Thursday, January 24, 2008

Euro 2008 Film Festival: Group B, Croatia

Film Festival Rules & Guidelines

Film selected (Year, Director): Sorry for Kung Fu (2004, Ognjen Svilicic)
Rating: 7/10
Rules compliance: All rules met

Relevance to Soccer: Immigration & Citizenship regarding national teams

A boy is born in Rio. Growing up, he plays plenty of soccer just like all the other kids around him. But the young boy does not make much impact in a nation packed with too many talented players. As a 16 year old, the young kid travels to play football in Croatia. He joins one of the country's biggest clubs in Dinamo Zagreb, but once again he does not impress as much. He is loaned out to a small team for whom he starts scoring goals. Finally, someone is impressed! Dinamo recall him and give him another chance. The rest they say is history. He becomes the club's top goal scorer and is even given citizenship to represent his new home, Croatia. Once again, the goals start flowing and his 10 goals help Croatia qualify for Euro 2008. In the meantime, he gets transferred from Zagreb to Arsenal in the summer of 2007. This is the story of Eduardo Da Silva, the Croatian-Brazilian who is certainly one of the sharpest goal-scorers in Europe at a young age of 24.

But what if Eduardo had not left Brazil? He certainly would not have gotten a chance and his career would have been over even before it could have started. Is there anything wrong in Eduardo representing Croatia? No! One of the reasons people emigrate is to find better employment. At the end of the day, professional soccer is just another job even though it pays a lot more than jobs most soccer fans hold. But when it comes to soccer, there are some very ignorant attitudes regarding immigration and citizenship. Certain factions in soccer want a 'pure' representation, meaning people only born within a country should represent their nation and that no immigrants can play for their new country, even though the soccer players have gotten a valid citizenship. FIFA president Sepp Blatter is one such person who wants this so called 'pure' practice. But Blatter would not want to stop at the national level. He even advocates that European soccer clubs implement a quota system to limit the number of foreign players that can play for a local club. The argument for having a quota limit at the club level is that this would help promote local talent. Even though there is no evidence so far that foreign players are hampering the development of local talent. Still, these backward thoughts of quotas and pure representation continue in 2008, at a time when global movement of people is much more common.

I really wonder what people like Sepp Blatter would make of the Croatian boy in Sorry for Kung Fu. Because even though the boy is born in Croatia, he is not of Croatian blood. Is that enough to single him out? Unfortunately, that is what most of the local people in the movie do.

At the film's start, Mirjana returns back home to Crotia from Germany.

Even though she had problems with her parents when she left, they cautiously accept her back. Until she tells her father that she is pregnant. The fact that she is not married and pregnant is a matter of shame for Mirjana's father. Eventually, he comes to accept his daughter's decision and since the father believes the son will be of Croatian blood, he is willing to accept the child provided the baby can have a father. When the son is born, the rest of the family do not let the father see the baby fearing that he will not be able to handle the shock. But news of the baby's features spreads through the town and racial jibes follow. Mirjana has no choice but to leave town with her young baby.

I cannot help wonder if Mirjana's son grows up to play football and one day becomes a good player, will all the people accept him?

Will people like Sepp Blatter come out with a statement along the lines of that only people whose blood lineage runs all the way back to a nation's history should represent that nation in soccer games? I hope not. At the end of the day, soccer teams should pick the best players, no matter where they come from.

No comments: