Sports Diplomacy: Football Fans Using Banners at Matches to Score Political Points
From demanding the return of the Parthenon marbles to highlighting the horror of the Warsaw uprising, football enthusiasts have been using banners at matches to gain political points.
While it is common thinking that Donald Trump may soon have the opportunity to frown at the #Takeaknee protests in 280 characters, some American sports enthusiasts have been left complaining that they turned on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ game to get away from their nation’s endless political convulsions, but in Europe, the collisions between sport and politics feel much more manageable.
Last night in Cyprus, while watching their team succumb to a Harry Kane hat trick for Tottenham in their Champions League tie, Greek-Cypriot fans of Apoel Nicosia fans unfurled two banners that read: “History Cannot Be Stolen” and “Bring The Marbles Back”. The marbles in question being the Parthenon Marbles, removed from the Parthenon in 1801 by Thomas Bruce, the Earl of Elgin, and brought back to the British Museum where they still reside today, much to Greek national outrage.
In recent times, beyond deeply domestic soap operas such as Wenger Out, the terraces have been prone to occasional outbreaks of politicking.
Most shockingly, last August, Legia Warsaw fans unveiled a huge stand-sized banner to celebrate the anniversary of the Warsaw uprising of 1944. It depicted a German soldier with a pistol pointed at the head of a child, bearing the legend:
“During the Warsaw uprising the Germans killed 160,000 people. Thousands of them were children.” Oddly, their opponents weren’t German, but the Kazakh side, Astana.
A month later, Legia fans’ bizarre sense of humour revealed itself with their next banner – this time of a pig in a suit, labelled “Uefa” , with the legend: “And the €35,000 fine goes to …”, openly inviting the sport’s governing body to fine the club, as Uefa forbids the use of messages of political, religious, ideological or offensive nature. Which it duly did.
In March this year, fans of Russian side Spartak Moscow unveiled a banner during a draw with Lokomotiv Moscow, depicting the BBC as “Blah Blah Channel”. It showed two hooligans in red balaclavas, following on from the Beeb documentary Russia’s Hooligan Army, that had been broadcast the previous month.
In Liverpool, just before June’s snap election, fans in Anfield’s famous Kop stand unveiled a banner depicting not only Jeremy Corbyn but John McDonnell too, with the words: “What unites us is greater than what divides us”.
In August last year, Celtic faced Uefa censure when fans unfurled Palestinian flags as their team played Israel’s Hapoel Beer Sheva. The hoops’ Irish Catholic heritage has long lent its support to the Palestinian cause.
Less controversially, last month Celtic fans unveiled a banner in rainbow colourson Glasgow’s 21st Pride day. It read: “A club open to all.”
Source: The Guardian UK