2-9: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Havelange

[00:00:00] David Goldblatt: OK. OK I'll shut up about that. 

[00:00:02] Raja Shah: All right. 

[00:00:03] Kanishk Tharoor: How many ways is this World Cup torturing me. Jesus Christ. 

[00:00:11] DG: (Laughs) Stop it. Okay come on. 

[00:00:15] DG: Welcome back to Game of Our Lives. I'm David Goldblatt and I'm taking a breath and hanging on for dear life. There's just a week to go of World Cup 2018 and somehow England are still in it. We've got two semi finals in two days. Croatia Belgium France and England. And with me as ever to process the madness is Al-Jazeera's Tony Karon and producer Raja Shah. Tony Karon, hello. 

[00:00:39] Tony Karon: Hello, David I am coming to you from the South African countryside. The unreconstructed South African countryside where there's a sign in my hotel room inviting me to come and watch rugby on the big screen. 

[00:00:54] DG: Yes it takes me back to the being in the Karoo desert and trying to watch a Garner game in the middle of the 2010 World Cup and being pretty much the only people in the bar who were noticing. I know that feeling. Raja how are you feeling? 

[00:01:09] RS: I'm alright. I'm very much not in rugby country here in San Francisco. 

[00:01:12] DG: No I don't think they would know, no from rugby. Tony is going to be with us holding up on the Skype connection as best we can but we have called in necessarily, given the intellectual complexity and cultural fiendishness of this moment, some reinforcements. And it is once again my nemesis on the question of England, Kanishk Tharoor. Hello Kanishk. 

[00:01:32] KT: Nogomet nema doma David. Nogomet nema doma. Which I'd like you to know-. 

[00:01:38] DG: Translate that for me. 

[00:01:39] KT: According to my reliable friend Google translate is Croatian for football has no home. 

[00:01:49] DG: And as they're saying on Twitter just at the moment, would football want to come home? It's a truly extraordinary moment. As we are recording this anticipating England's clash in the semi-final with Croatia, the English ruling class and political system are tearing themselves into small pieces. We have the most united and loved England team for a very long time and we have truly the most divided government in a very long time. Kanishk let me ask you right now at this moment straight ahead. England Croatia. Who are you with? 

[00:02:23] KT: You know David I'm afraid I am the, in the anybody but England camp. I will be supporting Croatia though I fully expect England to get past them. But of course at the same time I haven't-. 

[00:02:35] DG: Hold on stop stop Kanishk! Kanishk Kanishk. Let's just just rewind there a moment. Did I hear you say you fully expect England to get past Croatia? 

[00:02:44] KT: Oh I do. Yes. I actually mean that seriously. I mean I mean that both sincerely and insincerely. Because you know if it can jinx you that that's fine. But I generally think there's there's, as it seems to be clear now there's a kind of moment of destiny reaching this English team. And I think a trip to the World Cup final is in the offing. And just the disarray and dissolution we're seeing in Whitehall in the cabinet is just more more fuel for that fire that seems to be burning. 

[00:03:11] DG: Are you in any way queasy about getting into bed with Croatia? 

[00:03:16] KT: You know listen I I'm fully aware of the sort of difficult stories that have come out over the past few weeks from the Croatian camp where for example I believe after they've defeated Argentina, Dejan Lovren was singing songs that were very much referring to the sort of fascist Ustase government past of Croatia, the Croatian equivalent of Sieg Heil. We know that Croatian fans can often be quite far right arch nationalists. And I think we have to accept that Croatia, as a young fairly small country, its symbols of nationalism are enmeshed with that sort of troubled time in the 1940s. When-. 

[00:03:55] TK: Let's not talk only about World War II we can talk about right now as well. 

[00:04:01] DG: Talk about right now, Tony. So where do you where do you sit right now? 

[00:04:04] TK: Well there are four European teams in the semifinals. Absolutely. What's interesting about them is that three of those teams represent a Europe that's come to terms with inclusion of the people who were colonized. And you know it's an ongoing process, ongoing challenge. Whereas Croatia represents a Europe that shuts its doors to the very people who make up the French team, who make up the Belgian team, and who make up the England team. So for me there's no question. 

[00:04:29] KT: But you know at the same time we should also recognize that this is a quite divided moment within Croatia about the national team. I think it is fair to say that the left in Croatia has always found it difficult to embrace the national team in so much because this is a country that came into being essentially in 1990, or in the early 90s, and the national team itself has had to bear so much of the weight of not only the creation of the nation but of the conflict that accompanied it. And so inevitably I think the edges are very rough there. You know I completely accept that there are a lot of distasteful things about the nature of Croatian football support, of the culture of the players, but you know at the same time there are stories within the team like that of Danijel Subašić, right. Who is this goalkeeper who, his father was was effectively Serb, he was Orthodox Christian. And had to endure so much. And even now in the media debate, questioning his identity, questioning his desire to marry a Croat woman, he’s endured all of this and persevered and has played a starring role in this World Cup so far. So I don't- we've been reluctant to essentialize the English, let's not entirely essentialize the Croatians either. 

[00:05:39] DG: Yeah I can't agree with you more Kanishk, that's a really fantastically good point. It's a very mixed bag. And Tony you in particular have been pointing out on Twitter and elsewhere some of the bad ugly mob behaviour that's been associated with-. 

[00:05:54] TK: I mean the no surrender to the I-KE-A 

[00:05:59] KT: I thought that was brilliant. 

[00:06:01] DG: You'll have to explain that one to the people. 

[00:06:04] TK: Well the knuckleheaded right wing England fans, you know that traditionally chanted no surrender to the IRA for who knows what reason. Some of the same element invaded and trashed an IKEA store in the UK on the weekend following their victory over Sweden. Hence no surrender to the I-KE-A. 

[00:06:20] KT: I thought that was a hilarious scene. Obviously it played well on social media because it confirmed sort of many stereotypes about loutish English football fans. But at the same time I thought it was such an exuberant pan to globalised sort of middle class domesticity. To go to an Ikea and happily sing, "It's coming home" in an Ikea. So I thought that was quite a great moment. I mean Ikea should use it as an advertisement themselves. 

[00:06:45] TK: That's funny. Is Kanishk wanting us to embrace that as an anti globalization riot? 

[00:06:51] KT: No I think it's actually, it's like an homage to global- It's coming home. It's coming home. And they're there in the Ikea and they're celebrating, they're throwing around throw cushions, and ottomans, and jumping on sofas. 

[00:07:03] DG: Yeah cause what home looks like in England these days sure doesn't look like what it was looking like in the 1950s. There's an awful lot less chintz and an awful lot more laminated bookcases than their used to be. 

[00:07:15] TK: With strange names. 

[00:07:16] DG: There's also on social media the other side of the coin in England. I mean some really fantastic little bits of footage. And one I, you know I tweeted out was of a Sikh wedding over the weekend where you've got the whole crew dancing like crazy to “Footballs Coming Home.” Or indeed the reports from my son who was at St. Pauls Carnival this weekend in Bristol which is the traditional Afro-Caribbean migrant zone of inner Bristol that's been holding this carnival for 50 years. And there you know, packed into the squares and the streets of the inner city in Bristol, you've got the most unbelievably diverse young crowd who simultaneously are dancing to grime, to drum and bass, but also to “Football's Coming Home” in a whole bunch of versions and variations and DJ sets. And that's that's a very very special thing I think to see in this country at the moment. 

[00:08:14] TK: Yeah I mean just a note of caution in general we know from experience of so many countries that as much as we would love to believe that you know football is the harbinger of all of this progress, it certainly always offers a symbol of what could be possible, but as to what will actually transpire that remains to be fought for. It really does. I mean Britain right now is in the throes of something really interesting because of the turmoil at the top in the Tory party over Brexit. And so, but the outcomes are far from settled. You hope that the feelgood element that the football progress brings inspires people on the street to take back a Britain that is about inclusion, that's about a more cosmopolitan and connected identity, and that is more social democratic. That prizes the National Health Service almost as you know the prize of what Britishness is. 

