I thought that I was a bourgeois anti-football elitist, but there’s always someone worse than you. The increasingly silly and irrelevant Terry Eagleton writes at CiF that football is ‘the opium of the people, not to speak of their crack cocaine… Nobody serious about political change can shirk the fact that the game has to be abolished.’
He doesn’t address the exploitation around this year’s World Cup – that would have taken time, thought and effort. Instead we get paragraphs like this:
If the Cameron government is bad news for those seeking radical change, the World Cup is even worse. It reminds us of what is still likely to hold back such change long after the coalition is dead. If every rightwing thinktank came up with a scheme to distract the populace from political injustice and compensate them for lives of hard labour, the solution in each case would be the same: football. No finer way of resolving the problems of capitalism has been dreamed up, bar socialism. And in the tussle between them, football is several light years ahead.
Like some austere religious faith, the game determines what you wear, whom you associate with, what anthems you sing and what shrine of transcendent truth you worship at. Along with television, it is the supreme solution to that age-old dilemma of our political masters: what should we do with them when they’re not working?
It’s curious that Eagleton is suddenly keen to tell us about the politics of football when he himself has promoted at great lengths another popular delusion that encourages mass conformity, appeals to some of the nastiest male instincts and creates a solidarity of anti-intellectualism and violence. There will be free tickets to the England-Algeria game at the Castlefield Bowl in Manchester for the first person to guess what that might be.