Sport, politics, corruption

1. Ridicule. There is nothing more ridiculous than trying to carry water in a sieve. The "national commission against violence at sporting events", which reports to the Education Ministry, has announced sanctions for the derisive whistling during the Spanish national anthem at the final of the Copa del Rei (King’s Cup). This is a heap of nonsense that penalizes social organizations and sporting institutions following completely arbitrary criteria. Once again, the exercise of free speech has been restricted in the world of sport. This is true in Spain as in Europe, where the UEFA sanctioned Barça for the Catalan independence flags ("estelades") waved during the Champions League final. The stadium as a space where individual rights are suspended. You can go out on the street with an "estelada", but you can’t take one to a football ground.

Sport is not alien to social reality, which also expresses itself through sport. Anti-violence measures were initially justified by cases of racism and xenophobia. There is a dangerous tendency on the part of those who rule to ban words rather than pursuing real and concrete violent actions. And when speech is prohibited we know where it starts, but not where it will end. Bit by bit it has gotten to that point where it should never have reached: democratic political conflicts. Governments seek out involvement with sports such as football, which is very useful to them. Stadiums are true purgatives for removing violence from society by sublimating it in the stands. And this is a priceless service for governments. We are now living through a time when the symbols of the existing regime are being challenged: booing the national anthem and waving separatist flags. And the government uses sports to punish perfectly peaceful behavior as incitation to violence, thus establishing the principle that there are anthems and flags that offend by their very nature, and others that do not. In any case, to prohibit protest is an anti-democratic and absurd policy from the point of view of results. Does anyone seriously believe that these sanctions will prevent the next whistling protest? On the contrary, it will be noisier, and the feeling of offense that it provokes only greater. You cannot silence one hundred thousand people.

These actions are always justified by one of the most stupid clichés to have been universally accepted: that which says that sports must always be separate from politics. How come, then, there are heads of state and politicians in the boxes of stadia cheering for their side? How come there are national flags leading sporting parades and at games? The myth of the apolitical nature of sports is deeply political and reactionary. It allows its leaders to kneel before the worst dictators and achieve all kinds of perks, even skirting the law for years on end. Some still remember the steely gaze of the criminal General Videla presiding over the World Cup in Argentina (and this is only one example). Football is political through and through, beginning with its social role, followed by the use that nations make of it, and ending with the aim of its organizations to place themselves above good and evil --that is, with impunity. And these sanctions are pure hypocrisy.

2. Suffocation. We are "outraged and ashamed"-- this was the response of Pablo Casado, leader of "the merry lot", who now acts as spokesman for the PP, following the new revelations in the Púnica case, one of the many corrupt networks that operated in the shadows of the political right. Casado can tear his clothes all he wants, but nobody is going to take his party seriously when it comes to fighting corruption. Bárcenas, Gürtel, and Púnica are enough evidence to talk about structural corruption; but there is much more, beginning with the management of their money, which has been under suspicion since Day One.

Nobody can believe that the leaders of the PP didn’t even suspect this mountain of irregularities. They had a chance to come clean when the Bárcenas scandal broke. In any country with a democratic tradition, such a black hole in the finances of the PP would have led to resignations at the highest level. Mariano Rajoy, president of the party and friend of its treasurer, would have had to step down. But he lacked the courage to do so. He saved himself, but marked the PP with an original sin of which it will never rid itself.

Any speeches against corruption from the PP will be pure "blah, blah, blah" for as long as Rajoy remains in office. And if citizens don’t take this into account when the time comes to vote, it will mean that they accept corruption --with resignation-- as a structural vice of the system.