The Dromedaries take the field!
July 24, 2016 6:28 AM   Subscribe

"It is said that every new nation or groups making claims to nationhood needs to have a national football team, otherwise you may as well not exist in the first place. The late historian Eric Hobsbawm once declared: “The imagined community of millions seems more real as a team of eleven named people. The individual, even the one who only cheers, becomes a symbol of his nation himself.” So, in the absence of recognition by formal political bodies, recognition by the Fédération Internationale de Football Associated (FIFA)—which is larger than the United Nations—can be a boon in struggles for political self-determination." Now Western Sahara is trying some football diplomacy of their own.
posted by ChuraChura (8 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

A camel has a single hump,
A dromedary two,
Or else the other way around-
I'm never sure, are you?

-----------------------------------------------------Ogden Nash
posted by pjern at 8:13 AM on July 24, 2016

Not much contributes more to national tribalism than football.
posted by notreally at 11:25 AM on July 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Ah, Western Saharah... the memory that immediately presents itself is the border post. Everyone in the convoi had to check in there, of course, and present their passports to the officials seated behind the desk; the unexpected part was that we had to shuffle inside the border post on our knees, because the ceiling was very low. Low for a building, that is; not for a Bedouin tent.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:59 PM on July 24, 2016 [3 favorites]

Wait... FIFA is not 100% evil? My world is rocked. I meant, they're probably doing this for evil reasons, but still.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:24 PM on July 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

The bit about Algerian footballers as a crucial part of the Algerian independence movement was very interesting.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 6:09 PM on July 24, 2016 [3 favorites]

I find the sports+tribalism connection fascinating. It's impossible not to come up with Just So stories when thinking about it. We get emotionally involved with "our" small group of men playing a physical win-lose game, sometimes intensely emotionally involved, and it's hard not to tie that back to the form that warfare probably took while our brains were most rapidly evolving. Sport creates a visceral, emotional community, in a way that things which ultimately matter more - trade deals and balances of payment and sometimes even actual wars - don't.

The book How Soccer Explains the World talks about some of the ways that football/soccer and nationalism intersect. It's especially disruptive when there's an empire or shaky coalition of some sort. In Yugoslavia, at least one football fan club evolved into a paramilitary ethnic cleansing unit. In Constantinople, the Blues and Greens turned into quasi-political parties that almost overthrew Justinian. The Algerian example is mentioned in the article. Western Sahara is giving the tactic a try.

And what will be the long-term result of Wales, Scotland, England and Northern Ireland all sending separate football teams to the Euro and World Cups? The emotional ebb and flow of sporting victory and defeat is now running on four separate lines, and that may add a little to already-existing fissures, especially if economies go sour.
posted by clawsoon at 7:55 AM on July 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

You may be wondering why Morocco cares about controlling a piece of the Sahara, the answer is phosphate and fishing rights.
posted by asok at 7:17 AM on July 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

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