World Cup Begins. I Refuse to Follow It.

Putin world cupPhoto courtesy (for non-profit, one-time use): Daily Beast.
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In this day and age, when nobody cares to read, or think, I am almost sure nobody outside of my few close friends and followers would read this post either. But because I have no other power than writing, I do this stupidity one more time: express my honest, heartfelt feelings.

I was a huge football (soccer) fan, and actually, quite a good player too. In Calcutta (Kolkata) where I grew up, football back in those days was the biggest sport. We played alley football (with a baseball-size rubber ball), and we also played field football (using an old, worn-out size 5 football with an inflatable rubber bladder inside the thick, rough leather skin). A number of times, at various leagues — mostly neighborhood leagues — I won the top scorer award, winning a small silver cup or more often a towel, which I flaunted to my classmates and family members.

Injuries were very common. Had countless doctor visits and minor surgeries. Then, playing cricket on a neighborhood London park, I broke my knee, ending my football career once and for all. Then, I coached for a while in upstate New York.

Some of my friends and I were almost like encyclopedia of football history. How many goals Pele scored in 1958, 1962, 1966 and 1970 World Cup. How disingenuous was Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal. How England players brutally hurt Pele in 1966, and referee was silent! How Argentina’s Mario Kempes, Or Italy’s Paolo Rossi became household names overnight. And then, the long list of celebrity players like Socrates, Eusebio, Gordon Banks, Cryuff, Platini, Zidane, Roberto Carlos, Cameroon’s West-undermined Roger Milla…all the way to today’s Germany’s seven goals against Brazil … to Spain’s Xavi and Iniesta … to Neymar, Ronaldo and Messi … I can really give you a one-hour fun presentation on football.

Nobody knows, but our Calcutta was our champion Brazil. We loved Brazil, and we loved football.

But I don’t follow World Cup anymore — just the same way I have now unfollowed cricket and Olympics.

World Cup football, just like World Cup cricket and Olympics, has now become anything but sports. It has lost its gamesmanship, and billions of dollars of profit and corporate advertisements have taken over. Practically, all the major outcomes are pre-determined, and fixed. Players and clubs are extremely rich, making billions, and they couldn’t care less about the unbelievable income and wealth disparity the world sees right now. Players — except for a small few like Drogba of Ivory Coast — don’t care about the unthinkable poverty, health crisis, environmental crisis, and illiteracy their own countries see right now, let alone the vast number of unfortunate around the world.

Olympics and World Cup games are now huge distractions created by big media worldwide to distract people’s attention from real-life issues. The games have become one more powerful weapon in the arsenal of the ruling class, who divert people’s attention from issues such as the children who make the balls, boots, jerseys, and countless items these big events use — earning slave wages. Million of poor workers — countless child labor included — live and work in abominable conditions. Nobody cares to talk about them, and their lifelong suffering.

Football stadiums are built using blood and sweat of hapless immigrant workers. Millions of impoverished people are displaced, and their homes are neighborhoods are destroyed. Those who protest are thrown in jails, or killed mercilessly.

Russia is now a new ruthless, violent power, with dubious connections with autocrats, supremacists, and crazy megalomaniacs like Trump. But these few weeks, nobody will talk about them. Nobody will talk about Putin. Media will make us forget all about it.

In 2022, four years from now, Qatar will host World Cup football. Already, thousands of slave-like workers have died in the desert, building stadiums. Workers from Nepal, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and such countries in particular. Nobody cares to talk about them either.

It has truly become an era of post reason. Nobody wants to know the truth.

I refuse to be a part of this inhumane, cruel, violent, exploitative history, in the name of fun. I refuse to follow these games.

I hope you join me too.

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

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