Orlando Pirates have given a middle finger to the international call by the progressive formations of the football family to boycott their match with Maccabi Tel Aviv – a soccer club in Israel where Palestinians are dispossessed of their land and are systematically marginalized, backward and murdered.
Orlando Pirates even went so far as to hide behind FIFA regulations for neglecting their civic duty to deliver global justice. Their manifesto illustrates the embarrassing way global capitalism has infiltrated football – and removed football clubs from politics from their historical and contemporary positions as the institutions of the people.
FIFA is a shady institution that has suffered reputational damage in the past 50 years. Netflix Documentary FIFA disclosure, produced and directed by Daniel Gordon, shows that João Havelange’s 24-year tenure as FIFA President since 1974 has led to unprecedented marketing of the game. Football has transformed from being a working-class team game into a multi-trillion capitalist industry in which club ownership, sponsorship, ticket sales and TV licensing, among others, have become commodities for sale.
These commercial business dealings have created closer ties between football clubs, international corporations and major oligopolies. Football clubs themselves have become international companies. By extension, football has also become an active player in the geopolitical games of neoliberalism, ceasing to be an organ of the progressive ideals of anti-racism and anti-imperialism.
Unsurprisingly, FIFA sided with NATO, the European Union, and the United States in punishing Russia for its military action in Ukraine. In addition, FIFA also stripped Indonesia of the right to host the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2023 – because Indonesia supported the struggle of the Palestinian people by refusing to participate in a tournament with Israel as a participant. In other words, FIFA and world football are in the hands of imperialist, racist and right-wing businessmen who are motivated by profits.
Richard Maguire’s master’s thesis, completed in November 1991 with Wits University, is titled “The Peoples’ Club – The Social and Institutional History of the Orlando Pirates Football Club, 1937 – 1973”, is a comprehensive study of the history of the club and how it became an integral part of the black struggle against apartheid .