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Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Football Films, Salutes, Mike Summerbee and the Olympics

I saw Offside by Jafar Panahi last week. Panahi is now imprisoned in Iran for his film-making activities. Offside is a film about girls who try to sneak into a segregated male-only stadium to watch Iran beat Bahrain in a world cup qualifying decider. It's a film about the doublethink of religion and the effect politics has on both those who enforce ideologically non-sensical laws and those upon whom they are inflicted.

Despite all this, Offside is still a film about football, about supporting a team and a nation, about being part of  a victory and being united in celebration and joy.

There are so few good films about football - I think Offside is the only one. I was bitterly disappointed by Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait. I was hoping for the purity of one camera and one microphone but the multiple perspectives kind of ruined the real time for me.

For a top football film scene, it's hard-to-beat Brian Glover in this  scene from Kes.

For camp football and Nazi films it's impossible to beat Michael Caine, Pele, Ossie Ardiles and Mike Summerbee in the seriously bad Escape to Victory.

More Nazi salutes courtesy of the England team playing in Germany in 1938 - the FA ordered them to salute, God Bless them.

Still connected to nationalism and saluting are some more contemporary matters. What with the Olympics and the Queen's Silver Jubilee, England this summer is looking to be like a special circle of Hell for those of us who are both Republican and don't buy in to Jackboot-licking sports event. So it was heartening to see Liverpool fans booing the British National anthem at the FA Cup Final last weekend - a national anthem that begins "God Save Our Gracious Queen...", signalling an end to a popular consensus on the supremacy of the Royal Family.

Here is the Liverpool Echo on the booing of the National Anthem.

And a fairly typical comment from one perspective below.

"Well done those reds, the only Liverpool fans I ever respected used to be my mum and dad. But now there's a glimmer of hope for the rest of them, well those who jeered and booed anyway.
Absolutely atrocious national anthem, no matter what the toadies above say ("ooh what'll proper people think of us?!?!") - its the anthem of imperial butchers and belongs to a class of people that wouldn't pee on someone from Liverpool if they were on fire.. Decent hardworking people need not respect it, I always sit, boo, jeer etc whenever its odious cacophony is forced down my ears.
Long may the tradition continue!!"

And the same goes for the Olympics. I don't know what my favourite London Olympics factoid is - but it's probably that London's Olympic Stadium is going to be wrapped in some kind of corporate Christo advertisement for Dow Chemical - the company responsible for 15,000 deaths in the worst chemical disaster in history.

Anyway, enough of all this negativity. Let's hope that the athletes do wonderfully and rediscover the true spirit of the Olympics; as Jesse Owens did when embarrassing Hitler at the Nazi Olympics of Berlin in 1936 or Tommie Smith and John Carlos (with Australia's Peter Norman in a supporting role ) did when giving the Black Power salute at Mexico's Olympic Stadium in 1968. We all love them now for it, but remember that at the time they were villified for it.

As for London, well here's a little bit of an alternative view, focussing on the quality of the logo and Dow's responsibility for the horrors of Bhopal


Timd said...

re Bhopal:
Despite Union Carbide being a wholly owned subsidiary of Dow they still try to avoid responsibility, this document shows you what rotten people work at that company:

re Napalm and Agent Orange:
I think its really weird that Dow's additional historical baggage isn't mentioned much in the UK - the fact that Dow manufactured Napalm and Agent Orange; widely and indiscriminately used in the Vietnam war.
Business Week February 10, 1969: 'Why Dow continues to make napalm'

colin pantall said...

Thanks Tim D - I don't think anyone involved with the Olympics really cares about ethics - it's not on the Olympic agenda and never has been.

Agent Orange is very much a US/Vietnamese affair that has little interest here (though photographing those who have been exposed to it is something of a photojouranlistic staple -


But just because it has little interest or is little known doesn't take away from the fact that it is shameful. What are the odds of Mo Farah or Jessica Ennis getting a gold and unfurling a flag pointing the finger at Dow?

Timd said...

Chances? nil

Will there be any freedom of thought or expression on display? ...

The only political view you can display at the Olympics is one that bolsters the nation state, in addition to implicit support for the transglobal companies who have bought their way in.

The Dow justified making these chemicals as being their duty to a nation at war. The national pride we should all be feeling as our athletes compete for the glory of our nation stems from the same germ.

Philip Jones Griffiths books are excellent, I grew up leafing through Vietnam inc, I find 'Agent Orange' too harrowing, his Viet Nam at Peace is good also. His long term commitment to the country is an interesting contrast to the US which expended a vast amount of resources (euphemism) on the country and then split.

rajiv said...

It seems that sports authorities around the world reek of the worst kind of conservatism and greed. Too much money at stake I guess.

I was just reading about Peter Norman on BBC's website. What a courageous man. And the Australian sports authorities mistreated him for the rest of his life because he wore a badge from the Olympic Project for Human Rights that John Carlos and Tommie Smith gave him! It was also amazing to read that the 3 athletes stayed in touch with each other since that fateful day in Mexico. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7674157.stm

In the case of DOW Chemicals and the Olympics there is hardly any outrage amongst the mainstream media here in India. The great Indian middle class is not interested in the worst ever industrial accident in India! Union Carbide and then DOW were allowed to get away scot-free by successive Indian governments. While Japan and Germany are closing down nuclear plants India is trying to build some of the biggest nuclear plants in the world. There is off course stiff local opposition to these projects from local farmers, fisherfolk and others. But they are of no consequence just like those people of Bhopal.

Sorry for the long post/rant :-).