Players hold up a banner saying “Say No To Racism” before the FIFA World Cup match pitting Uruguay against Ghana. Image via Zimbio.
Soccer was an unstoppable force in the Gulf Middle East, where I grew up. One of my earliest memories is of my dad teaching me the basics of ball control in our gravel back lot in Buraimi, Oman (my dad maintains to this day that the essence of playing good soccer is to understand that the ball is actually metaphorical, making the game the only one that can be played with no equipment whatsoever). These were soon followed by actual games at school, tournaments and watching the dubbed Arabic anime Captain Majid.
When I first came to Vancouver, playing pick-up games of soccer was one of the few ways in which I felt that tiny slice of home. Even now, my game-days are spent at packed Commercial Drive cafes where groups of brown men from all over the world switch between spells of silence and uproar while staring at high definition televisions.
Interacting with large transnational populations wherever I went, I found, as sports writer Matt Hern says in One Game at a Time, that there was rarely a site of greater integration, tolerance, generosity and undermining of racial stereotypes than sports. Continue reading →
When Joel Ward scored the overtime winner for the Capitals to end the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins’ season, a wave of racist tweets surfaced. They ranged from casually offensive to viciously hateful. None were shocking. But they illustrated the latent sentiment that exists in many pockets of the fan base that hockey is a sport to be played and enjoyed by whites.
Being a black hockey fan can be a singular experience. You can feel the racial divide at games. So when Ward lit the lamp last night, yes, personally, it felt good to see a black man score such an important goal for the franchise.
It’s about time that the NHL tackled its race issues head-on. If the league wants to move forward as a brand, they need to recognize that they can do something about racism. When Kobe Bryant yelled a homophobic slur at a referee that was caught on camera, the NBA swiftly and justly fined him and then produced a PSA campaign against usage of the word. FIFA, the global soccer association, has very publicly taken a stance against racism from fans with some of the world’s most popular stars. – From The Washington Post
As the 2010 FIFA World Cup nears its’ end, we begin to look at the undercurrents of the tournament, held for the first time at the African continent, in South Africa, and the continued crossing-over of sports pop culture – spanning over languages, borders, time zones in search of markets and audiences. Take Coca-Cola’s World Cup “anthem,” K’naan’s “Wave Your Flag.”(Not to be confused with FIFA’s jingle, Shakira’s “Waka Waka.”)
There were six different versions of the song released and aired during the event, each featuring K’naan and the same cheering crowds, bright colours, contagious excitement, obligatory celebration of nationalism and of course, all of them celebrate “the” flag. But the flag in each was different: K’naan collaborates with Nancy Ajram to produce the Arabic version, with David Bisbal to produce the Spanish version, with Jacky Cheung and Jane Zhang for the Chinese version, with Féfé for the French version, and, last but not least, teamed up with Skank on a Portuguese version for Brazil.
It gets better! There’s an Alvin & the Chipmunks version, even.
This “official” World Cup version, which seems to have been taken up by everyone, is a compromised, co-opted, Coca-cola-ized version of the original. The original lyrics speak more to struggle against poverty and violence, in pursuit of freedom. Were they too real for the World Cup?