[00:09:03] DG: And you know prizes I mean in an almost, a less politicised way, seeking a bit more common ground. A national identity that prizes civility and politeness and preparedness. And people who actually answer the question and don't run away from things when they go wrong. I mean just at that sort of basic level of competence. The ruling class at the moment has completely and utterly failed and that again is why Southgate and the team are such a kind of powerful sort of symbol just for doing really simple things differently. 

[00:9:37] RS: Well can I just say by the way you know speaking of civility, this is a level, I mean I'm all for nuance and reason, but this is a level of civility that three of you are exhibiting now that I did not see on Twitter over the weekend. 

[00:9:47] TK: Please. I mean winding up David is like, am I taking the piss or is he just giving it away? 

[00:9:53] DG: I can't help it Tony. This is why I'm not a politician because I'm always ready for a fight. I could start a fight with myself on these kinds of issues which is why I really should keep away from Twitter because it fires all of my worst buttons. 

[00:10:09] TK: I just I do worry about you and the prospect of a Belgium England showdown because that really is kind of Tottenham Hotspur split down the middle isn't it. 

[00:10:19] DG: Oh well there's a joy and a problem that I look forward to experiencing. Mind you I'd be pretty pleased with France England as well. Gentlemen let me just ask you, Russia finally sent out by Croatia on penalties. Do you think it's going to make a difference to Croatia? It's an old team, they've done two lots of 120 minutes. Can they recover from that? 

[00:10:40] KT: They're walking wounded. You saw at the end of the game against Russia the match against Russia they lost their right back, Mandzukic was limping, Mandzukic who was their best striker. Their goalkeeper Subašić who has been heroic through much of the tournament was clearly injured as well. So much of the energy of this team, that crafted this team, is sort of resting on the little engine of Luka Modrić. And again I do think that he's the kind of player that the English lack and could be well-placed to exploit that gap in the English midfield. But I just think there's too much energy. There's too much speed. There's too much spirit right now in this English team to let the Croatians defeat them. 

[00:11:22] DG: Tony, any thoughts on that? 

[00:11:24] TK: Yes I absolutely agree with Kanishk. Not only are they walking wounded but Croatia doesn't play a very fast game. You know this generation of England is all about pace. The pace of attack. So you know you look at someone like Vrsaljko the right back that as Kanishk said is out injured. He's one of their better players. You know again we might be jinxing it but I don't think England is facing Croatia at its best. 

[00:11:44] KT: It will be sad for me if England won the World Cup because the idea of an England world champion is is more than I can really handle right now. But worse so is because I managed to schedule the baptism of my half Puerto Rican Catholic child not not just on the day of the World Cup final, but during the World Cup final itself. 

[00:12:05] DG: Oh no stop it you’re joking. Seriously? 

[00:12:07] KT: Yeah I mean it has to do- It's one of the reasons is I don't schedule the times that a church does mass. But also it has to do with family visiting. So it's a bit difficult for me to sort of coordinate their schedules around the World Cup. Though I should have. 

[00:12:21] DG: This is time for a dispensation from the pope surely. He would understand!

[00:12:25] KT: I know. So so I would rather not be sitting worrying about Harry Kane stooping to head past Jan Vertonghen. Oh god. Terrible images all around. 

[00:12:33] DG: Can I just guys you are seriously freaking me out. 

[00:12:39] RS: Yeah you should be worried. 

[00:12:40] KT: You're Welcome. 

[00:12:40] DG: You're seriously seriously freaking me out. I can't believe what I'm hearing from you. I see your points. I don't disagree with you but you are freaking me out. England actually in the World Cup final. No surely not. Not in my lifetime. 

