n Latin American Report - There is no room for religion in soccer : marginalisation of the culturally different

Volume 28, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0256-6060



The announcement in 2009 by the President of the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) that 'there is no room for religion in soccer' triggered a great deal of controversy among interested parties. This article, using a phenomenological approach, dissects the motive behind such prohibitions. In doing this, we ask whether this is not an attempt by FIFA to impose Western secularity upon the African and Latin American people whose lives and aspirations largely depend on religious traditions and rituals? In Africa and Latin America, soccer comes with its own demands and expectations on the individual player and the whole team. Because soccer tournaments such as the World Cup are not every day events, the frequent elements of danger, triumph or heroism that they carry may be thought to require religio-magical supplementation over and above player skill. How a particular player and his or her team deal with the pressure to perform has led to numerous scandals, from doping and match fixing, to the engagement of magico-religious rituals. With 2010 over and 2014 around the corner, south to south co-operation is going to be put to the test in terms of soccer cultural practices and expressions. From a phenomenological perspective the present article argues that FIFA and CAF's (Confederation of African Football) intentions to ban religion in soccer is not only anti-ethnocentric but also represents a 'false universalism of the West' undergirded by Cartesian rationality and its narrow definition of modernity.

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