Football: A drug or a gateway to happiness

04 Temmuz 2024 Perşembe

We witnessed joyful and pride-filled celebrations, not just across Europe but worldwide. Sometimes we jumped around in excitement like Mert Günok; other times, we tried to head the ball in front of the goal like Merih Demiral! We sighed with relief watching Arda Güler weave through four Austrian players like a ghost every time he got the ball.

When I write about football or sports in general in these columns, there are always those who sneer, saying football is a drug that numbs millions. Of course, I’ve heard it all: “Mr. Bedri, is it befitting for intellectuals like you to follow and analyze a team and football so fanatically, especially when the country has so many other problems?”

Believe me, I don’t get angry at those who say this to Fazıl Say or countless other “football-obsessed” artists and writers like myself. They genuinely believe they are speaking for the well-being of the people whose standards and values they defend. I sincerely respect their good intentions.

What Do People Gain from Their Passion for Football?

Football is the most widespread sport in the world. It might not be the most important sport in America; in some countries, basketball, cricket, or another sport takes the lead. But globally, football undeniably reigns supreme. Whether it’s a derby, a European Championship, or a World Cup match, streets everywhere—almost like during COVID times—empty out. It’s definitely worth pondering: Does football really numb the populace or push them towards political passivity?

We are well aware of the economic struggles people face in Turkey and many other countries. People don’t know how they will make it to the end of the month. Billions suffer from severe deficiencies in health, education, and humane living standards. And at least half of these people are football fanatics! Those who believe football somehow harms these people might be a bit unfair without realizing it. Perhaps only a small percentage of these people derive as much joy from fine arts, opera, or theater. football, on the other hand, is an area they love so much that they believe they could coach their favorite team. Now, in a Europe grappling with significant economic and social turmoil, hundreds of millions are deriving immense joy from the grand football festival this June and July. Yet, intellectuals criticize these people, saying, “football prevents you from reacting to fascism and resisting. They deliberately throw this in front of you,” trying to sour their enjoyment.

The Overlooked Point

What critics fail to see is that people who embrace and cry with strangers in front of big screens on the streets, sharing this happiness or sorrow worldwide, also deserve to be happy, to forget their troubles for a few days or a month, and to believe they have a rightful place and share in this great success. They have the right to go to bed with excitement, joy, and exuberant happiness. So, whether they are firefighters, bagel sellers, or white-collar workers, let them dream and be happy. Let them share this happiness with those around them the next day. Why do you begrudge these triggers of happiness spreading in waves? Why do you assume they won’t fight for their rights tomorrow because of this? On the contrary, they might learn to come together and work collectively, realizing they can influence the world together and feel better hand in hand!

The Democratic and Equalizing Aspect of Football

Why is the equalizing and democratic aspect of football often forgotten? football isn’t just golf for the boss, pişpirik for the retiree at the café, or marbles for the neighborhood kid! It’s a national and universal glue that lifts everyone up simultaneously and equally! This applies everywhere in the world. Why are the most famous intellectuals, artists, and writers as passionate about football as open-stand fanatics?

If you think, “Is this really the time for this?” you’re gravely mistaken because a moment when all other material, moral, familial, personal, and existential problems are resolved will never come. If people around the world can shelve their troubles for two hours, two days, or two weeks, let them enjoy it! The interest and respect people have for each other worldwide are fostered through sports, arts, and culture. For example, the praise-filled articles about Arda Güler and Mert Günok in yesterday’s Guardian might boost the number of tourists from England to Turkey by 20%! People's attitudes towards Turks they encounter will change. If Messi or Ronaldo read those articles, believe me, they would be envious of Arda! We reached the semifinals twice before in the 2002 World Cup and the 2008 European Championship… Now, we can go even further. This time, let’s set the bar higher! In my view, the goal is at least the final! Since we have resolved the Montella and Arda crisis, anything is possible. Our Italian coach brilliantly analyzed Austria and effectively neutralized their aggressive forwards, especially with the five-man defense. If our young star plays freely as I wrote last week, there’s no football expert in the world he won’t impress! Our beloved goalkeeper Mert is in great form, lucky for us! And if we can deploy our weapon İrfan Can! Someone also needs to whisper to Barış Alper, who has performed fantastically in the matches, to play less selfishly. If this opportunity arises, don’t miss it!

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