Football, Fascism and the World Cup: Game of Our Lives Episode 7

In the season finale of Game of Our Lives, host David Goldblatt speaks with writer and historian John Foot about Italian football and its relationship to politics and national identity.

    For the first time in nearly 60 years, Italy won't have a presence at the World Cup.

    The Azzurri's failure to qualify for the 2018 tournament in Russia is a hard blow for football fans in the country and around the world. 

    "It's unimaginable as an outsider to think of the World Cup without Italy," says David Goldblatt, host of the Game of Our Lives podcast.

    Many Italians see the failure to qualify as something like a national disaster: a tragedy that conjures up tales of the game's past, as well as stories of national identity born of the relationship between Italian football and politics.

    "Italian fascism, which took power in the 1920s, understood very early on that football was a place to mobilise Italians," says John Foot, writer and historian.

    "They were probably the first regime in the world ... to understand that,"  he added.

    "They built hundreds of stadiums; they built some technical expertise; they built up the local game and the national game - they wanted to be the best in the world."

    In the Season One finale of Game of Our Lives, Goldblatt speaks with Foot about the rise and fall of Italian football, including Benito Mussolini's use of the sport as a tool of fascism; the political, social and economic crisis that was the 1982 World Cup; and the ever-persistent power of Italy's ultras.

    The episode also explores the country's past and current anxieties about immigration and national identity, including the recent resurgence of far-right politics, as they play out both off and on the football pitch.

    "There are people at football who chant, '[Giuseppe] Garibaldi, you're a disgrace, you should never have formed Italy,' and lots of this comes out as racism, because Italy is a country very much not at ease with itself in the late 1990s and 2000s," says Foot.

    "You see this being transmitted into everyday racism on the terraces, and that's still going on today."

    Listen to the full conversation between Goldblatt and Foot in the episode player above. Then visit Game of Our Lives to read Goldblatt's latest blog post, in which he discusses five books written about the Italian game.

    Subscribe for free onApple Podcasts,Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also listen on the Game of Our Lives Facebook page.

    Follow the show on Twitter and Instagram at @gameofourlives.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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