Curtain Raiser

Soccer May Be Euro’s Little Helper, Colltalers

Billions who follow football around the world watched Spain crushing Italy in the final of the European Cup. For Europeans specially, it was pure relief among a wave of bad economic news that may have started as far as four years ago, with the U.S.-ignited collapse of the world’s financial system.
But, with all the kudos to the Spanish team’s legacy and record dominance of the sport, and their current hold on the ‘jogo bonito’ once thought to be exclusive domain of Brazilians, two other matches earlier in the tournament turned out to be more meaningful, in a bigger scheme of things.
One for what was not, Germany against Greece. The other, when Italy sent the Germans packing this past week. That’s when the intersection of soccer and politics, familiar to aficionados of the game, came to be displayed yet again.
That’s because the recent growing dominance of Germany over European affairs has a certain creepiness factor about it that many cannot avoid. It’s not just that it’s the continent’s biggest economy, but it’s also its sway over the European Central Bank’s policies.
Before we go any further, though, that’s no put down on Germans, whose society is exemplary in its democratic institutions and, above all, respect to labor laws long ago demurred by other nations, including this one.
It’s only a contradiction of sorts that German politicians would attempt to impose a recipe of austerity and diminished social networks for the working class and the poor of the rest of the continent, while at home enjoying and enforcing much more equanimous welfare and labor laws.
So, when Greece, itself being chastised by a dubious German-influenced ECB prescription of hardship and contention, which has been proven disastrous, had to face the vibrant, guilty-free German team, some were expecting a kind of poetic justice football has shown often.
It wasn’t to be and Germany’s victory only increased a bitter taste to reawaken terrible fears of the cultural and political domination of yesteryear. But then, along came Italy and beat the Germans.
Far from restoring a pseudo-natural order of things, it did however give pause to the not so unstoppable, as it turned out, train leading to Germany’s ultimate goal of winning the cup.
That dream being at least postponed, another interesting effect happened right after, most likely not related to it, but still, a very healthy sight: Germany’s second-guessed itself about the euro and came back to the table of negotiation.
Whether it was out of self-interest or just another shrewd political move from its leaders, it’s totally besides the point: the euro just got a reprieve, and if Greece still wants to leave it, it’ll happen on its own pace, possibly in another election cycle if ever.
So the Eurocopa final will go to history books, Spain may surely attempt to remain atop two years from now in Brazil, but what really brought relief, not only to Spaniards, but to all Europe was a simple realization: Germany is not and cannot be in charge of what happens to its neighbors.
That being said, there’s still a lot of ground to be covered to fulfill that flawed European utopia of the euro. And no one should be surprised if the outcome of the Mexican elections will have a sway on that too.
What, with a radical change in the northernmost Latin American country in the world, even the U.S. election may be covering new ground, along with the beginning of the fight for a single payer health care system in this country, ignited by last week’s Supreme Court decision.
We’re up for another steamer, dear readers. Keep cool and collected, so we’ll all come out whole in the other side of the 4th. Have a great one. WC

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