RIP MANDELA + THE POLITICS OF SPORT
Aamer’s unedited version of column for Scottish Sun on Sunday 8th December
RIP NELSON MANDELA
Mandela was not only South Africa’s greatest son but a global icon for the oppressed struggling for humanity and justice.
As a coalition of ‘hypocrites’, ‘war criminals’ and ex-supporters of Apartheid line up to pay their respects, signing books of condolences and desperate to hog a line in the funeral cortege- they will do everything possible to try and rewrite history as they always do.
They are so desperate to remark on Mandela embracing his enemies in reconciliation, but miss out an important footnote that it was only after he had defeated Apartheid. There is no point in their honouring the dead when they are so busy crushing the living.
In a society obsessed with pop culture, X factor and 24 hour heroes, Mandela sadly was one of the last of the true revolutionary heroes, but his legacy must be that millions will be inspired to take up his struggle against injustice, inequality and poverty.
It is a true mark of the man that every nation on this planet is grieving his loss, he after all was what a ‘true champion of freedom’ looked like.
Billions mourn his loss whilst any street parties that may have taken place would have been to celebrate his lifetime of struggle and achievements.
What a proud and oft forgotten history Glasgow has- when the Apartheid era South African Consulate was based in St Georges Place, our City Council decided to rename it as Nelson Mandela Place, so that from that day on all mail delivered to the Consulate would be a constant reminder of the resistance to their rotten regime.
Many of us sang ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ and partied in our thousands when Mandela came and honoured Glasgow by being the first in the world to award him the ‘freedom of the city’.
Mandela lived for his ideals and was willing to die for them yet despite the hatred and violence he endured his words always gave hope –
“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin or his background or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”-
RIP NELSON MANDELA
POLITICS AND SPORT
When George Orwell said ‘Sport is war minus the shooting,’ he may just have been referring to the ‘Old Firm’.
Two weeks ago Celtic’s Ultras the Green Brigade incurred the wrath of the Board, fellow fans and UEFA for unfurling yet another ‘provocative’ banner which compared convicted IRA member Bobby Sands MP who died from a hunger strike in 1981 to ‘William Wallace’ .
As the GB took another pot shot at the Scottish Government over their Anti-Sectarian football laws, Neil Lennon was full of rage claiming that “Celtic Park is not the place to be making political statements…We are here for football”.
Two months previously members of the armed forces parading at Ibrox were accused of acting as cheerleaders and joining in with Rangers fans singing the ‘Sash’ and songs praising banned paramilitary loyalist organisations.
Many believe that football can transcend politics and this just an Old Firm issue. But I wonder how today’s football bosses would have reacted to Celtic and Dundee United fans at the 1988 Scottish Cup Final.
At the peak of the Poll Tax, both teams refused to greet chief guest PM Margaret Thatcher on the pitch despite SFA pressure and she was booed by the whole stadium as thousands turned their back on her, waving red cards.
The heroic Campaign for Justice for ‘Hillsborough 96’ is just another positive example of the role of politics can play in football.
Yet Glasgow is a city which has seen young men murdered because of the colour of their football scarves and which is why I still support the introduction of anti-sectarian football laws; but the fact that too many ‘grey areas’ are criminalising law-abiding fans must be addressed.
I can understand Lennon’s anger, since taking over Celtic he has been abused, assaulted and had his life threatened and believes there to be a time and a place for such protests; but as for UEFA these hypocrites have contaminated the game for years and have no problem with politics when it suits them.
Since the time of the Gladiators the rich and powerful have used ‘sport to distract the masses’ when it suits them. Hitler even managed to get the visiting English football team in 1938 to Seig Heil under pressure from their FA.
But football remains the one sport which crosses boundaries of race, religion and class. In Spain under Fascist dictator Franco, Barcelona’s stadium was the only place that Catalonians could gather in their thousands and protest without being shot.
In the 1968 Olympics when two American black athletes raised their black gloved fists in a black power salute to highlight the civil rights struggle and opposition to the Vietnam War they inspired millions across the planet.
The Anti-Apartheid movement used a worldwide sports boycott of South Africa as a powerful weapon against a racist regime.
Just recently Egypt’s Ultra fans were amongst the first to take a public stand against the Mubarak’s regime as hundreds of them defended the revolution in Cairo’s Tahrir Square from attack by security thugs; since then hundreds have been systematically murdered by the regime.
Globally football has grown into a corporate business and rich owners see fans as an irritation rather than an asset, but they will never be able to separate politics from football as long as teams remain rooted in communities.
Football fans can mirror the worst aspects of society which should always be challenged but when fans get it right they can carry a powerful political message which should be encouraged.
My 2 year old and Self Defence
It was great to hear that my 2 year old princess is already trained in self-defence- a three year old boy much taller tried to bully her and pushed her over- so she jumped him, landed multiple blows and had to be dragged of by a mortified Mrs A. I just hope she understands the law of self-defence before I end up defending her in court one day!