of Ukraine and Poland with a generous pinch of jingoism, a nostalgic throwback from the dark days of nationalistic war games.
With borders blurring and the force of finance giving nations a rainbow hue, football will once more seek excellence in the realm of composite and cosmopolitan culture.
Just imagine, the most photographed face of the Italian team, two-time champions of Europe, is a Ghanaian named Mario Barwuah Balotelli, who has already raised his voice against racism and threatened to walk away if taunted.
For Germany, three-time champions of Europe, one Jerome Boetang will anchor the defence. Mario and Jerome could have been in Ghana's starting line-up along side Kevin-Prince, the other Boetang brother.
Instances like this are strewn all across European teams. Mesut Ozil could have chosen Turkey if he felt like, or Tunisia could have gained by the presence of Sami Khedira, Ozil's midfield accomplice.
The withering away of the narrow nationalism started a long time ago and the current crop of players made a statement by visiting Auschwitz or whatever is left of the concentration camp. Of course, memories refuse to fade, but when Germany will take on the Netherlands on June 13, the only history fans will remember will be sporting ones, 1990, 1988 and 1974.
The glories of past battles, the document of hatred and human annihilation is truly dead and buried. Rudd Gullit and Franck Rijkaard, helped by a white striker (Marco van Basten) of immense quality, earned the Oranje Brigade their first (and only) Major in football in 1988. Gullit dedicated the triumph to Nelson Mandela, then yet to be released from prison.
The voices of dissent are still heard, once in a while. The French team of Zinedine Zidane (Algerian descent), Patrick Vieira (Senegalese by birth), Marcel Dessailly (like Balotelli, a Ghanaian) which won the 1988 World Cup and the European championships two years later, was castigated by the antiimmigrant National Front leader Jean Marie Le Pen. "It's not a real French team, " Le Pen said as it comprised players from African, Arab and Afro-Caribbean origin. France's imperial and colonial past stuck out like a sore thumb.
So when Serbia dropped striker Adem Ljajic from its Euro 2012 squad after he declined to sing the national anthem in a friendly against Spain or when the English fans chanted "Rule Brittannia" at the Wembley as the "Three Lions" struggled to get past Belgium in another friendly, one could leave it with a laugh.
There was no Serbia on the world map even when Rinus Michels' Netherlands became Europe's champions. And Britain doesn't have an aircraft carrier currently in service to "rule the waves" as Time magazine said recently.
The flag-waving and anthem-chanting may actually seem feudal or is it the carrying on of a tradition without its dangerous trappings? The concept of a nation across the civilized world has evolved both in the political and sporting fields. Barack Obama is the realization of the American dream of president Abraham Lincoln. So is Tiger Woods, carrying the baton on from Jesse Owens.
However, post-war Germany, on principle, has somewhat done away with the illogical fervour as a measure not to repeat history. They have been detoxifying themselves of their Nazi past. Ozil, Khedira and Boetang are showing the rest of the world the way to go.
Football in Europe has really broken through the regimented idea of a nation state. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (of Bosnian-Croatian descent) is as much a Swede as Thomas Brolin. The most current ones hogging the headlines are two France-born players Ludovic Obraniak and Damien Perquis, who are about as Polish as Phil Jagielka, the hurriedly called up English midfielder.
One can accuse Zidane of refusing to sing the French national anthem but it will be blasphemy to haul him up for not respecting the Les Blues jersey. The spirit of a nation won with Zidane without its paraphernalia.
The Euro 2012 will once again make a travesty of the idea of nation state. The withering away of the states will continue in Kiev and Warsaw.
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