Op-ed: US STATE DEPARTMENT – WINNER OF THE WORLD CUPS
Comment by Sasha Uzunov, Editor, Alternate Comms
The US State Department is the big winner, culturally and politically, from the football (soccer) world cups held in 2022 for the men and 2023 for the women.
Here comes the mandatory rhetorical question – how on earth is that possible when Argentina won the men’s title in 2022 and Spain the women’s in 2023? Are you loco, hombre? Are you crazy, dude? Moreover the US men’s team was knocked out in 2022 tournament and in 2023 the US women’s team failed to retain its 2019 title?
The answer is I am not talking about on field performance or winning matches but reaping the benefit from sports events which promote US sports culture. The soccer World Cups run by the governing body FIFA have made it mandatory that US sports culture, in particular US sports phrases– for example turnover, assists, receptions, etc, found in US sports such as NFL American Football, NBA Basketball and NHL Ice Hockey–are now part of soccer culture where such phrases have no traditional place.
Soccer was invented by the British and it is not the only non-US sport that has been “Culturally Americanised.” There is Australian Rules Football and Rugby League in Australia who have embraced US sports terms and culture.
What does this all mean? Well, it means that at a psychological level it creates “cultural empathy,” “cultural association” with the US. It then follows if you have cultural empathy then its easier to end up having political empathy with the US and its foreign policy objectives.
Sport being used for political reasons goes back to ancient times. It is not a new concept. The US State Department makes no bones about using sport to further its geo-political and strategic interests globally through “good will” as expressed by sports events.
The US Embassy in Australia was quick to jump on the success of the Australian women’s team called the Matildas. Australia and New Zealand were joint hosts of the tournament, touted as embracing Indigenous peoples. The US Embassy deliberately promoted American nationalism using a famous image of US hero George Washington and linking it with the Matildas match against England in the semi final. For those who don’t know their American history, Washington led a rebellion in 1776 against the British Crown’s rule of America and won his country’s independence. But Washington was also infamous for fighting and killing native Americans and keeping African slaves.
The Americans got rid of their British Colonial masters, but then embarked on empire building themselves- first, in violently dispossessing native Americans (Indians) of their land within the continental US; and later annexing overseas territories such as Puerto Rico, the Phillipines from the Spanish Empire; to setting up proxy states overnight such as Panama in 1903 to build the canal there. Post WWII, the US has toppled foreign governments and instigated wars to impose its global hegemony. Afghanistan being its last major war which it lost after 20 years involvement (2001-21)
Interestingly enough there was no condemnation of the US Embassy, pushing US nationalism via soccer and the Australian women’s team, from certain quarters in Australian society who present themselves as anti colonial warriors and who attack British colonialism of Australia.
This isn’t the only example of hypocrisy in Australian sport which gives US Cultural nationalism special treatment. The governing body of Australian Rules Football, the Australian Football League (AFL) and even the Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese have promoted the US NFL (National Football League – American Football/Grid Iron) which has been condemned by native indigenous First Nations Americans (“Indians”) for decades.
FIFA, the governing body of Football (soccer) has had close ties to the US State Department for decades; both supporting violent and repressive right wing military juntas in Latin America, such as Chile (1973-90) and Argentina (1976-83).
Simply put, the US being a super power can get away with imposing its version of history and peddling nationalism in Australia. Sport, both US and non US, offers the US State Department to get its message out in subtle and sometimes less subtle manner.
CLEVER SMOKESCREEN – PRETEND SOCIAL ACTIVISM? CAPTURED & CONTROLLED OPPOSITION? US CULTURAL NATIONALISTS IN DISGUISE?
The disingenuous manner in which the US State Department operates is it publicly pushes for LGBTQ (gay, lesbian, transgender etc) rights, women’s rights and so forth but supports regimes such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which hosted the 2022 men’s World Cup tournament, whose records on LGBTQ, women’s rights, workers rights are not that good! Many of these social activists in the US, Europe and Australia who attack Saudi Arabia or Qatar or any other of the Gulf Arab monarchies deliberately leave out the US support for these regimes. Moreover, there are US military bases in these Gulf Arab states.