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Maybe Yugoslavia could have beaten France in World Cup

Middle East
on 19 Comments

Having spent the last month glued to the television for my quadrennial attack of soccerphilia– the World Cup– and having pulled for the thrilling underdogs of Croatia to their valiant defeat Sunday, I have one political observation to make: What if Yugoslavia had not broken apart in ethnic nationalism 30 years ago? Could that team have beaten France? What is achieved by partition?

Many people are remarking on the diversity of the champion French team. It was the model of players from different backgrounds coming together to produce brilliance on the field. Pogba has Guinean ancestry and is Muslim. The young hero of the tournament, 19-year-old Kylian Mbappe, has Cameroon and Algerian ancestry. The great Greizmann is of German-Portuguese ancestry. Varane has a Martiniquais father and a French mother, whatever French now means…

Meanwhile, there was a lot less diversity on the Croatian team. My favorite players’ names all ended with -ic. They all looked white to me.

Croatia was formerly part of Yugoslavia, which broke up in the early 90’s amid terrible ethnic/religious violence. Serbia, another constituent of the former Yugoslavia, was also in the World Cup draw of 32 teams, and was in a very tough group, and went out despite solid performance. I understand that Slovenia (another constituent of Yugoslavia) has a pretty good soccer team too. Imagine how much stronger they could have been together!

Of course mine is an idle question. But the principle is an important one. Nation states are fairly arbitrary collectives. They’re “imagined communities,” in the famous Benedict Anderson formulation, and every nation state comprises a lot of diversity, as the red-blue division of the U.S. demonstrates. But they hew together for the advantages that the modern nation state confers in a competitive unpredictable world, to be players. One reason we dis the two-state solution on this site is because even if Palestine became a viable state, 20 percent of Israel would be Palestinian. Discrimination and ethnic expulsion would still be sore, destabilizing questions in the “Jewish state.” When the true answer is, Equal rights. Ali Abunimah has always said that Israel and Palestine naturally comprise one country (Palestine) between the river and the sea.

Abunimah has also opined that partition doesn’t work. And though ethnic cleansing may “work” for a time, it creates enormous suffering/displacement/irredentism. Many of the Jews who survived the great genocide of WW2 left Poland for Palestine, displacing Palestinians, and the refugees are an unending grievance. Yes, Poland was a place of incredible trauma, but some Jews decided to stick it out, like the great fighter/Bundist Marek Edelman, because Edelman subscribed to principles of coexistence. Maybe he was right about Jews in Poland. I certainly felt that way on my visit.

So today I imagine that if Yugoslavia had overcome its differences, it would be champion.

P.S. Here is an excerpt from Roger Cohen’s book on Yugoslavia, Hearts Grown Brutal: Sagas of Sarajevo, in which he condemns the myths of tribe that overcame the “reality of mingling.”

The unscrambling of centuries of miscegenation in Europe in the name of relatively new ideas–that of the “nation-state” and its perversion, the “nation-as-tribe”–reached a paroxysm during the twentieth century. Hitler and Stalin moved or annihilated millions in the name of racist ideology or social engineering. More than one million Greeks were “resettled” from Turkey during the 1920s; six million Jews were slaughtered by the Nazi’s; more than three million ethnic Germans from Central Europe and the Soviet Union were “resettled”in the aftermath of World War II. Violence, the very heart of fascist ideologies in which differences of class and background were subsumed, grew in proportion to the often tenuous reality of the national idea. As Hans Magnus Enzensberger has observed, “The Aryan was never anything more than a risible construct,” a form of “compensation” for the mixed blood of the German and Austrian peoples. Similarly, in the Balkans, the post-communist “construct” of the Serbian, Croatian, and finally Bosnian Muslim nations had to be imbued with a compensatory fervor that masked the reality of mingling expressed in the idea of Yugoslavia. This fervor of the resurgent nation–built as much around legend as historical fact–in turn produced bloodshed not seen in Europe since 1945.

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Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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19 Responses

  1. eljay
    eljay
    July 17, 2018, 9:59 am

    IMO the problem isn’t partitioned vs. un-partitioned – it’s justice, accountability and equality vs. injustice and immorality.

    I would rather see two secular and democratic states of and for their respective people (those living in and up to n-generations removed from), equally, sharing a fairly-partitioned geographic Palestine -vs- a single religion-supremacist “Jewish State” (or “Islamic State”) comprising all of un-partitioned geographic Palestine.

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      July 18, 2018, 12:18 pm

      “I would rather see two secular and democratic states of and for their respective people”

      That should work out, like splitting up a gold mine.

