OPINION

Living in a soccer democracy

When the construction of a soccer stadium becomes a political issue, when the contractor lashes out against a political party, the mayor takes a stand against the Council of State and the fans of the Panathinaikos club are called upon to vote according to the team’s interests; when every soccer club has become accustomed to having its outstanding debts serviced in its favor at the expense of the regular taxpaying citizen so that the main shareholder can strut around puffing on his cigar; when politicians of all levels are seen shouting from their VIP seats at Sunday games, winning favor with voters and working their own independent business interests; when the state hands out large parcels of land, conjures up new laws, signs huge deals (at its own expense) and behaves like the maidservant of soccer clubs; when the industry of betting on soccer games grows completely out of control and eats up incomes, we can say that we live in a soccer democracy. Soccer clubs act like almighty lobbies, pampered and bankrolled, exerting political pressure, blackmailing their way to favorable economic and legislative reforms, manipulating the media to their own ends, invoking the will of their fans, acting like authority figures, without, of course, having to sit through the trial of a popular vote. In contrast, they are granted a peculiar form of political immunity and this is especially so for the biggest clubs, which know that they will be given support by almost every political party. An amusing «passion for soccer» is easily turned into sick fanaticism. Fans become a mob, a mob that’s willing to sacrifice public interest, to trespass on public property, to trample laws and democracy in favor of the club, its barons and its shareholders. And all this for the privilege of enjoying two hours of excitement from the bleachers.