Now that Australia is out of the World Cup, whom should you support? Certainly not France, what with their bloody imperialist history.Iran? Greece? Should that even be in the First World? Crikey's resident Marxist gives you the run-down on which countries are the bastardiest.
It’s only a few days in, and Australia’s already out. Which means you can kick back and enjoy the World Cup. Especially if you sell riot gear or Qatari real estate. But whom to support? If you’re a Crikey reader, the beautiful game is the great game. Forget this football shit, it’s all about the politics. So here from worst to best teams is Rundle’s entirely unauthorised World Cup guide. You will never be in a quandary about whom to support, unless Cote D’Ivoire play Korea.
Group G: The First-World Imperialist Centre
England — The empire on which the sun never set and the blood never dried, Engerland get points for resisting Nazism and not being as bad as the Belgians. They lose them for perfecting laissez-faire imperialism, in which tens of millions were killed by the “liberalisation” of local food supply. Recent bipartisan support for the Iraq War puts them at the bottom once again.
France — Worse imperialists than the English, and much worse at leaving when asked to, the French are the true inventors of the concentration camp, and imposed decades of unnecessary slaughter on those who didn’t want to be part of their “republic”. They nudge past the English for style, political asylum for the Italian Left in the ’80s, and because in 2010, their entire team went on strike.
Belgium — The country invented as a port access for the British and named for a Gallic tribe that quite possibly didn’t really exist, Belgium is a post-state, which functions embarrassingly well without a government. Better in fact, for from the 1880s to the 1910s, Belgium ran the Congo as a giant tropical capitalist gulag, essentially inventing the death-work camp, murdering 8 million in the process — or, if you’re Keith Windschuttle, 17 unrelated trekking accidents.
Portugal — They more or less invented colonialism, slaughtering their way round the Cape of Good Hope, purveyed a dour cleric-fascism, and were even more pointlessly obtuse about colonialism than the French. They nudge ahead for the 1974 carnation revolution, and the deeply depressing writing of Fernando Pessoa. And the fact that they were never a key player.
Group F: Imperialist B-League
Spain — As bastardish bastardy as any, but that is going on for 500 years ago now, and they lost the lot earlier than any, thereafter lapsing into clerical torpor, until in 1936 becoming what Franz Borkenau called “the cockpit of the century” (i.e. the place where cockfights occur, nothing to do with those shorts). Down the list because they’ve already lost.
Netherlands – Less rapacious than your average imperialists, they don’t get up the list for that, nor for becoming a nation of dope-smoking donkey sex bicyclists. They are redeemed for “total football”, the style that separates player from position, thus causing the entire team to reconfigure minute by minute and — well, 5-1 against Spain is “and”. “Fun” fact for Geert Wilders fans who think that Muslims introduced anti-Semitism to the lowlands: in the ’60s when Dutch Jewish team AJAX played, opponents would hiss, in imitation of gas. Brilliant, orange.
Japan — Japan deserves a place in the imperialist ghetto for being utterly systemic bastards in the few decades of the greater east Asian co-prosperity sphere, but move up the group because they learnt it from the Europeans. They also move up because they are now a neutral-ish nation run by middle-aged men who buy picture books of kittens having S and M sex from vending machines with the English words “strawberry gaucho, I love now!” on the side. What’s to hate?
Italy — No less lethal than other imperialists — they wiped out around 20% of the Libyan population in the early 20thcentury — they gain points for being so bad at it. The only imperialist state to be defeated by a potential colony — when Ethiopia bloodied Italy’s nose in 1897 — their 1935 invasion was done out of sheer pique. Oh, also fascism, but it has to be said Mussolini made some great railway stations. It’s pretty embarrassing.
Group E: Settler Capitalist Regimes
Australia — Well, it’s all moot now, but outside the European grouping,we are the worst. Indeed, I wonder if we should swap places with one of the lesser European bastards. But no, keep it simple. Other settler capitalists have some mitigation, but we really just planed the place and people flat, and ran sheep. Plus, we’ve been an American lickspittle and enforcer, and we are Israel’s goalkeeper in the United Nations for the price of a few junkets. Maybe we lost through lack of moral fibre.
Argentina — A rare appearance by an otherwise solid Third World state, the land of silver, the Paris of the south never had much radical fervour and was always more keen on turning the place into a giant cattle run, mostly run by the English. Their latter-day enthusiasm for psychoanalysis, steaks, Borges and heterosexual anal intercourse does not mitigate, though it screams “package tour!”.
Croatia — Not really a settler capitalist nation, this seems the only place to put this nation, oppressed for centuries under the Austro-Hungarian and Nazi yoke — which nevertheless has not excelled itself in the “not being fascist bastards” stakes. There were Croatians who fought bravely against the Nazis, and I apologise to both of you. For those of us who remember Melbourne soccer in the ’70s, you’ll always be Zagreb Ustashe.
