Daniel sends a letter on the subversive value of futbol

June 25, 2006

Daniel from Venezuelan News and Views contributes this letter to my blog in reply to my letter on Friday, explaining how the futbol watching may even be subversive:

Dear Miguel

I read your great letter of
last Friday
. I think you are quite right
in asking all of these soccer, football, futbol fans to consider giving from
their time at least the duration of one of these games they watched to the
cause of democracy. I could not be more in agreement with you.

However I think there is
something that you missed in the whole phenomenon.

You do point rightly that
in Caracas and the main cities of Venezuela there
is almost no eatery that do not display a TV set during game time, with dozens
of people clustering around. We never see that, even during a “World
Series” featuring some Venezuelan pitcher. I know you cannot quite
make sense of it as you are a devoted Red Sox fans. You even write
“[soccer] is not as much of an integral part of our heritage”. And
that is why I think you missed a critical point.

Of course, I am not writing
to justify my own distraction with the World Cup, to the point of opening a temporary
blog dedicated to it
. You know
very well the uncounted hours I have spent “quemandome las pestañas” describing
all the abuses, arrogance and incompetence of the undemocratic regime we live
under. But where you miss the point is
the almost rage with which we are enjoying this World Cup. At least those of us
who decided to do so: it is almost an act of rebellion.

Last World Cup was stolen
from me. Not only because the time
difference with Korea and Japan was
settled for the European TV market benefit, but because it was 2002 and we were
trying to overcome the consequences of the April 2002 events. The Cup was stolen from us by Chavez and his unwillingness
to settle the issues raised in 2002. He
kept the country askance on whether a truth commission would be installed, on
whether a democratic dialogue will be attempted to reconcile the country. Nothing was done, the tensions were fawned and
we ended up in a painful strike and even more painful Recall Election process. Who could care then about a distant World

Since then Chavez has always
wanted to steal all attention to him, be it his social programs (many a failure
but successes in that they keep Chavez at the center), be it his foreign
ambitions and his forgetfulness and obvious boredom as to Venezuelan matters. Thus, in this electoral campaign as Chaves is
trying to tighten the yoke around the opposition neck, he is again trying to
steal the World Cup from us, from me. And
I will not let him get away with it, and we will not let him get away with it. In fact we are succeeding as Chavez has had to
cancel two Alo Presidente, has had to postpone the cadena on
the Carabobo parade. Almost with cruelty
we are letting know that his antics are less interesting than a Tunisia Saudi
Arabia game.

But it goes even further:
football is allergic to authoritarian regimes, futbol is perhaps the most democratic
sports that exists. And not because you
can play it barefoot with a tin can and two sticks as a gate. No, Futbol is a unique combination of individual
brilliance, daring initiative, disinterested team work and art. No Eastern block country could ever manage to
control this team sport the way it control the other ones at one point or
another. Even Cuba can control baseball but is
unable to play football. Such regimes
frown on the values that drive football, the most anti ideological game that
exists. I believe that there is a reason
why Chavez likes baseball so much, the control and “protagonismo” one can reach
there. Pele would have never been Pele
without Brazil and Brazil would have not been Brazil without Pele. When Chavez yesterday said that today was an important
day in futbol because Ecuador
played he did not realize how much of a provincial ignoramus in soccer he
revealed himself to be.

Thus I hope you can forgive
us while we enjoy futbol, perhaps there is more subversion to it than what you
might think.

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