Brazil 2014

Argentina, The Pain And The Pride

After its heart-stopping World Cup defeat to Germany, the expression of what the national team and the beautiful game mean to the people of Argentina.

Argentina's fans react while watching the final match of the 2014 World Cup between Germany and Argentina in Brasilia, Brazil, on July 13, 2014.
Argentina's fans react while watching the final match of the 2014 World Cup between Germany and Argentina in Brasilia, Brazil, on July 13, 2014.

BUENOS AIRES — The emotional impact of the World Cup final with Germany was tremendous.

The gangs of youth in the capital went on a vandalistic rampage on Sunday evening after Argentina's 1-0 defeat to Germany, trying to ruin a national fiesta, but they failed to steal the joy and pride our team has given to us.

We could have won, but instead lost with dignity before the best team in the World Cup. The German team may have even felt some relief as its players and coaches hoisted their prize, because they were clearly the favorite going in, which may have also been why there was more pride than bitterness among Argentines after it was over.

The fans of Argentina accept the defeat with the conviction that the dream could have come true, and almost, almost did...

Behind every World Cup, now a rite of the global village, many battles are taking place. The intimate stories that tie us to this game, the emotional contagion it provokes, the "expert" debates on tactics and strategy. It may be a matter for dispute, but Argentina controlled the eventual champion, which was but a shadow of the team that had humiliated Brazil.

Next Goal Wins

The average Argentine present on the country's streets and public squares last night, in addition to those in and around Maracaná stadium, claims a loyalty to this sport that begins in the cradle. It is passed on from generation to generation.

Some will ask, why should a country's mood change because a sporting dream did not come true? It could never make sense to anyone who has not dropped to his knees like midfielder Javier Mascherano. Or whose hearts did not race as a child, upon hearing in one of those never-ending neighborhood matches, someone shout Next Goal Wins!

Yesterday, it was a German who scored that goal, taking us down from the paramount pedestal of sporting glory. It is no exaggeration to assume profound links between futbol and themes of authentic national pride, the type that refuses to fall into the vulgar traps of chauvinism.

In his classic book "El Fútbol a sol y a sombra", (Soccer In Sun And Shadow) the novelist Eduardo Galeano admirably recounts what this game-passion-sport-business signifies, in its most heartfelt sense as it lodges itself in the heart and becomes the soul's permanent companion.

In futbol, he writes, "a sublimated ritual of war, 11 men in shorts are the shield of the neighborhood, the city or the nation. These unarmed and unarmored warriors exorcise the demons of the crowd and confirm faith: in every match between adversaries, the hatreds and loves inherited from father to son are at play."

Governments have always sought to claim some piece of this mood; and right on time, Télam reports that President Cristina Kirchner has congratuled coach Alejandro Sabella and will receive the team.

But let nobody try and get onto the gladiators' chariots in Maracaná, for they are only for players and coaches. And we have nobody to thank but them, for so much effort and struggle.

Like it or not, in spite of its standing now as a giant global business for FIFA and all the marketing, soccer retains its essence as a game. It is a game with a whiff of childhood, your local neighborhood and the fun that you only find in a crowd. Nevermind who wins. Yesterday we lost, but with heads held high and hearts full of warmth.

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Chinese Students Now Required To Learn To Think Like Xi Jinping

"Xi Jinping Thought" ideas on socialism have been spreading across the country since 2017. But now, Beijing is going one step further by making them part of the curriculum, from the elementary level all the way up to university.

Children from Congtai Elementary School, Handan City, Hebei Province

Maximilian Kalkhof

BEIJING — It's important to strengthen the "determination to listen to and follow the party." Also, teaching materials should "cultivate patriotic feelings." So say the new guidelines issued by the Chinese Ministry of Education.

The goal is to help Chinese students develop more "Marxist beliefs," and for that, the government wants its national curriculum to include "Xi Jinping Thought," the ideas, namely, of China's current leader.

Xi Jinping has been the head of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for almost 10 years. In 2017, at a party convention, he presented a doctrine in the most riveting of party prose: "Xi Jinping's ideas of socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new age."

Behind this word jam is a plan to consolidate the power of the nation, the party and Xi himself. In other words, to make China great again!

Communist curriculum replaces global subjects

This doctrine has sent shockwaves through China since 2017. It's been echoed in newspapers, on TV, and screamed from posters and banners hung in many cities. But now, the People's Republic is going one step further: It's bringing "Xi Jinping Thought" into the schools.

Starting in September, the country's 300 million students have had to study the doctrine, from elementary school into university. And in some cities, even that doesn't seem to be enough. Shanghai announced that its students from third to fifth grade would only take final exams in mathematics and Chinese, de facto deleting English as an examination subject. Beijing, in the meantime, announced that it would ban the use of unauthorized foreign textbooks in elementary and middle schools.

But how does a country that enchants its youth with socialist ideology and personality cults rise to become a world power? Isn't giving up English as a global language the quickest way into isolation?

The educational reform comes at a time when Beijing is brutally disciplining many areas of public life, from tech giants to the entertainment industry. It has made it difficult for Chinese technology companies to go public abroad, and some media have reported that a blanket ban on IPOs in the United States is on the cards in the next few years.

photo of books about Xi-Jinping on a shelf at the 2021 Hong Kong Book Fair

Books about Xi-Jinping at the 2021 Hong Kong Book Fair

Alex Chan Tsz Yuk/SOPA Images/ZUMA

— Photo:

Targeting pop culture

The regime is also taking massive action against the entertainment industry. Popstar Kris Wu was arrested on charges of rape. Movies and TV series starring actor Zhao Wei have started to disappear from Chinese streaming platforms. The reason is unclear.

What the developments do show is that China is attempting to decouple from the West with increasing insistence. Beijing wants to protect its youth from Western excesses, from celebrity worship, super wealth and moral decline.

A nationalist blogger recently called for a "profound change in the economy, finance, culture and politics," a "revolution" and a "return from the capitalists to the masses." Party media shared the text on their websites. It appears the analysis caused more than a few nods in the party headquarters.

Dictatorships are always afraid of pluralism.

Caspar Welbergen, managing director of the Education Network China, an initiative that aims to intensify school exchanges between Germany and China, says that against this background, the curriculum reform is not surprising.

"The emphasis on 'Xi Jinping Thought' is being used in all areas of society," he says. "It is almost logical that China is now also using it in the education system."

Needless to say, the doctrine doesn't make student exchanges with China any easier.

Dictatorships are always afraid of color, pluralism and independent thinking citizens. And yet, Kristin Kupfer, a Sinology professor at the University of Trier, suggests that ideologically charged school lessons should not be interpreted necessarily as a sign of weakness of the CCP.

From the point of view of a totalitarian regime, she explains, this can also be interpreted as a signal of strength. "It remains to be seen whether the Chinese leadership can implement this so thoroughly," Kupfer adds. "Initial reactions from teachers and parents on social media show that such a widespread attempt to control opinion has raised fears and discontent in the population."

Die Welt
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