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Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Time for a social economy World Cup?

Budweiser,Chevrolet and other big brands are littering TV screens in North America with occasional clips of real (paid, for their winsomeness), or graphical, soccer-playing favela kids.No mention of Brazilian poverty in the ads, or the reasons for it. Corporate America has embraced the World Cup as never before and soccer has officially arrived in money terms where it was always, popularly,the only global game in town. Meanwhile, North American games such as baseball and "football", with the notably largely ignored exception of lacrosse, the only really indigenous professional offering, sink into a kind of corporate ghetto, albeit only for a month perhaps. Eduardo Galeano, among others, has lamented the "corporatization" of soccer, but let us not forget that professional soccer was a late nineteenth century product of British capitalism, diligently nurtured since then. Makes you think, like the pre-Cup Brazilian protesters, "Whose cup is this?"

If we don't like corporate soccer maybe it's time for a genuinely social economy version. Come to think of it, how about a social economy Olympics? Or, in view of Toronto's date with big time sports in 2015, a social economy Pan-Am Games? Imagine, no ads, no mercenary sports stars, and the money dedicated to community developments to transform the poverty that makes soccer a kind of periodic narcotic fix for the ongoing stresses of favela life.

A dream? It's not so hard. Some soccer players would sign on. Just have to ask them. Former star Johann Cruyff has set up his own foundation for a different kind of soccer culture. And the homeless world cup has already paved a way. Time to reclaim our lives and our economies. This from someone who played his own (tiny) role in the latterday emergence of professional soccer in North America. TorontotheBetter is doing its part by developing a Cruyff Soccer Court for Toronto's Jane-Finch neighbourhood. Stay tuned to this space for developments and forward your ideas for community sports development to postamaster@torontothebetter.net.            

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