Brexit. Trump. Le Pen.
Anyone with an outward eye didn’t need the vilification and subsequent international retirement of our mercurial numero dix to remind them of how polarised opinions have changed our political landscape across the western world.
The main impact of the financial crisis of the late 2000s, widescale economic migration and the free-market crushing of any liberalism with a remotely socialist bent has been to shift our global barometer right.
The advent of social media and the tyranny it exerts over those more pre-occupied with maintaining their position than using it for virtuous means has given disproportionate power to those able to co-ordinate loud shouting in terms of influencing appointments and policy.
The socially liberal centrists have been taken by surprise by the re-emergence of arguments that appeared long since won and have not known how to counter arguments from political extremes that seem to them pure logical and moral fallacies.
In a world where an unwillingness of slavishly free-market governments to curb corporate greed has failed to ensure that economic growth is to the benefit of all, and hundreds of millions see their living costs spiral while earnings remain static, people have, as they have done throughout history, chosen to look beyond the comfortable familiarities for answers.
In Britain, this has seen the rise of previously fringe figures like Farage and Corbyn from their respective political wildernesses, while those in the centre thrash around in vain attempts to understand. In the US, the last Presidential election saw bitter divides along partisan lines, and again, the ‘disenfranchised’ white working class split among more radical approaches, largely lurching to the right. The fact that Le Pen is even a political figure in France says quite enough about the issues there. And this is being reflected all over the Western world.
Why am I talking about this in a football blog?
Because these changes have all occurred since Mesut Ozil broke into the Bundesliga and since Klinsmann’s young German side caught the imagination in 2006 and that of Joachim Low excelled and excited prior to and at the 2010 World Cup.
At that point in time, the political reality we live in now, seemed implausible. In Britain, anti-EU sentiment was mostly confined to the back benches of the Conservative party and small towns without any experience of immigration. In the USA, the George W. Bush administration was limping to its conclusion, hamstrung by its war in Iraq. France was still basking in the after-glow if successes in 1998 and 2002 which were so dependent on post-colonial immigration, and the only fascist Le Pen of significance was Jean-Marie approaching his 80s. At the same time Germany was embracing its multi-heritage sportsmen and had recently hosted a successful and all-embracing World Cup.
Only the most prescient could have predicted the current state of affairs taking hold so quickly.
In the late 2000s, it would seem implausible to imagine a world cup winning footballer, a global superstar and perennial fixture in the national team quitting international football at the age of 29 due to both perceived and confirmed racial discrimination. A man who was eligible to play for the country of his heritage, and was actively pursued by them, but chose instead to represent the land of his birth, racking up 23 goals and 40 assists in 92 caps.
Even now, when one takes a step back from it, it is a seismic event in footballing terms. This isn’t an aging player looking to protect their legs for the benefit of their club career. This isn’t a fringe player attempting to hide his pique at non-selection behind a smokescreen of excuses. This isn’t a disruptive figure with a history of controversy. This isn’t even another example of player representing a nation with limited chance of success or major administrative problems. This is one of the best and most successful players ever produced by one of the strongest football nations in the world, quitting at the peak of his powers because he feels that his dual heritage has made him a victim of racial discrimination from his own fans, his football federation’s senior management, and the same media that made him German player of the year five times in the last seven years.
Before going any further, it is important to contextualise the broader situation.