Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Cameroon:Football and Simplistic Patriotism

By Asonganyi Tazoacha
The flag is like the identity card of a country. More importantly, it is a symbol of certain national ideals; it is an expression of the principle of freedom and inclusiveness. It is not an instrument for the promotion of stage-managed patriotism. It is not a symbol of repressive state power. It is not a tool with which demagogic politicians play games of simplistic patriotism, or puppets and puppeteers grandstand with the concept of patriotism.

Human progress and achievement is anchored on the rights of spirit and mind – freedom of speech, press, religion, assembly, association, and petition for redress. These freedoms can also be expressed through symbolic actions like the memorable corner-flag dance of Roger Miller, or the recent symbolic actions of Eto’o Fils, in response to the gossips of Mourinho about his age. When such symbolic expressions are played out, opponents jeer, while friends and supporters cheer. That of course is their right.

The National Football Team is an effective form of political association; it is a team of individuals united in common purpose. Like every association, its members enjoy political expression. The refusal - in protest - of the Captain of the National Football Team to take the Cameroon flag from the Prime Minister was a supreme act of political expression. It is a statement about corruption, crooked management practices, high-handedness, one-upmanship and many other ills that have plagued football and the team for a long time. Again, opponents are jeering while supporters are cheering. Individuals may disagree with the message; even society may find it offensive or disagreeable. However, toleration of such political expression is a sign of strength. It is patriotism at its best. Patriotism is not just saying that you love a country, or about touting its flag around, or mouthing the national anthem while daily bleeding the country through profligacy and brigandage.

It is interesting that many people are acting as if this act of political expression by the “Indomitable Lions” is the most threatening problem faced by the team prior to the Brazil football fiesta. They are wrong. The act was an expression of the mood of the team that is going to represent Cameroon in Brazil. We should be thankful that it was here on Cameroon soil, not faraway in Brazil where the problem would have been more difficult to resolve, and probably too late. Whatever the outcome of their representation in Brazil, they leave the rest of us with the message that patriotism is about living in truth and telling the truth about the country. It is about standing up to power with courage and integrity.

Each and every one of us may think differently about the act; my one word to Eto’o is -Thanks! Please know that Cameroonians look up to your team with a mixture of confidence and anxiety.

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