Bad sports

We can only hope that this crisis will work like a huge, invisible hand that lifts all the stones that hid the rot of our society. Until now, we did not lift them because we had learned that revelations would never lead to catharsis, we were afraid of what we would find, we had grown accustomed to living with the gangrene, as if it was not our business, as if it would not kill us. Now that our sick system is collapsing, all that we were hiding is coming to light, bit by bit.

The illegal gambling racket that was uncovered last week appears to run through our whole professional soccer world and is a symptom of our society?s illness, where boundaries between good and evil, legal and illegal are lost. In our country, the beautiful game became the playground of a closed and paranoid system that either absorbs anyone who comes close or throws them out. Insiders live by their own rules, their own reference points, their own methods. The telephone dialogues from National Intelligence Service wiretaps, which were leaked from court papers, reveal a world of gangsters — both conspiratorial and naive. Above all, it is a world full of self-confidence: The protagonists are sure they control everything — they depend neither on luck nor on skill, they fear neither laws nor morals. As long as all of them are on the same wavelength, everything will be fine. They work things out, they control the situation and they achieve their targets.

If we asked them, they would reply that they have done nothing wrong — they are just placing bets, getting rich and no one got hurt. Like a sick family that closes around its sickest member and emulates him, the gang loses touch with reality. It sees nothing beyond itself. It does not see that it is unfair to play with a marked deck of cards, that it is destroying players and coaches, that it is cheating fans, that it is making citizens get used to crime to the point that supporters even demand that their team officials be better cheats than others in assuring victory. It would seem that when new team owners arrive, they either join the system or are forced to pull away from the game.

Like a dark star, the criminal system?s gravity pulls everything toward it. Its members are bound together by complicity and their trade-offs, while new members, players, fans and society itself tolerate their existence. It is surely no coincidence that nine of the 15 suspects who were named initially are known to have been players in the court-rigging scandal that was revealed a few years ago. The one system inspires and feeds the other, forming islands of criminality which, if not wiped out early, keep multiplying until they form a solid, undefeatable mass. Like debt.

In almost every part of our lives we have learned to live with chronic problems, without faith in our institutions, without shouldering the personal responsibility to demonstrate, until all our problems surrounded us like a threatening pack of wolves. Now our economy demands sacrifices and promises only deprivation. Our politicians are tragically unsuited for dealing with the crisis and are unable to guide a society that is dazed, that alternates between aggression and melancholy. We feel cheated and violated now that we have to pay the bill for the partying, the cheating, the mismanagement of decades. Our foreign policy problems, which were always presented as issues of the greatest national importance, remain unsolved, creating even further insecurity. Media groups, state-funded businessmen and successive politicians created their own closed system in which they rigged society the way a betting racket rigs soccer games — only they were playing with our lives while blinding us with loans that we would pay. We did not see police, the judiciary, the culprits? own unions doing anything to protect us.

That is why we never hoped for something better. And because we did not hope we did not demand solutions to our problems, nor strategies for our future. The good thing is that now that we have no room to hope, we hope. We hope and we demand that the fire of the crisis will uncover the cheats and the incompetents, and will leave us with better citizens. It?s a hope.

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