There’s no doubt that the most popular sport in the world changes the way we live our lives.  It matters little if you’re a fan or not, it doesn’t matter if you go to the matches or not and it’s even less important if you understand the sport at all.  We need to understand that football goes further than being just “a game” and, in fact, our modern culture is shaped by football in ways we can’t even realize.

Messi, The Phenomenon And The Messi Phenomena

Lionel Messi is so ubiquitous, and well known that there is actually such a thing as a Messi Phenomena. This is quite the tongue twister (a silly one) but it works on this matter.

Not to go deep on football techniques or specifics, why has he become so famous? Why do we all love Messi? Why is he on all sorts of conversations? Is he the best player in football history?

Maybe, but it goes deeper than that.

Messi represents everything that is good about football (some might say this is true except when he wears Argentina’s shirt) nevertheless, he’s an excellent player, which can be an oversimplification of his skills, he stands for all the good values a player can have. He’s super professional, honest and humble about his successes in life.  He’s a good team player, he doesn’t try to carry all the team on his shoulders.

He’s a role model for all the difficulties he endured as a kid, due to his growth problems. He always seems to be grateful with those who gave him an opportunity and he’s always wanting to go back home to his family. He doesn’t need to be the center of attention, and has never been involved in any kind of controversy. He knows how to keep a low profile about his personal life, but he still seems to be proud of his family.

Our children, aged 6-14, who play pretend every time they can (for instance, when they are playing football) fight over the character they like the most, in this case, Messi, every kid wants to be either Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, there aren’t any other players out there.  People hold Messi as a male beauty standard and men place bets, wear his shirt and even, some “hardcore fans” start liking things like tango dancing and drinking maté because of him.

Why does this happen?

Chances are, it’s the media, overloading these superstars in every commercial, from soft drinks, shoes, hair products to even video game covers, whether it’s FIFA or PES, these brands fight tooth and nail (or cash and checks if you follow) to have them on their cover, because they know every single product with their faces on it will

What’s Sport Sociology?

According to French sociologist Émile Durkheim, A social fact is every way of acting which is general throughout a given society, exterior to an individual.  That being said, sport sociology tries to understand and explain how sports change the social structures in which people and societies behave, feel and live. In other words, how football changes us as a society.

Marx said that religion is the opium of the people, but as society grew and country borders became blurrier, we can come up with the modern idea that football is the opium of the people, and the Champions League Final is the syringe.

Football as a Weapon of Mass Distraction

Football has been used with political ends (and we’re not talking about the two million dollars stolen by FIFA officials).  Some of the biggest football events have been used as distraction tools, to amuse rather conflicted masses of people from brutal events, to increase nationalism, encouraging people to fight for their countries and even lessen the social discontent from an economic crisis.

Argentina, 1978.  FIFA World Cup during one of the cruelest, most hardcore militar dictatorship. The dictatorial Argentine government organized this football world cup to show the world an image of peace and national unity.  Of course, this world cup was easily won by Argentina, with people being able to forget (at times) the hardships they were living with.  More examples can be 1980’s Uruguay’s “mini” world cup, or Venezuela’s 2007 Copa America while under a controversial regime by Hugo Chavez, or Russia, having the latest FIFA World Cup on an election year.