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The Naked Truth: Football Is For The Rich

How much of soccer is becoming — as the kids would say — an ‘aesthetic?’ And a privileged aesthetic at that. 

Here in the U.S., soccer is becoming an elitist sport. We talk about how the newest and most expensive boots are the only way to be like Ronaldo or Messi. Hand me downs are a no-go. If you don’t have the best kits or play for the most expensive clubs then you don’t stand a chance. 

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Young players are encouraged to pursue academies and the Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) and told that is the only way to be noticed. And if you can’t really afford it then all you get is a boo-hoo. 

I’ve seen firsthand what it’s like to be the underdog — hard work only gets you so far in a capitalist country. I’ve seen teammates pay their way onto top teams — no matter how terrible of a baller they were. Hard working players get pushed to the side when hard paying players don’t get their way.

In fact, if you search ‘How to be a pro soccer player in the U.S.’ this article comes up first. It’s virtually impossible for low-income players to succeed using the U.S. model. Europe is obviously better, but I doubt these players would be able to gather the funds necessary to travel there. But even Europe has its downsides. Poverty and social exclusion exist.

You have to have access to the best materials to be considered as a ‘real’ contender. You’re not the best if you can’t buy the best.

And it sounds like this is also how the rest of the world views football.

In Germany, a group of people got together to show how football and money are connected. Artist Gerrit Starczewski organized a football match at the Stimberg Stadium. The players were completely naked — they only wore football socks and cleats and had numbers painted on their backs.  

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"Everybody wants to have authenticity. But I think you are only particularly authentic if you do without all the other stuff, really everything, from the advertising banners to the clothing," Starczewski told sports magazine 11Freunde ahead of the match.

Professional football is a heavy hitter when it comes to the ‘aesthetic’ of the game. Just say ‘men’s football’ and everyone thinks of Cristiano Ronaldo — his money, his style and how hot his newest girlfriend is.

If you say ‘women’s football’ everyone thinks of how hot Alex Morgan and Hope Solo are — which is an entirely different and infuriating conversation. 

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World football is becoming increasingly commercialized. And with that, the youth game becomes more entwined in a ‘football identity’ that revolves around what money can buy.

It’s becoming a superficial game — and that’s how we lose out on so much talent. Lower-income players are left out of the conversation because the materials they have aren’t ‘up-to-par.’

Starczewski also said: "With my nude actions, I also want to set an example for diversity and naturalness and against the dependence and influence of social media and false ideals of beauty.” 

The standards we have for football nowadays don’t always revolve around talent. We idolize the rich and try to recreate their way of life thinking that’s how we can also succeed. 

Football is the world-wide unifier — it is the beautiful game. But we can’t fully unify if our sport continues to create a divide between who can and can’t play the game successfully. 

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