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the significance of football as a medium translates the abstract into the concrete

Reader comment on item: Why the Paris Massacre Will Have Limited Impact

Submitted by myth (Germany), Nov 15, 2015 at 08:45

from the abstract to the concrete with football

I agree that Friday's attacks will confirm mutually exclusive political statements which will be inconclusive with respect to action and united in a denial of substance.

However the football match elevates the Paris attacks above previous memories. Here's why. Friday started with a bomb threat made against the hotel in which the German squad "Die Mannschaft" resided. It is this beginning with which the attacks will be recalled. Already at this point we have high-profile targets. "Die Mannschaft" are world champions and each player will enjoy lasting media presence for decades to come. The islamists who detonated bombs at the gates of the arena actually tried to get inside targeting the players, the audience and the political representatives.

During previous attacks the violence drew people to the tv-screens. This time football prompted the attention and violence sneaked in. German TV ratings puts this in numbers of millions of viewers:


20:15 5,92 m - beginning of broadcast

21:00 8,78 m - kickoff

21:50 7,06 m - inserted news replacing half-time analysis

23:01 9,14 m - inserted news replacing full-time analysis

I expect French tv-ratings to expose the same trend. As a result millions of viewers shared the emotion, live on color tv, of a surprise attack on what was their Friday-evening enjoyment - namely watching football. The scale of millions watching the sudden change of events live, and the reality of the experience, are unprecedented by previous attacks. This put a huge tv-audience somewhat in the shoes of the victims. Indeed the players, the arena's audience as well as the tv-viewers heard the explosions simultaneously.

Football connects the establishment with the public. Government deliberately seeks airtime during football-events to present themselves as men of the people. French President Hollande attended the match along with German Minister of Foreign Policy Steinmeier. They both sang their respective national anthems along with the crowd. This time Hollande and Steinmeier found themselves in the exact same situation as the public and in part as the victims.

Again, this time Hollande had an unmitigated experience of the attacks. He heard the explosions with his very own ears. One could say he was among the targets of the attacks. Previous attacks had establishment politicians notified but not involved as witnesses. In short: what is a mere talking point to any other politician will always be a deeply personal memory to Hollande.

Also football translates the abstract to the concrete. What do abstracts words like national identity, way of life, shared values actually mean? Friday evening it was all concrete, to be seen, to be heard.

Let's recall the scenery and start with national identity. The match took place in an arena called "Stade de France". The players entered the pitch in their national colours. As an opening ceremony the French sang their national anthem "La Marseillaise" at the top of their voices. Multiply that by 80000 throats.( here's the 1998 worlcup final opening https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-r2_fFPWK4 )

The popularity of football as the prime event of a Friday night illustrates the Western Way of Life. The match itself highlights this entertainment is shared, certainly between France and Germany.

As for values look no further than the slogans of "La Marseillaise". Even as the arena was evacuated fans sang it:


Similarly "The Mannschaft" is to be the scale model of German society demonstrating what we call "German virtues" in football which include above all "team-discipline".

Football will also serve as a medium to prolong the memory of the attacks into the future. Attacking a match between the football world champion and the host nation of the eurocup 2016 accounts for a broad international reach, emotional sensitivity, and long memory.

With every day we get closer to the eurocup 2016, and with every high profile match, Friday's events will be recalled and re-analysed. The attacks could potentially have the eurocup cancelled. As previous attacks faded in memory the Paris attacks will get stronger.

Thinking backwards in time, the Paris attacks remind Germany of the attack during the 1972 Olympics in M√ľnchen. In both cases popular sports is the connecting medium. Can the establishment responsible for the safety of the eurocup next year possibly deny the practical implication of the attacks?

In the summer of 2016 it will be the same sport, the same country, the same arena with the same brand of assassins still around.

The unique significance of football in Europe will make the Paris attacks more concrete, personal, shared, connected to actual values, and its memory longer lasting than any other attack so far.

Next time I will watch France play I will bump up the volume to hear them sing "aux armes, citoyens!"


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