[00:12:53] KT: But we're completely objective David so you have to take everything we say quite quite literally. 

[00:13:02] DG: Gentleman you are jinxing it. I'm putting my fingers in my ear. I'm getting the garlic out. I'm drawing a pentagram. Talking of which, once again, no Vladimir Putin for the Russia Croatia game. But there's another member of the undead that's been on my mind that's been haunting this World Cup. Raja, I've got a story coming on here. So hit the lights and give me some music. 

[00:13:30] RS: All right.

[00:13:33] DG: There's a ghost at the World Cup this year in Russia. The ghost of Joao Havelange. Joao Havalange, the president of Fifa 1974 to 1998, who died age 100. Though I'm not entirely convinced myself. I will actually have to see the silver dagger through the hole before I believe it. 

[00:13:56] DG: So Joao Havelange, who's the King, who's the emperor. He's the Mao. And Havelange's ghost is with us is with us because the World Cup as it is today, FIFA as an institution as it is today, and in some ways football as a whole as it is today owes a mighty debt to the endeavours of Joao Havelange during his time at FIFA. He's the man who commercialized the World Cup, who brought sponsorship in, who realised the value of the television rights and who built FIFA into the global institution that it has become. Of course, along the way he introduced the patronage politics, the clientelism and the corruption that characterizes Brazilian politics and Brazilian football and made it global. 

[00:14:47] DG: There are two rather good stories about Joao Havelange that I wanted to tell you. The first has to do with 1982 World Cup in Spain. And the ticketing for that event is being run by a man called Raimondo Saporta who works I believe for Real Madrid. And he has allocated 400 tickets to Joao Havelange personally for the Brazil game against Russia. However, those tickets are behind the goal and Joao Havelange expects his Brazilian network to be in the VIP stands. So he goes and sees Raimondo Saporta. 

[00:15:27] DG: He walks into his office locks the door and in a really classy touch, closes the windows and lowers the blinds. He sits down in the chair opposite Saporta who is a man with a heart condition and a very considerable girth. And he says, cool as a cucumber: I can stay here for 72 hours without having a piss, a s**t, food or sleep. You on the other hand might well die because I am not going to let you leave until I've got my tickets in my hands. By all accounts, a couple of hours later, he left with those tickets in his hands. 

[00:16:21] DG: My final Joao Havelange story is rather more personal. In 2005 I went to Frankfurt to the Confederations Cup and we get to the hotel and of course it's the FIFA HQ hotel, 17 stars and we go off to the FIFA bar, the fanciest bar as you can imagine, in the hotel. And we make ourselves comfortable. As with most bars, there's one seat that's the King's seat, the one that means that you know if there are assassins around they're going to have to look you in the eye. You got the whole bar covered and your back protected. So of course I go and sit in that seat. 

[00:17:00] DG: And we're sitting there and we're talking and we're wondering what we're going to do when suddenly out the corner of my eye I sense a presence. And that presence is dressed from head to foot in very expensive blue and silver silk with a kind of slight check pattern. And it takes quite a long time to take this in because the dude who is wearing this five thousand dollar suit is six foot six. And by the time I get to his cadaverous head, I realise it is none other than Joao Havelange, surrounded by a whole bunch of blazered FIFA factotums with their clipboards and their mobile phones. 

[00:17:44] DG: And he turns his head slowly and looks at me and I can see immediately he's thinking, why are you in the FIFA bar? Who are you? And more to the point, why are you sitting in my chair? And our eyes locked. Now for those of you who've experienced Harry Potter, the movies, there's a lot of moments when Voldemort, the most evil magician in the world, encounters Harry and they get their wands out and all sorts of crazy electromagnetic activity comes out of the two of them, connects together and then they freak out. And for about five seconds, that's what happened. I almost thought about moving. I kind of sensed, you know, like this man really did have a kind of aura. And we locked eyes and thank God one of the dudes with him kind of pulled his attention away to something much more important than this urchin sitting in the bar and he was gone in a flash. 

