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The Brazilian World Cup has ignited popular anger by displacing the poor with glitzy soccer stadiums filled with the glut of corporate sponsorship. And yet we can expect the anger to subside before our collective desire to prosecute a world war by less bloody–but by no means bloodless–means. Professor of philosophy at the New School, Simon Critchley argues that the national emblems, flags, and fervent pride that fills soccer stadiums all stand-in for essential human and social qualities. “[Soccer] is all about the experience of failure and righteous injustice,” said Critchley.
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Critchley’s icon is Bill Shankly, the coach of Liverpool’s soccer team that dominated play through the 1970s and 80s. While Shankly aspired to be the Napoleon of soccer, his personal philosophy was socialist in nature. “Football is an experience of association, an idea that might not be too whimsically linked to Marx’s talk of ‘an association of free human beings’ in Capital, Volume 1.” And much like history itself, the inevitable demise of even the greatest teams is linked inexorably to an illusory hope that they will once again rise to the great and heroic feats contained in our memory.
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