Introduction”It’s the same old story: Sport and politics are brothers and sometimes sport is under the other brother,” mused Italian writer Marco Impiglia at a Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) symposium in 2013 (The Associated Press, 2013). In many countries, football itself is used as a vehicle for the expression of nationalism and for the promotion of individual nations’ power and status internationally (Sugden and Tomlinson, 1998). The interference of national governments have had to be restricted by FIFA through the creation of Statute 17, Independence of Members and their bodies, where “each Member shall manage its affairs independently and with no influence from third parties”. Between 2003-2013 FIFA have suspended 13 member associations for government interference (Garcia and Meier, 2014). This paper aims to examine the relationship between political systems and institutions with football performance using both a statistical and empirical case study based approach, exploring a range of existing literature on the subject. Case Study 1: Italy – Calcio and FascismOn the eve of the 1934 World Cup hosted in Italy, fascist dictator Benito Mussolini commented on what Fascism had done for the nation:Fascism did what the old liberalism and the same democracy had always overlooked: it took itself to the people, it went among the peasants, the workers, the farmers, the middle classes, it approached students, the young, it interpreted the needs of the people, it educated them politically and morally, it organized them not only from the professional and economic point of view but also from the military, cultural, educational and recreational perspective. On 28th October 1922, the Fascist regime came in to into power. The primary goal of the Fascist state was to create the Italiano nuovo,which was different to the Italy produced by natural historic and social evolution. In doing this it wished to elevate Italy’s international status – both politically and socially – and importantly the spiritual condition of Italians. Until this point the term ‘Italy’ is better suited to describe the geographical area unified in 1861, as the Italian nation itself remained a disconnected entity in much need of integration. Under the regime, sport and football in particular were exploited as a diplomatic tool to improve the nation’s standing as well as a method to develop a sense of Italian identity. In 1926 the game was institutionalised by the regime as a Fascist game and the first national league was established in 1929. Football was their preferred sport because unlike athletics and many other sports at the Olympic Games which relied on individual brilliance to bring about a sense of national pride, football allowed the people to recognise the importance of the single unit as part of the organic whole under the watchful eye of a single leader. The Fascist footballers would symbolise heroism, determination, and sacrifice for their cause. The game itself was already a phenomenon for the masses and was the biggest mass cultural leisure-time activity in Italy. The regime reached out to the people through media in order for them to connect around the sport. Football triumphs were not just reported in sports newspapers but covered in mainstream press like Il Popolo d’Italia, which as the official daily of the party and Mussolini’s symbol. The investment in live broadcasting by the regime created a Sunday ritual, where even Italians who had never kicked a ball would crowd around a radio and listen to commentators bring the game to life. This fervour for the game was part of the physical and psychological change that the regime wished to bring about, with more athletic and unified citizens. The change that was brought about was observed by La Gazetta:The Fascist revolution . . . has stirred the vigour of the race in sport, it has created the sporting spirit among the masses. Thus the gymnasia and stadia have been increased tenfold, the legions of militant youngsters have multiplied by hundreds, and within a decade the most functional and perfect facilities have brought us the strongest and best prepared athletes. The World Cup has been the sieve and the evidence of our rise. The blue shirt has become, in all fields, a symbol of ability . . . of ardour, of assertion. The number of individual successes blend into the bright dazzling size of the collective success, and abroad our superiority is recognized, admired and envied.
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