This is essentially not about football so I hope you bear with me.
A few days ago the Icelandic national football team entered the field of a major tournament. I sat in front of the big screen and listened to the Icelandic national anthem playing with tears in my eyes.
Now the national anthem of Iceland tends to do that to me. It’s a beautiful song, but this was a bit different. This was a beautiful moment. A sense of overpowering pride hit me.
And it dawned on me…
THIS IS WHY – I thought.
- This is why people think it’s alright to travel to other countries and riot in some form of distorted support of their team.
- This is why politicians get killed in the streets.
- This is why people pick up guns and shoot down 69 people in Utöya and this is why someone kills 50 people in a nightclub in Orlando.
- This is why people of questionable morale and ideology come into power in various countries.
- This is why we think it’s perfectly acceptable to hate people openly on social media these days.
- This is why people reacted so hatefully towards a single man having a bad day at the job.
This pride, which seems so innocent, fragile and genuinely good, that pride in what we know and believe to be connected to our own being – that’s why. This we that this pride creates and excludes so man others from. When it gets threatened we become scared and this pride makes us react irrationally.
After the game against Portugal there was some controversy. One of the players behaved badly and as a result of that people think it’s alright to behave even worse.
Cristiano Ronaldo has a bad day at the job, does something stupid (you’ve done it too – without the cameras in the face, I hope) and people, normal people, people I hold in high regards, think it’s perfectly acceptable to spout out hateful remarks about him. Remarks that I, quite honestly, find very frightening.
Now Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the best football players in the world. He has a lot of money and he looks great in shorts. This all seems very unfair, I’m sure. And the fact that he cares that he looks good in shorts only seems to fuel people’s anger further for some reason.
He’s from Madeira (an island just like Iceland – with the population of 270.000 which is a little less than Iceland). He comes from poverty but has managed to accomplish something extraordinary.
And he has been chosen the most charitable sportsperson, because of his donations and charitable causes. He has the money and he uses it for good. In my books that makes him a decent human being.
We need to start thinking in nuances. We need to stop feeding the hatred of people who don’t seem to be able to see straight and we need to start looking at the core of the problem. We need to be careful of the little things we say and do because the hate we put out there only fuels this machine of anger and spite further.
And a person doesn’t just pick up a gun, because they can and starts shooting. Something is terribly wrong when someone does that. What can we learn from the atrocities that happen? What could have been done to prevent it? Don’t become single minded. The solution isn’t always the simple one. We need to hate less and try to understand more, relate more.
And for the love of all that’s good – stop hating people because they refuse to exchange shirts with some Icelandic fellow who now surely has more shirts in his closet than he’ll ever need in his life. (I would personally have been quite irked if someone asked me for the shirt on my back – but apparently this is not only acceptable in football, but almost required behaviour.) So Ronaldo had a bad day at the job? He’s human being and it seems to me that he’s one of the good ones – paying for small children to have operations and donating to charity because he has the means to do it.
Be careful what you say. The world is badly balanced at the moment. It needs us to focus on the good things. It needs us to stop thinking that it’s them against us. We need to find a solution to the problems together. It’s not them against us because when push comes to shove, we’re all in the dirt together. It’s alright to be scared, but hatred accomplishes absolutely nothing.
And the hateful words I’ve heard lately over such a thing as one islander saying something (not unjust I might add!) about other islanders makes me REALLY worried about the state of the world. Because if we can’t realise that he is just one man having a bad day, doing a job, trying to be the best he can (and he really does seem to be trying just that) then what exactly is the world coming to? How will we be able to put a stop to the future shooters and haters of the world if we are feeding the world with hate speech about such simple matters? How are we going to be able to teach our children that it’s not alright to bully people? Not in life and absolutely not on the internet, how?
I used to think the world was becoming a better place, slowly but surely. I guess I was young and naive. The world changed when the twin towers came down and we are still not sure how to react to this change. A football tournament between the European people is just what the world needs at the moment, but we need to rejoice. Cheer for each other. Recognise the good in each other and react to the hate speech by either ignoring it, or speaking up against it.
I’ve been cheering for Portugal since Luis Figo reigned. I won’t stop now that “my boys” are on the field too. I’ll cheer for your team too, whatever it is and when they have a bad day at the job? – I might frown at bad behaviour but I will speak up against those who feed the hate-machinery of the world. So next time you have something bad to say about someone, think twice, think five times and then say this bad thing to someone who really loves you and who understands that you’re just frustrated over something relatively stupid. It happens to us all. And if you hear me doing this, poke me – hard – though not too hard.
And in the large state of affairs today this exchange of angry words seems like such an insignificant matter – but it isn’t. This is where it starts, with the small things. This is where you need to start reacting. Teach your children to see the good in people, whether they are football players or politicians. Teach them that it’s alright to have different opinions. It’s alright to try to search for different solutions to a problem. But teach them that it needs to be a peaceful solution. It needs to be a non-violent, hate-free solution – because this powder keg we live in – it just might explode.
It’s happened before.