Thursday, July 29, 2021

“Under the economic crisis, a crisis of faith”

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LFootballers are not alone in appearing prematurely exhausted this season: there is a general weariness in the air which is not only due to the circumstances of the pandemic, but which the pandemic reveals. As if it had triggered awareness too. Football reigns, but the king is naked. He ends up displeasing his subjects.

Of course, the singular conditions for the continuation of competitions are such as to depress those for whom football is a passion, starting with the stadium public, from the ultras to the regulars in the boxes: all those inclined to be move to attend a meeting in a crowd. Or to meet, elsewhere, to watch it together.

Addiction without pleasure

When football disappeared from the screens, we suffered from it but we made up our minds: there was more serious. Its return in the form of ersatz does not rekindle the flame. At best, it provides a surrogate – Subutex rather than Subbuteo – which suggests that addiction has supplanted pleasure. The number of matches for which we are ready to vibrate has decreased considerably: we do not always have the strength to play comedy.

The atmospheres of empty stadiums and those of artificial sound systems are as sinister as each other. The competitions themselves appear fictitious, and the trophies awarded in 2020 and 2021 will remain suspect. The renewed uncertainty is not enough. For lack of fervor and ceremonies, faith withers and doubt creeps in.

It is too early to make, in this feeling of disaffection, the share of the current situation and that of previous evils. After all, after that, maybe everything will pick up again, that football will regain its force of attraction. But it will not come out intact.

His prosperity was blazing, here he was on the brink of crash – like other sports. The clubs are brewing huge sums of money, but for the most part they don’t have six months of cash ahead of them. We are witnessing less the bursting of the often-prophesied financial bubble than the wavering of a house of cards.

Football without sharing

The growth of all income from the football industry was a headlong rush. However, wishing for bankruptcy, to punish it for its lucre and inflict a good purge on it, is not without risk. The problem with laxatives is that their effects are not always under control, and there is concern that the victims will be more numerous in the middle and at the bottom of the scale than at the top.

The scenario of secession of the European elite, so often sketched out over the past two decades, has indeed regained strength. To save their skin and their oligarchic model, the “big guys” are today more tempted than ever to take the plunge.

The outcome of such a schism is uncertain. The big brands of European football will perhaps succeed in seducing a majority of their globalized audiences, even if it means accentuating the divorce with their local supporters. They can also arouse, finally, a vast popular, media and political disapproval – let’s dream a little.

Because the discomfort becomes more and more evident. The proliferation of competitions saturates the calendars and the attention of the public. There is football everywhere, but more and more expensive, to the point of becoming scarce for those who can no longer afford it. By making itself inaccessible, football is no longer something that we share.

Neither roots nor universality

The interest of competitions is also diminishing because of economic and sporting imbalances brought to a new level. With their superstars, the superclubs outperform the rest. They want to achieve their supremacy in an NBA football by betting that the fascination with the show will outweigh the boredom.

But what remains of a football played in advance which excludes a majority of teams from the title race, reduces them to playing the utilities, to serving as a breeding ground for players? Of a football which is draining its consumers and losing both its roots and its universality?

Even certain specialized media and journalists, who for years have remained spectators or accomplices of a “liberal revolution” which served them by producing spectacular football, seem to finally discover and deplore these drifts – however well documented. Curious epiphany.

The pandemic is plunging the football empire into an economic crisis under which a long-simmering crisis of faith breaks through and the symptoms of which can no longer be ignored. Here is at least a little suspense: how (s’) he will come out?

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