Politics on and off the pitch

Sports have often played a role in international relations. It is a chance for countries to display power and prowess. But sports events all too often translate into crises or tension in the political arena. During the Cold War, both the 1980 Olympics in Moscow and the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles suffered boycotts by the hosts’ respective Cold War adversaries.
The FIFA World Cup, while less prone to geopolitical machinations, nevertheless has its own superpowers and is regularly an outlet for displays of unbridled nationalism. In this light soccer has proved to be one of the favorite fields in which politics and athleticism reflect the performance of a country. The Brazilian World Cup of 2014 has shown that there are many similarities between the way one country acts on the international scene and the way it plays on the pitch. The contradictory Brazil, which was able to go undefeated until the semi-final, also revealed the contradictions between wealth and poverty visible in the country. The defeated Argentina, which is on the brink of a new economic crisis, and the powerful Germany, which has risen again from the tumult and burden of unification to once again claim its traditional place as a soccer superpower.
Finally, there is the ever-present Netherlands. Often among the first four national teams in the world and a great country in the north of Europe. What the pitch shows us is that soccer, as von Clausewitz might have put it, is the continuation of politics by other means.