The People's Game

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The core of World Cup Finalist Germany’s superb national team is anchored in the Bundesliga’s champion club, Bayern Munich. This club, which had strong roots in Munich’s Jewish community in the early 20th century, has a rich yet obscure history of resistance to Hitler and the Nazi regime.

In the 1930s, Bayern’s Jewish president, Kurt Landauer, developed one of the best professional football training systems of its time, and is today known at Bayern as the father of modern German football. He and his players courageously resisted the pressures of the Nazi regime, which denounced Bayern as a “Judenklub,” and won the German championship in 1932. In 1933, however, Landauer was forced to resign as club president, and was later imprisoned for 33 days in Dachau.

Bayern, however, continued to support Landauer despite the repression; at a match in Zurich, the team saluted Landauer despite being under the heavy watch of the Gestapo. In 2013, FC Bayern Munich officially adopted Landauer as their honorary president, announcing that “Kurt Landauer, south German football pioneer, has returned from exile.”

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On the eve of the final, we bring a range of radical perspectives on the 2014 World Cup. Alan and Meleiza recap Brazil’s unprecedented second loss in the third-place match, and share thoughts, prospects, and hopes for the big final tomorrow, and feature Laurent Dubois’ reflections on the World Cup and its stories. Brazilian professor Maria-Luisa Mendoza speaks with KPFK’s Sonali Kolhatkar about the protest movement in Brazil in the context of the World Cup, and KPFA’s Doug Henwood discusses soccer and politics with Professor Sean Jacobs, who blogs at Africa Is A Country/Futbol Is A Country.

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My greatest wish for the Brazilian team in this unavoidably painful third-place game is that: win or lose, they can focus less on the pressure to win and remember those aspects of soccer – the joy, the teamwork, the fun, the way it brings people together – that make this sport beautiful and subversive; that make it truly the people’s game. The great Brazilian captain Socrates understood this well.

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World Cup Finalist Argentina has a great radical football tradition, despite its conflicted political history. At the 2010 World Cup, the Argentinian national football team declared its support for the Mothers/Grandmothers of the Disappeared (Madres/Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo), an organization of women whose tireless demands for information regarding the 30,000 Argentinians “disappeared” during the military dictatorship represent one of the most powerful forces for truth and social justice in the country today.

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On today’s podcast, we look forward to the two final matches of the World Cup 2014 tournament. The third-place match pits a demoralized Brazil against the Netherlands, and of course, on Sunday, the main event: the final between Argentina and Germany. Alan and Meleiza give a preview of what we may expect to see, and reflect on the significance of these matches for Brazil and the world. Then, Alan speaks with three Southern California-based left wing futbolistas: Antonio Chrisostomo-Romo, attending the World Cup in Salvador, Brazil; and Aaron Darling and Janet Lee Ortiz in Los Angeles.

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On this last ‘rest day’ of the World Cup, we pay tribute to another group of revolutionary hooligans: Cairo’s now-legendary Ultras Al-Ahlawy and the White Knights of Zamalek FC. Traditionally bitter rivals, these organized fan groups came together in solidarity at Tahrir Square and were instrumental to the Egyptian Revolution. The ultras embodied resistance to Egypt’s oppressive military regimes, and coined the phrase now echoed around the world by anarchists and forces resisting police violence: “A.C.A.B.” (All Cops are Bastards!)

After Mubarak’s downfall, they continued to be heavily targeted by counterrevolutionary forces, most infamously in the brutal massacre of 70 ultras after a match in Port Said, Egypt in 2013. In their statement “In Defense of the Ultras,” written after this incident, the Revolutionary Socialists of Egypt had this to say about the politicization and heroism of Egypt’s football revolutionaries:

“The Ultras [football fans] groups that joined the ranks of the revolution early on, and fought among the revolutionaries proved and are still proving every day that they are an integral part of our revolution. The Ultras originated in Egypt as a reaction to the dominance of the policy of profit and greed of capitalism over football; the turning of soccer into a marketplace of advertising; the rising ticket prices and the monopoly over broadcasting matches as well as the brutality of the security forces.

Thus arose the Egyptian Ultras groups, like all movements that originated in Egypt in response to tyranny and exploitation. It was no surprise that the Ultras groups found their place in the heart of the Egyptian revolution in search of freedom and justice, and that they have made all the sacrifices incurred by the forces of our militant revolution, rejecting the military council’s looting of the revolution and their re-building a system of oppression and exploitation.

Long live the Ultras – a fighting faction among the revolutionaries. Glory to the martyrs, victory to the revolution and shame on the criminals.”

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On today’s podcast, Alan and Meleiza look back on one of the most extraordinary World Cups in recent history, and reflect on the sociopolitical significance of the Cup’s most memorable stories. Then, we feature Alan’s extraordinary interview with Andrei Markovits, one of the world’s leading academics who explores the social impact and significance of sports.

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When protests erupted in Istanbul’s Gezi Park in 2013, the fight for social justice united many sectors of the Turkish people – including, importantly, the notorious “ultras” of Istanbul’s three rival football clubs Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe, and Galatasaray. Usually feared for their violence towards each other, the ultras came together for the first time in history to support the protests, organized by the politically conscious left-wing ultra group Çarşı to unite for a common cause.

Gezi Park’s “Istanbul United” is a moving example of how the boundless energy of organized football fandom, combined with conscious political action, can become a powerful force for social justice.

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So, it’s Argentina and Germany in the World Cup final 2014! Alan and Meleiza review today’s semifinal game, and Argentina’s win in a penalty shootout over the Netherlands. We speak with two members of the Bay Area’s Left Wing FC about futbol, community, and human potential; and Jennifer Doyle reflects on David Luiz’s tears and the triumph of the status quo.

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On today’s broadcast episode of The People’s Game, we discuss the socio-economic, political and cultural issues surrounding the 2014 Men’s World Cup Soccer Tournament in Brazil, in the wake of Brazil stunning 7-1 defeat by Germany.

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