New Zealand — Plucky little New Zealand, smart enough to lodge itself deep in Oceania, where its only competition is the likes of Tuvalu. With its anti-nuclear politics, Maori love songs sung in Parliament after a same-sex marriage vote and flying nun records, does this hipster’s delight deserve to go into the higher groups? Ah ha, no, they are still a pastoral economy built on systemic dispossession, and can only be supported against worse imperialists. Plus, say vowels right!
Group D: First World Non-Imperialists
Russia — Europe? Asia? Rapacious great power empire, or just a sump of thieving, alcoholic, women and kidney-traffickers? The two faces of mother Russia. Conceivably, part of the ant-imperialist south th… ha ha I couldn’t even finish that.
Switzerland — OK, it never done no on no harm, through its neutrality it is a force for good, and it gave women the vote as long ago as 1971. But it will happily do the banking for the world’s bastards, dutifully recording everything down to sacks of extracted gold teeth. Classical liberals are hereby given dispensation to support them, despite that. Or because.
Bosnia Herzegovina — They could almost make it into the Third World groups on the strength of the plumbing alone. Didn’t oppress anyone, have been ill-treated, but were not, of themselves, an agent of radical uprising (Yugoslavia, yes. Not the bits).
Greece – Come on, get real, this is team Syriza, nothing more, nothing less. The Greeks really deserve to be in the Third World lists on the strength of the Greek Communist Party alone, which hung a banner on the Parthenon saying “peoples of Europe, rise up!”, but I don’t make the rules. History does.
Group C: Reactionary Third World
Iran — With the best anti-systemic, anti-imperialist will in the world, one can’t really bump Iran up the list, what with the hangings, etc and all. Hugo Chavez could, but he drank 40 espressos a day.
Colombia — The place that called its worst decade “la violenza” — and then had two more worse ones — is leftish now I think, but managed to kill more workers than James Hardie. Cocaine and Shakira don’t make up for it. If FARC fielded their own team, it’ll be well up the list.
Honduras — Was Left, then went very very Right. Now an old-fashioned junta-style arrangement. Victory would be preferred to that of a European power.
Mexico — Despite a proud history of church-burning and priest shooting and a willingness to harbour the revolutionary awkward squad, Mexico wound up having a Coca-Cola exec as president. Can be used as a substitute for invidious choices, e.g. bad Third World vs good First World.
Group B: Minor Anti-Imperialists
Nigeria — Nigeria, as a regional imperialist power, has many resources, but no idea what to do with them. Like Australia when faced with a soccer ball.
Cameroon — Very much sneaking in on the strength of being in Africa, Cameroon has … a really great flag.
Chile — A contender for Group A due to its proud socialist history of utter, utter defeat and ushering in the modern neoliberal era under friend of liberty Pinochet. President Michelle Bachelet was tortured by Hayek’s Chilean disciples, so, y’know.
Algeria — Sentimental favourite as the fons et origo of philosophy football — Camus, violent resistance, day of jackal, the full bit — haven’t liked a lot of its recent work. Nudged out by Ghana for the top slot.
Group A: Champions of Resistance
Brazil — Sad, sad, sad. Brazil is traditionally the go-to politics football team, what with its proud and recent radical history, its centre for global social and cultural resistance, and its well, real chance of winning. But the very act of hosting the damn thing has caused it to slip back, with former guerrilla President Dilma Rousseff breaking out the riot squads.
Ghana –Why not higher up the ranks, as the centre of African independence? I would refer you to the above para, winning, chance of.
Ecuador — Ooooooh, such a great roster of claims — Left, successful, innovative, green, copyleft, WikiLeaks defender. Comes in second place because its not as good as number one at … football. Well, it’s a factor.
Uruguay — Here we are. Led by a former guerrilla who spent 10 years in prison, progressive, innovative — solving drug and crime problems by legalising marijuana — and, I am assured, going to win it, Uruguay is the progressive’s choice for the Cup. Especially as it went head-to-head with England and beat them. Not quite 1917, but in the reserves of history.
Ungrouped: These are too contradictory to find a place.
USA — No. 1 imperialist, but as regards soccer? Pflzzzzzzzz. It would be a denial of our common humanity to put these goofballs among the bastard Europeans.
Germany — To quote Douglas Adams, the only country to start two land wars and then win Eurovision with a song about peace. Germany is Nazis, and the new global resistance HQ, and Nazis. Undecidable.
Cote D’Ivoire — I don’t know anything about Cote D’Ivoire, but I didn’t see them at the meetings.
Guy Rundle is Crikey's correspondent-at-large. He was co-editor of Arena Magazine for 15 years, and has written four hit stage shows for Max Gillies, two musicals, numerous books and produced TV shows including Comedy Inc and Backberner.