A version of this article was published by Newsmax.
Soccer has gone woke all over the European Union. Correction: Football bureaucrats in various clubs and continental associations have gone woke. In Western Europe, it has become customary now during sporting events to disrespect the national anthem before games by kneeling down, instead of standing at attention.
As Black Lives Matter ideology spread internationally and became adopted and internalized nationally from Germany through France to England, it is considered politically correct to mimic the American original. The genuflecting comes together with the customary incantations against racism and colonialism. Yet some Europeans still don’t get it, in particular in the Intermarium.
This requires a few observations about soccer, which started out in England, conquered Europe, and, then, the rest of the world. Hands down, it is the most popular human sport.
In the U.S., it is still considered a pastime for grade school girls. Nonetheless, it has been steadily gaining popularity because of new immigrants’ passion for the game and of the U.S. Women Soccer Team’s successes. U.S. soccer leans left. According to Andy Ngo, far-left Antifa infiltrated soccer activities in Portland. The revolutionary outfit has virtually monopolized the sport there, setting up even an eponymous team: Antifa FC.
Elsewhere, soccer fans were instrumental in igniting demonstrations in Tahrir Square and elsewhere during the Arab Spring in Egypt. In Turkey, Fenerbahce supporters duke it out with the government in spats of vicious cyberwarfare over official interference in player transfer payments.
In Europe, soccer is politics galore. Some of it is quite extreme nationalist. It is partly for that reason, and partly because of the new BLM fashion, that football bureaucrats have attempted to rein in the teams and the fans.
Germany’s soccer must be the most mellow because the elites there frown upon any display of enthusiasm that can be misconstrued as extremism in general and nationalism in particular. From what I recall, Bayern Munich followers are the least inhibited, but that’s not saying much by the deflated German standards.
In Scandinavia, soccer is a tad less mellow than in Germany, except in Denmark’s Faroe Islands, where the authorities maintain conservative propriety from above, including in sports. They banned LGBT symbols on the field. Wearing one will get you banned from the game.
In the Netherlands, the fans go to town. The detractors of Ajax Amsterdam routinely call its players “Jews,” which the athletes embrace enthusiastically (as evidenced also by their white and blue jerseys). Opposing fans sometimes crudely and cruelly hiss at games pretending to emit gas (and yell “Auschwitz”). A few weeks ago, the backers of Vitesse Arnhem chanted at a game against Ajax: “Hamas, Hamas – Jews to the gas!” (https://www.timesofisrael.com/dutch-soccer-fans-chant-hamas-jews-to-the-gas-before-match-against-ajax/).
In Italy, it is fascism galore with some clubs. Racist incidents abound with fans making monkey noises at black players or throwing bananas from the bleachers onto the field to taunt their opponents. AS Roma has been sanctioned for it, as have Hellas Verona and A 19 Lazio. Its players (and fans) not only throw “Roman salutes” at will, but the club has also just signed on Romano Floriani Mussolini, the great-grandson of the 20th century fascist dictator (https://www.si.com/soccer/2021/03/24/lazio-signs-mussolini-great-grandson).
In Spain, the ongoing rivalry between Real Madrid, a monarchist and all-Spanish outfit, and FC Barcelona aka “Barca,” a separatist Catalan and leftist team, has taken on legendary proportions. Barca games routinely fuel separatist sentiments and riots just as much as Real playoffs give heart to the advocates of unity and centralization.
England’s soccer hooligans (or Ultras) reached their peak in the 1990s, when they paralyzed stadiums and games as well as brought it on in the streets outside. The authorities eventually learned how to cope, but you can still get your face smashed at a pub if the Cockneys think that you disrespect Queens Park Rangers or Manchester United or another outfit.
There was a religious twist on soccer in Scotland, where Celtics Glasgow forever battled Glasgow Rangers. The latter, established in 1872, is Protestant and Scottish. The former, founded in 1887, is Irish and Catholic (they do take in the Poles). I remember an incident in which a Polish Catholic goalie knelt down before the game and crossed himself and the Rangers threw bottles at him.
Poland’s soccer fans are inveterate and unapologetic anti-Communists and anti-Nazis. The games – before the pandemics – were virtual festivals of patriotism and anti-totalitarianism, including the top-seeded Legia Warszawa and Śląsk Wrocław (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTwSmfjeCbc, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hGzTytCwJ1k). They are also champions of freedom, as evidenced by continued unrest outside of training and playing fields when the club followers (and not just the Ultras) disregard COVID-19 restrictions to cheer their teams.
They are a hardnosed lot.
A few weeks ago, the Polish national soccer team en bloc refused to take a knee at a game vs. England in London. The Poles explained that, first, Poland had never had any colonies; second, it had itself been partitioned and colonized by Russia, Prussia, and Austria for 123 years; and, third, it had fought against the Nazis and Communists from 1939 to 1989. As former star goalie, Jan Tomaszewski, put it: “In our history, we had no reason to, why we should do it now?”
Further, the Poles recalled a similar precedent in sports history. During the Berlin Olympics in 1936, a Polish bronze medal winner in javelin throw, Maria Kwaśniewska, publicly refused to give the Hitler salute. Everyone else did. Colin Kaepernick was not around to teach them kneeling. During the Second World War, Kwaśniewska worked with the Underground and hid Jews and other fugitives.
So, in England, the Polish soccer team unabashedly refused to cave in. From Spain through Germany, Twitter lit up in support of the Polish footballers. Here’s the wittiest one, arguably: “The Poles kneel only before God or when they get engaged.”
Incidentally, the Czechs ain’t too shabby, either. They also refused to kneel down. During a game against Wales, the Czech national team stood at attention and pointed to a patch on the T-shirts of the players: “Respect.”
The trend may be catching. It has just been resolved that no knee taking for BLM or any other progressive causes will be permitted during the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.
Marek Jan Chodakiewicz
Washington, DC, 2 May 2021