      • eljay
        eljay
        July 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

        || Mooser: “I would rather see two secular and democratic states of and for their respective people”

        That should work out, like splitting up a gold mine. ||

        But you never know – it might work out. So far, leaving the goldmine in the hands of a single supremacist state doesn’t seem to be working out very well…for anyone other than the supremacists.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        July 18, 2018, 6:20 pm

        “But you never know – it might work out.”

        It is, at least, an ideal to hope for.

  2. constipatedart
    constipatedart
    July 17, 2018, 10:30 am

    I think the success of France has more to do with ghettos than with some kind of magical multicultural synergism. The German team of 1990 was hardly multiethnic, nor was the Italian team of 2006 or the Spanish team of 2012, unless you count Catalonians as a separate ethnicity. Western Europe has dominated world football because those countries have a highly organized, well financed infrastructure of academies and clubs that is positioned to take advantage of the talent that springs out of the hopelessness, unemployment and boredom of the slums. And actually, there are several Palestinians on the Israeli national team, and it still sucks.

    • Carioca
      Carioca
      July 21, 2018, 3:05 pm

      The German team “hardly multiethnic”???? Huh??? The German team is full of players whose parents who hail from Turkey, Africa (Tunisia, Nigeria, etc), Poland, Spain and other regions.

  3. Keith
    Keith
    July 17, 2018, 6:43 pm

    PHIL- “So today I imagine that if Yugoslavia had overcome its differences, it would be champion.”

    Overcome its differences? Yugoslavia was destabilized and broken apart by the empire and NATO, Germany and the US the primary beneficiaries. Do you know who the first head of the German BND (CIA) was? Reinhard Gehlen who was the German general for intelligence on the Eastern front during World War II. The Croats and the Muslims were allied with Hitler, the Serbs with Russia (the allies). The Serb resistance was critical in delaying the German advance and may have saved Russia. The Germans never forgave the Serbs for that. Interestingly, American Zionist Jews supported the destabilization and demonization of the Serbs, in effect supporting the neo-Nazi heirs to the Ustashe. So, Soros, the CIA, the Democrats (Clinton & Obama) support neo-nazis in Eastern Europe, then the Zionists complain about the rise in anti-Semitism. Go figure.

    PHIL- (from your link to “Hearts Grown Brutal”)- “…-in World War II, when Croatia sided with the Nazis and when Serbia took the opportunity of the German invasion to settle old scores against Croats, Muslims, Jews, and Gypsies.”

    What bullshit! The Croats and Muslims were aligned with Hitler, the Croats running the Jasenovac death camp where hundreds of thousands of Jews, Gypsies and (mostly) Serbs were exterminated.

    “While the 1964 census attempted to include all victims of the fascist occupation in wartime Yugoslavia, including the victims of the system of death camps at Jasenovac, it needs to be emphasized that the data collected in this census is incomplete. Many of the victims of Jasenovac and other camps are either not yet collected in any census, or were not included in this one. Nevertheless, we consider this database an invaluable tool for researchers and for victims’ families who wish to pursue research on this subject. It is a database that should be seen as a tool toward reaching a better knowledge of the real magnitude of the crimes of genocide committed by the Croatian Ustashe, the Nazis and their fascist collaborators, and a means for building a comprehensive list of known victims of the Holocaust in Yugoslavia.” (US Holocaust Memorial Museum) https://www.ushmm.org/online/hsv/source_view.php?SourceId=35701

    Also, see “Jasenovac and the Holocaust in Yugoslavia,” Barry M. Lituchy, ed.

    • Keith
      Keith
      July 18, 2018, 3:42 pm

      PHIL- “P.S. Here is an excerpt from Roger Cohen’s book on Yugoslavia, Hearts Grown Brutal: Sagas of Sarajevo, in which he condemns the myths of tribe that overcame the “reality of mingling.”

      Roger Cohen is a Jewish Zionist Hasbarist who is not to be trusted. As I indicated in the above comment, American Jewish Zionist supported Clinton’s aggression against Yugoslavia, Cohen mangling reality to provide support. He just recently authored an over-the-top vision of a Trump inspired dystopian future. I quote CJ Hopkins and link to Cohen’s insanity:

      “A fusillade of apocalyptic op-eds followed, the most shamelessly paranoid and hysterical of which was Roger Cohen’s experimental dystopia, in which “The Alliance of Authoritarian and Reactionary States” trick the inherently fascist Europeans into launching a Second Holocaust with a “fake news” story about Moroccan migrants abducting poor little “Tatiana” from a beach resort in Fuengirola.”
      https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/29/opinion/europe-immigration-trump-putin-germany.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-left-region&region=opinion-c-col-left-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-left-region

    • FightTribalism
      FightTribalism
      July 23, 2018, 3:38 pm

      Keith, I am originally from Bosnia, and you are talking nonsense. Yugoslavia was not some socialist utopia that lived in Harmony until evil western powers came and destroyed it to make rich, richer. Instead, the country has always had political strife between Serb supremacists who tried to control the control the whole country and subjugate the rest, and non-Serb ethnicities that did not want to be controlled.