[00:19:11] DG: So Joao Havelange, let us render unto Caesar what is Caesar's due. And in Joao Havelange's case that is respect for his mastery of the dark arts of institutional and charismatic power and the World Cup in all its commercial garishness and all of its super-politicization is unquestionably his legacy to us. 

[00:19:49] RS: So just to be clear David, you're Harry Potter in this scenario? 

[00:19:53] DG: Yes I am Harry Potter in this scenario. With more hair. 

[00:19:58] RS: And who are Tony and Kanishk then? I think I think Tony has got to be Ron Weasley. 

[00:20:03] TK: What! 

[00:20:04] RS: Kanishk unfortunately I think that makes you Hermione. 

[00:20:09] KT: You know I think I think for people listening to this they may not actually be able to see pictures of Havelange. I'm surprised- I’m impressed that David managed to withstand his gaze. He's a really forbidding presence. And he looks to me kind of like a cross between Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and Saruman from Lord of the Rings. He's a pretty scary looking guy. 

[00:20:30] DG: Now you're talking Kanishk. That’s a combination that works for me. 

[00:20:33] TK: I just want to you know, let me fly the flag for Africa here for a second. Everything you said about Havelange, absolutely true. No question. That said African football is in a lot better shape in terms of representation in the World Cup thanks to Havelange. You know the fact that he depended on African votes to get where he got in FIFA had a very positive effect on opening up the World Cup to African teams. So that part of the legacy is very much something you know we treasure, despite all the corruption and all the other things. 

[00:21:00] DG: Absolutely and it's not just the World Cup places it's also Junior World Cups, Youth World Cups that have gone to Africa, more places on committees, more places on the executive committee, more power generally. And not only that but also serious and solid support for the exclusion of apartheid South Africa from world football. 

[00:21:21] TK: Exactly. 

[00:21:22] DG: You know so all of that absolutely. The cost of course for getting into bed with the devil is the entrenchment of the corrupt elites in African football that have held it back so badly. I mean all of those processes while at the same time opening up opportunities for African football and African players and African coaches have provided the means and the ideological cover for a really bad set of administrators and politicians to run the game. So totally recognise Havelange's contribution to African football. But my it's come at a cost. 

[00:22:03] DG: Raja we need to move to what to watch. 

[00:22:07] RS: Well I mean we're in the semifinals David I think I know what I'll be watching. 

[00:22:10] DG: I think we do know what we're watching, but we must come up with something interesting to say about it surely. Give us the music. 

[00:22:16] RS: Sure yes of course we can't deprive you of the bumper because as we've established this is the good luck charm of the Three Lions. So. 

[00:22:22] DG: Love the bumper dude. 

[00:22:27] RS: He says through gritted teeth. 

[00:22:29] (What to watch bumper plays.)

[00:22:33] DG: Okay guys I am too full of Brexit, Boris Johnson, Three Lions, waistcoats, footballs coming home or not. It's over to you for Belgium France clearly it's going to be a sensational game of football. These, to my eyes, these are the two best and most exciting teams in this tournament. What are you going to be looking for, Tony? 

[00:22:52] TK: As you say this is going to be a fantastic game of football. These are the two most exciting attacking teams in the tournament. That said I think Belgium pays a little more on the front foot than than France does. I think they're a little less cautious. I don't think Martinez has it in him, the coach, to lock things down. They play, you know, they're going to keep attacking to the end. I think this is a fantastic contest between the immigrant populations of Belgium and France. It's very hard emotionally to kind of settle on one or the other. My sense is that Belgium's midfield is just that much more exciting.

[00:23:31] TK: If you, when you have Hazard, Eden Hazard of Chelsea, and you have Kevin De Bruyne of Manchester City unsung they are really unstoppable. With Romelo Lukaku up front. Absolutely he has been for me the player of the tournament. He is an immensely gifted striker in terms of his guile, his craft. He has run the game. So many of Belgium's goals that he hasn't scored he's made by his running, what he's been doing off the ball, and what he does on the ball is magnificent. For me he thus far has been the player of the tournament. I would give Belgium a slight edge here. 

