The Impact of Football on European Culture: An examination of how football has influenced European culture, including fashion, music, and politics.

How Did Football Originate?

Kicking a ball around a field can be traced to earlier than the 1800s. However, none of those games can strictly be called football according to today’s modern standards. The earliest period we can trace football back to is the third century B.C. in China. The Han Dynasty played a game called Tsu’ Chu where players would kick a ball through a 30-40 cm opening and into a goal made from canes with a net attached to it. The next appearance was in Ancient Greece with a game known as ‘Harpastum’. This game used a ball smaller than a football ball but had rules that were very similar to modern football rules. Players competed on a rectangular field marked by boundaries and a centre line. The objective of the game was to get the ball over the opponent’s boundary line.

The founding of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) was a defining moment in football history. This federation was founded in Paris in 1905 with founding members Belgium, France, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. After the Second World War, FIFA had more than 73 members.

Although football originated as a simple pastime, this sport has evolved into one of the biggest and most influential industries on the earth. The football betting industry is one of the biggest in the world, accounting for more than 70% of the bets in the sports betting industry. If you are part of this demographic, then check out the best betting odds on football.

Impact of Football on Fashion

Football and fashion have arguably never been closer than they are today. The 70s were a defining year for football fashion, with Liverpool fans donning trainers and sportswear. Before this, no one dared walk around the street with trainers on. It was just not done. This trainer culture started with Northern England fans and quickly spread to the rest of the country. It did not take long for the trend to spread to the rest of the world. The power of this sports casual culture became so great that big brands like Prada swivelled to adding sports gear to the men’s catalogue, instead of just suits like it was before.

Fashion is now embracing the world of football. Virgil Abloh was one of the biggest designers that fully adopted football culture through his brand Off-White. Other football-fashion partnerships like the revolutionary PSG x Puma followed suit. The fusion went even further with footballers signing deals with big fashion names. The fashion giant Gucci with Grealish, Mbappe with Dior and not forgetting Ronaldo and his numerous fashion deals (including one with Armani).

Football kits are no longer just a symbol of belonging. They have evolved into a fashion statement, a way for fans to express their identity in a way that transcends sports.

Football and Music Culture

Football and music have always been intricately linked. However, the relationship between them is evolving even more. From the athletes to the fans, music has always had its place in the football industry.

Football chants are an inevitable part of music culture. Chants became a real thing by the 1960s and are “arguably the most essential ingredients of the average football fan’s matchday experience” (You’re Not Singing Anymore, Adrian Thrills). These chants create a tight sense of belonging between the fans. They foster an intimidating atmosphere by focusing on the opponents’ weaknesses and encouraging their players. The chants affect the players as well. A lot of old players have admitted that these chants have a way of bringing positive energy and making them feel a lot more confident. Little wonder that you see them encouraging fans to sing even when the games seem extremely bleak. Liverpool’s You’ll Never Walk Alone and Manchester City’s Blue Moon are some of the most popular football chants. Some football clubs have adopted popular songs as their chants. For example, Celtic, Bolton and Burnley are some of the clubs to have adopted Depeche Mode’s Just Can’t Get Enough.

The World Cup has also been synonymous with music. Since the Los Ramblers wrote El Rock del Mundial song to inspire host nation Chile at the 1962 edition, the World Cup has had an official song. Queen’s We Are The Champions in 1994 and Ricky Martin’s Cup of Life four years later are two of the more prominent examples.

Popular streaming platforms like Deezer and Apple Music have partnered up with football clubs like Manchester City to offer their fans matchday playlists and player playlists, amongst others.

Politics in the Football Pitch?

Football has long been used as a soft power tool, long before woke culture was even a thing. “Soft power is the ability to get what you want through attraction” (Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics, Joseph S. Nye, Jr.). Sport has given a platform to political leaders so they can come to the forefront and set a political agenda by having others admire or side with a culture that they have deemed attractive. This technique has been referred to as ‘sportswashing’. It can be seen as far back as the 1934 World Cup with Italy’s Mussolini. Mussolini sought to show the strength of fascism and unite the country at the 1934 World Cup.

In recent years, sportswashing has become even more rampant. Politics has made its way to the pitch. The Euro 2020 was a clear representation of this. England’s national team with 9 black players at the time, took a knee throughout the competition to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement and demonstrations. The Italian national team took a knee during their first match with England at Wembley Stadium as a show of solidarity with their opponents.

When the government of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán passed a law that banned the portrayal of homosexuality and sex reassignment to children under the age of 18, the City of Munich asked to illuminate the stadium with rainbow colours during the match between Germany and Hungary. Although FIFA urges fans to keep politics out of the pitch, it is clear that the sport has always been political and is becoming so even more.

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