Historically and otherwise, football is a multicultural sport

By on October 3, 2019

In 1940, four boys made a discovery that would mark a part of French archaeological and sports history. During an attempt to rescue a dog, they happened on a series of cave paintings at Lascaux, in the country’s southwest, that dated to 15,000 B.C. — the images and relics depicted animals, hunters, fungi, bones and athletes engaged in what generations later would become the organized sport of wrestling.

By partial virtue of the paintings, wrestling is typically considered the oldest sport in the world.

The cave has been replicated and is closed to the public, but its lessons in sport enterprise are indeed vivid. As the animal paintings reflect the presence of a prehistoric culture, so too do man’s efforts to modernize and refine athletic competition.

The Olympic Games; the Tour de France; the Boston Marathon; tennis’ Grand Slam; American baseball’s World Series: These are among the cultural staples that take their cue from wrestling’s foundations.

And if today’s media are to be believed, man’s thirst for cultural superiority exists in the sports climate that affects his country’s commerce. The French football team, for example, took home $38 million in winning the 2018 Fédération Internationale de Football Association World Cup; such rewards should assure healthy international sports rivalry for generations to come.

Indeed, and with all due deference to the French, football is a multicultural sport. The fashion industry has its hand in amid multimillion-dollar enterprises featuring sports wear online; administratively, the football association is the sport’s highest governing body, founded in 1904 to oversee international competition among the eight national associations — Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. Its membership, headquartered in Zurich, comprises 211 national teams made up of 11 players each.

That makes 2,321 competitors from eight countries — nations whose closely held ancestries are as diverse in their ways of life as the next.

A case in point materialized during World War I. England and Germany were set to observe a Christmas truce in 1915 — someone eventually threw a football into a crowd, and a game broke out. Soon after, the British and the Germans were back at it in the trenches, each in the service of the culture that defined his nation.

On August 9, 1942, Kiev, Ukraine’s Start Stadium was the venue for the so-called World War II Death Match, with Kiev under Nazi occupation. The Nazis had warned the Ukrainians to throw the match; the Ukrainians ignored the threat and won the game 5-3; and within six months, a group of Ukrainian players were found dead. The Nazis, at least in part, had avenged this grave “insult” to their cultural heritage.

Such events are legion in the history of football, which by one account dates to the China of 2000 B.C. In no way does that timeline approximate the one generated at Lascaux — but it does reflect the cultural component to sport and, by extension, to football’s place in the world’s cultural affairs.

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