Politicians score goals too

  • Italiano
Liu Xiaobo

Football and politics are similar, more similar than we might think. Teams, fans, languages, attitudes and violent behavior, a fight with no holds barred. And corruption. They are like twins separated at birth. Yet, there is a degree of tolerance towards football that seems to be inappropriate – rightly so – towards politics. Corruption must be always condemned. The corrupt must keep away from the Parliament and from the stadiums. But let us keep going both of them.

Have you ever wondered why – if corruption taints both places – can we not wait to get rid of politics, while no one wishes to get rid of football? There are many answers to that. From football we ask to make us forget problems, not to solve them; the latter is up to politics. A lost game is not a tragedy, whereas wrong – economic, labor, health, interior, defense, etc… – policies can be more than tragic.

Football is done with private money, whereas politics uses our money, the money of the citizens. Often, it puts at risk public money reserves and value. It is all true. Nonetheless, it is a matter of fact that we are so indulgent with football and so intransigent with politics, that it seems that the former is dearer to us than the latter. When the national team loses, nobody asks to put an end to football (it’s enough to change the players and the coach). Similarly, when politicians are corrupt or incompetent, we should get rid of those politicians, not of politics altogether. Yet, we allow ourselves to be seduced by anti-politics. A self-harming folly that pushes us towards a devastating inclined plane: the loss of democracy.

It is not the end of the world if we suspend the championship. But if we suspend democracy, our real, concrete, daily freedom will die. Freedom that is as essential as air. Yet, blinded by our anti-political delirium we do not think about it. Our parents risked their lives, and many have lost it, for freedom. Throwing it away simply because “there are bad players” is sheer madness. We do not need to change sports, we need to change players.

Politics is morally neutral, just like football: it is not good nor bad in itself, it depends on who does it. And we – people, citizens – are the ones who do it; directly (as candidates and political representatives) or indirectly (as simple voters).

We have to stop telling ourselves that story about the beautiful civil society, which is hostage to uncivilized politics. In democracy, politics is the product of society. If it is corrupt, it means that society is corrupt. Do we really want clean politics? Then we have to clean up ourselves, our daily lifestyle, our relationships, and select, nominate, and elect clean people. Clean and skilled. There is no other way. What leads to victory in a championship are not the rules of football, but the quality of the players. Rules provide the framework where individual skills can find expression. Anti-politics is an alibi to lose our sense of responsibility for bad politics. It is the alibi of those who want to deprive us of democracy. Because in democracy we decide. Democracy is the most precious jewel we have, if we allow it to be stolen from us and be sold on the black market, we will never have it back. And we will lose the greatest value we owned.

To kick politics means to kick democracy and freedom. Think about it before doing it, because the consequences we will suffer right afterwards will be infinitely more painful, and in some cases even fatal.

Gianni Fontana

President of the People’s Solidarity Federation and National Secretary of the Christian Democrats, former Minister of Agriculture and Forestry of the Italian Republic and Secretary for Public Works, Industry, and Handicraft

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