      It is because of this long term Serb supremacy that Tito decided to divide the country into 6 Autonomous regions, and within Serbia, Tito also created two more autonomous regions to protect minorities there.

      Still, within Tito’s Yugoslavia, Serb supremacists ended up taking considerable power withing government, military and intelligence services (which are a LOT more important in communism than in democratic countries since they can basically arbitrarily imprison anyone ).

      Being Boshnjak kid in Bosnia meant asking myself why is my name weird since all the literature taught in school, as well as all the TV shows, featured Serb characters. You end up learning Serbian culture, featuring brave Serbs being oppressed by Turks (which is what Bosnjaks were called, as well as actual Ottomans). Often time poems were about bravely attacking a ‘Turk’ wedding celebration and killing everyone as if this is something to be proud and promoted.

      At the same time, on the street level, jokes about ethnic stereotypes were promoted among kids, so in those jokes, Bosnjaks were stupid, Montenegrins were lazy, Croats were dishonest, etc.

      The war itself was not something that just happened, but was planned for years in secret in preparation for ethnic cleansing of non-Serbs. The Guns that bombed Sarajevo were dug into their positions around the city well before the war. There newly constructed residential buildings with hidden sniper nests built for war. There were cement fortifications built in secret before the war, and so on.

      • Keith
        Keith
        July 24, 2018, 5:42 pm

        FIGHTTRIBALISM- “The war itself was not something that just happened, but was planned for years in secret in preparation for ethnic cleansing of non-Serbs.”

        It was planned for years in secret by the US, Germany and the Muslim/Croat leadership. The Serbs tried to hold the country together, but were unsuccessful. If one simply looks at the results of the conflict, with the Serbs ethnically cleansed from Krajina and Kosovo, your version of events is ludicrous. As you yourself say, “What people often don’t realize about oppressors is that almost all the time they believe that they are the ones who are wronged and threatened by the people they oppress.”

        Talking nonsense? Why don’t you go over my initial comment point by point and demonstrate what is nonsense. The Croats and Muslims aligned with Nazi Germany is nonsense? The Jasenovac death camp is nonsense? What? Some more relevant history:

        The ethnic conflict in the former Yugoslavia was primarily a consequence of US/German destabilization activities. One consequence was to transform NATO from a hard to justify faux defensive alliance into an imperial out of area mercenary strike force. In 1990, the U.S. Congress passed the Foreign Operations Law of 1991 which, among other things, specified a cut-off of all aid, credits and loans to Yugoslavia within six months. The World Bank and IMF were directed to follow suite. The only money to be permitted was to go to the right-wing separatist forces. It was, in effect, a declaration of economic war against Yugoslavia. The CIA predicted a bloody civil war as a consequence. Of course, that was the intent. Mind you, this was years before anyone even heard of Sarajevo. Germany was directly involved somewhat before the US, however, the German BND (CIA) under Reinhard Gehlen had, along with the US, maintained the network of fascist organizations which Gehlen had constructed when he was a Nazi General on the Eastern front during World War II. Prior to the conflict, the CIA had listed the Kosovo Liberation Army as a terrorist organization. This was yet another case of the Western powers balkanizing the Balkans. The notion of “humanitarian intervention” is bogus to the core. This was yet another imperial intervention for strategic purposes.

  4. ErikEast
    ErikEast
    July 18, 2018, 1:43 am

    Phil,

    If you were supporting Croatia in the semi-final the. you have broken my heart.

    On the question of partition, the ‘home nations’ that make-up the U.K. play team sports (soccer, rugby, cricket, basketball etc.) seperwtely under their own nation’s flag. Whilst this hasn’t provided a glut of trophies it is safe to say that no one in any part of the U.K. would want to do away with the current system. Perhaps then a one-State but with Palestinian and Israeli ‘nations’, each with their own sports representation could provide the answer.

  5. Ossinev
    Ossinev
    July 19, 2018, 6:54 am

    @ErikEast
    ” Perhaps then a one-State but with Palestinian and Israeli ‘nations’, each with their own sports representation could provide the answer”

    Things have moved on somewhat. The HebrewVolk Bill has now been passed and Zioland is now officially an Apartheid state. All that is needed to ice the cake are the decorative bits like “Jews only” and ” no Arabs” signs. Don`t you just love the “Only Democracy in the Middle East”LOL
    https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/israel-passes-controversial-nation-state-bill-1.6291048

    Boycott Ugly Racist Apartheid Israel.

