Silent, dramatic message unforgettable at FIFA World Cup

Silent, dramatic message unforgettable at FIFA World Cup

England players kneel before the match against Iran

They call football a beautiful game, and the breathtaking moments from its greatest performance, the World Cup, linger in viewers’ minds like jewels.

Think of Geoff Hurst netting at Wembley for England’s only win in 1966; or Diego Maradona of Argentina dancing tango with England defenders in 1986 before scoring the best goal in tournament history.

Several sports can be suggested from their stats: baseball, cricket. But football — or football, as most of the world knows it — comes alive in eye-catching moments, moments of unforgettable drama.

This was true in the early stages of the Qatar tournament, though not necessarily in the way that commentators expected. To this day, it remains an iconic stage, and millions of global audiences have witnessed extraordinary political gestures – as well as acknowledging those that ultimately failed. The contest is a vivid reminder that silent messages are those of the powerless, and often extremely effective ones.

Before the opening match against England, the Iranian team refused to sing their national anthem, a courageous act of disobedience aimed at evading the theocracy in Tehran and the team’s hardcore supporters back home. It comes after months of unrest over the death of a young Iranian woman, Mahsa Amini, who was arrested by the country’s “ethical police” for allegedly violating strict dress codes. . Iranian authorities say she died of a heart attack, but many believe she was murdered, beaten to death while in police custody.

In England, British-Iranian comedian Omid Djalili urged England players to make the gesture of cutting their hair when they scored. The “haircut” has become a symbol of defiance in Iran, where women cut their hair and burn their headscarves.

The group did not adopt the gesture. But the players were on their knees before the game against Iran. This quiet protest has now become a feature of English Premier League matches in England, although it has drawn criticism in the UK and US, where it originated.

England captain Harry Kane and his Welsh counterpart, Gareth Bale, have indicated they want to wear the “One Love” armband during matches. Many hope to see this as an expression of solidarity with the people in Qatar (and elsewhere) who face severe punishments for displaying their sexuality in public. But FIFA, world football’s governing body, has warned that a player displaying such an icon could be penalized in the form of a penalty card. Instead, FIFA has allowed the wearing of “Non-Discrimination” armbands.


This is a series of powerful images from the England vs Iran match, and all before a ball is kicked!

For those who have no voice, a silent protest is a strong statement of protest. There is a strong immutability about it. Missing mothers in Chile made headlines around the world in the 1970s after quietly holding up pictures of their lost children. Peaceful protests in Tahrir Square, Egypt, in 2011 helped topple President Mubarak, who became the first Arab leader to be tried in a civil court like any other citizen. .

Voiceless rebuke has also found its way into the art of societies where dissent cannot be articulated. In 2008, Chinese artist and humanitarian Ai Weiwei, now living in Portugal, was accepted by the Beijing government to work on the Bird’s Nest Stadium for the Olympics, the only competitor in the world. of the World Cup as the biggest sporting attraction on the planet.

But while living and working in China, Ai also embarked on a series of vases with a satirical message. His Coca-Cola pots combine the iconic soft drink popular with pottery made in the tradition of his hometown of Ai. Never making his point explicitly, the artist is criticizing a Chinese regime caught between the country’s long past and the pressing needs of international capitalism. In it, Ai said things that he can only put into words now when he lives abroad.

Accessing a residence with the ruling elite, sensitive to any little thing, real or imagined, has been a daunting challenge throughout art history. The Spanish master Goya is often depicted as a court artist, as if he had been the pet dog of the Madrid monarchy. But many critics say that his group portrait of a seemingly indigestible ruling dynasty, “Charles V of Spain and His Family” (1800-01), is a disarming picture. amazed at a weak and cuckold king and his relatives.

The painting is also an homage to the all-time masterpiece of Spanish court art, “Las Meninas” (1656) by Velazquez. If Goya’s production isn’t quite in the same league, well, the royal selection isn’t for him either, or so the artist seems to be saying.

Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich was one of the bravest people who ever lived. Despite the ever-present fear of death or exile, which was the fate of many artists during Stalin’s “Great Terror”, Shostakovich incorporated mockery into his music: Of course, his gestures of protest could be heard, but the composer’s gamble was a rude and brutal dictator who had no ears to hear them.

The Jews were a specific target for liquidation, but Shostakovich, a pagan, incorporated Jewish musical elements into his compositions, including the klezmer-like music of the end of “” 2″ piano trio for piano, violin and cello. In 1948, when Stalin’s thugs were rounding up Jewish writers, poets and actors in Russia, Shostakovich composed the song “From Jewish Folk Poetry”. It included parts that the Jewish audience might interpret as a reaction to the difficulty of practicing their faith in the Soviet Union.

Such music was a provocation, a direct rebuke to Stalin. Knowing in advance of his arrest, Shostakovich packed his suitcase and slept on the stairs of his apartment building, so that the KGB wouldn’t disturb his family when they arrested him. But he outlived the tyrant by more than 20 years, dying of natural causes in Moscow in 1975.

A postscript on silence comes from philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein – not a name you’d expect to be mentioned over the weekend. One of the most famous quotes of the British-Austrian thinker seems to match the actions of Iranian football players as well as subversive artists. He said: “What cannot be said must be silent”.

Scholars have brooded over this gene claim for decades. Is Wittgenstein encouraging us to purse our lips about indescribable matters beyond human comprehension? Whatever he has in mind, it can serve as a platform for wordless protest, as the last word for wordless protests.

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