[00:24:07] DG: Kanishk? 

[00:24:08] KT: I think the best goal of the tournament so far was the Belgian's third goal, winning goal, in the last minute of the game against Japan. And that was a goal where Lukaku didn't touch the ball but he made it completely just by his movement. We also have in Belgium the prospect of the wall of hair that is Marouane Fellaini. 

[00:24:27] DG: Yes I was going to say the much maligned Marouane Fellaini is having a fantastic World Cup, no? 

[00:24:34] KT: He is. I mean I've, I'm not terribly fond of him but he he's a very effective player. I mean you can't- he's all elbows sometimes and can be quite quite spiky. But this is also, this is a clash between basically the banlieue of Paris and the suburbs of Brussels. So in a sense this is a kind of it's the meeting of the tower blocks, you know? It's a clash of two kinds of backgrounds that are quite similar to each other. 

[00:25:01] DG: Okay guys, that’s enough on Belgium. Make the case, what’s the case for France here? I mean in football terms not just, not just in political terms. What do you make of them? 

[00:25:12] TK: I guess in football terms France's midfield potentially negates Belgium's. You could make a case for N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba actually shutting down the service to Romelo Lukaku. France have plenty of attacking options. You can imagine France stealing this by one goal because of Griezmann and Mbappe in particular. You know I wouldn't count them out, they're very they're very closely match teams. 

[00:25:39] KT: Yeah I think that's right. I also think that Belgium have really been been exceeding themselves at times they- in their recovery against Japan, in their defeat of Brazil. I don't think we've seen this French team play beyond itself just yet. I think they've been playing within themselves. That I think is in part a function of the more cautious approach that Deschamps has, their coach. But I think there's another gear that this French team can switch to that has not been visible yet in the World Cup. So I'm curious to see if they ever achieve that and it might be that they do in what I agree with Tony is an incredibly well-matched and tantalizing game between them and Belgium. 

[00:26:16] DG: OK Raja Shah. That's a pretty fabulous feast placed before you. You've kept your cards very close to your chest. Who are you rooting for in these two games? 

[00:26:26] RS: I'm firmly on team anyone but France. This is the one thing that I think Americans of all stripes seem to come together on is irrational disdain for the French. 

[00:26:38] DG: OK so that puts you with the Belgians. Where are you going with Croatia England? 

[00:26:42] RS: Croatia England is tougher. Luka Modrić does seem pretty cool but like I said I'm sticking with team England, the Three Lions, on this one for host producer harmony. If no other reason. 

[00:26:53] DG: Gareth Southgate, Harry Kane, you heard it here first. Raja Shah is with you. There are precious few games left. There's precious time left. It's time for us to go and enjoy it. This show has been a production of Al Jazeera's Jetty Studios. It was recorded at the Sound Town studios in Bristol UK. Music as ever by Bang Data. Subscribe to the show if you haven't already. It's there on Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. And if you like it leave us a review. Follow us on Twitter at at Game of Our Lives. It just remains to say, thank you Kanishk Tharoor. 

[00:27:28] KT: Nogomet nema doma.

[00:27:31] DG: And thank you Tony Karon in your little car in somewhere difficult in South Africa. 

[00:27:36] TK: Until the Lions have historians of their own, tales of the hunt will always glorify the hunter. 

[00:27:42] DG: Man you did good on the quote front. Raja Shah, thank you very much. 

[00:27:46] RS: Thanks David. 

[00:27:47] DG: I'm David Goldblatt, and we'll see you on Friday. 

[00:27:51] TK: We love braaivleis, rugby, sunny skies and Chevrolet. They go together in the good ole RSA. Braaivleis, rugby, sunny skies and chevrolet. I couldve sung that online. 

[00:28:05] KT: That's going to be the end of the podcast, isn't it?