Politics on the Playing Field: What Do Neymar and NaMo Have in Common?

Sports

Politics on the Playing Field: What Do Neymar and NaMo Have in Common?

Illustration: Ahmed Sikander

T

he moment Portugal’s Ricardo Quaresma scored one of his patently outrageous goals with the outside of his right boot against Iran, he raced back and forth from each post, away from the incoming embrace of each of his teammates, stoically resisting the urge to grin until his searching eyes found Cristiano Ronaldo. Finally, his face disintegrated into a speculative smile – a point where the celebration seemed to let go of its tense premise.

Comparing politics and sport can be tricky, given how the engine for one is the pursuit of excellence, while for the other, it is the pretence of some such standard. But though football may not always tread the narrow edge of political epigrams, it is nonetheless reflective of the times we live in, through its many symptomatic imitations of reality. The presence of Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Neymar at the World Cup – the three greatest players at the moment – is an ode to the exclusivity of their excellence, but in the context of a team sport it is also a nod to the way political epicentres have shifted, or rather shrunk into a single person, rather than a group or a party.

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