Football, Nationality and Participation

During the upcoming, obligatory 72-hour refusal of Pasta and Pizza, the thoughts of Peter Sloterdijk on the connections between soccer, senses of belonging, nationality and participation might serve as a small element of reconciliation.

It was quite interesting to observe the effects described by Sloterdijk as “identification with one’s nation for a few hours” during the conference on the Youth in Action – Quality in European Youth Work in Bonn. People like me, who would never agree being boxed as German, for a few hours went totally berserk. So did the Italians, by the way…

Anyway. May Portugal win!

Here comes an excerpt of the interview, the original German version can for instance be found here. The translation is courtesy of Peter Lauritzen (thanks!).

Peter Sloterdijk

Extract from an interview on the forthcoming World Championship in football with Peter SLOTERDIJK, Der Spiegel No 23, June 3, 2006, p. 72

Sloterdijk: “National football teams have practically no real existence outside such a tournament. Within the tournament they function as ‘Nation-simulators’, which remind a population that they can identify with them, if they wish.�?

Der Spiegel: “And this functions?�?

Sloterdijk: “Very well, because the desires of people to participate would be chronically underemployed otherwise. We do not live in a world which addresses needs to participate. On the contrary: one belongs all the time to oneself, or to one’s own future, in the best case. One has a few relations and on top of that one may be part of networks, as we say today. But people in networks are already in a postnational situation anyway. Generally, one does not want any more to be obsessed by a community. The drift of civilisation goes towards dissolutions of communities and this for a very good reason: because self-conscious individuals can no longer or only with difficulty bear to be bothered by ‘groups of belonging’. We do not want to be representatives of our own tribe and we do not want to represent our nation elsewhere. But then there are situations where one wants to identify with one’s nation for a few hours.�?

Der Spiegel: “If national identity comes through in the national team, would it not be logical then to write into the questionaires meant to legitimate immigration questions such as: Who has played for Germany in the final of 1974? As a kind of proof that somebody is really interested in the country?�?

Sloterdijk: “Why not? But then the possibility should exist to show by answering the opposite, that one belongs to this country. The bad Germans have been the good Germans so far — this should also be allowed to foreigners. Who intends to immigrate should have the freedom to say:’ I am a bad patriot, this is why this is the right country for me. This whole mischpoke of Beckenbauer and consorts can go to Coventry. I find sport idiotic and it would be best, if we loose. This is why I have a right to join this nation.’ �?