    • eljay
      eljay
      July 19, 2018, 8:41 am

      || Ossinev: … The HebrewVolk Bill has now been passed and Zioland is now officially an Apartheid state. … https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/israel-passes-controversial-nation-state-bill-1.6291048 … ||

      … Netanyahu further said … ” … Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people, and respects the rights of all of its citizens.”

      The prime minister also said that “in the Middle East, only Israel respects [rights]. This is our country, the Jewish state. … “

      When challenged on Israel’s record of past and on-going (war) crimes and human-rights abuses and the fact that a supremacist state by definition cannot “respect the rights of all of its citizens”, Mr. Netanyahu – the self-proclaimed leader of every Jewish person in the world regardless of their actual nationality – said in defence of the “Jewish State”: “Yeah, well, at least Israel isn’t as bad as Saudi Arabia, Mali, African ‘hellholes’, China, 19th-century America, Russia, Syria or Egypt.”

  6. Ossinev
    Ossinev
    July 19, 2018, 9:54 am

    @ejay
    “Yeah, well, at least Israel isn’t as bad as Saudi Arabia, Mali, African ‘hellholes’, China, 19th-century America, Russia, Syria or Egypt.”

    Where did this quote come from ? I know that even the mighty Churchillian Yahoo is not immune to the dreaded whataboudiaorrhea but including Russia and Saudi Arabia on a Zio W list seems strange to me.

    Apologies if you are simply lampooning.

    • eljay
      eljay
      July 19, 2018, 10:05 am

      || Osinev: … Where did this quote come from ? … Apologies if you are simply lampooning. ||

      No worries. I was advised once not to use quotation marks when making stuff up so instead I tend to use italics.  :-)

  7. Carioca
    Carioca
    July 21, 2018, 3:23 pm

    Phil, Yugoslavia’s national team has a great history in the game. The team’s nickname was “the Brazilians of Europe” (when Brazil was still playing o jogo bonito – the beautiful game). Yugoslavia was one of the few countries who took part in the first world cup (1930, hosted by Uruguay) and they became very popular to the local crowd because of their stylish play. They beat a very strong Brazilian team and finished the tournament in 4th place. They did exceptionally well in the 1950s Olympic tournaments, winning silver medals (Olympic football is not a big deal in the US but it’s a pretty major event in South America and was very popular in Europe until about the 1970s). They won the gold medal in 1960 and they were founding members of UEFA. They qualified for nearly every world cup and European championship. Neutrals loved them. Yugoslavia’s youth teams won a U21 European championship and the U20 world cup. in the 70s & 80s. I’m Brazilian and have followed (& also played) football since I was 5yrs old (that would be 1965). Those who’ve follow the international game often recall the great Yugoslavian teams because of their remarkable freedom, improvisation and skill with the ball. They are a favorite topic among football historians. One of the great tragedies in football is how the breakup of Yugoslavia deprived the world of a truly gifted, entertaining, talented team. One of the best football writers, Jonathan Wilson, writes about that here: https://www.theguardian.com/football/2007/jul/24/newsstory.sport9 .

    And there is no question that a united Yugoslavia would’ve won the Euros in 2016 http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/blog/a-yugoslav-dream-team-would-win-the-euro-2016-06-24-2016

  8. FightTribalism
    FightTribalism
    July 23, 2018, 3:41 pm

    Yugoslavia didn’t just break up with people deciding to fight each other out of some irrationality. Instead all of the wars were actually ethnic cleansing campaigns by Serv supremacists which they planned for years in advance.

  9. wondering jew
    wondering jew
    August 1, 2018, 3:56 pm

    Phil Weiss’s perspective is totally assimilated, as in American rather than Jewish. To write an article rooting for Croatia without mentioning the toxic relationship between Croatian nationalism and the Jews, even as something that he chooses to disregard, indicates that his instinct is totally divorced from the Jewish perspective. That is enviable, probably. But it also puts the lie to his wrapping himself in the flag of Jewish perspective on other occasions (the treblinka article: https://mondoweiss.net/2018/06/hitchhiking-to-treblinka/). He is a journalist wearing the Jewish glasses when it fits the arc of the story that he is writing and can just as easily toss them aside without a second’s thought.

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      August 1, 2018, 5:42 pm

      “He is a journalist wearing the Jewish glasses when it fits the arc of the story that he is writing and can just as easily toss them aside without a second’s thought.”

      And even worse, er macht zack nisht visindicht!!

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