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EL ESPECTADOR

Soccer, The New Opiate Of The Masses

It may have begun as a game, but soccer has become a substitute for so many facets of people's lives, including politics and war, writes Colombian novelist Jose Luis Garces Gonzalez.

A proxy war?
A proxy war?
José Luis Garcés González*

BOGOTA — In the beginning, soccer was played with stones. From the start, it was a game for fun, and a bit of caveman competition. Then came tactics and strategy. Later it became art, trade, and an occupation. Today, it controls an immense part of society, swaying it this way and that.

Soccer has become a reflection of lifestyles, and is often said to be the new opiate of the masses. It has become a measure of people's passivity or aggressivity, their sense of innovation or conservatism. We use it as a means of personal identification. The team has become a kind of fatherland, a soul, something that gives us the victories that life will not. It is violence expressed or repressed. To the chagrin of fans and to society's detriment, its defeats amplify the little misfortunes that punctuate our daily lives.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Inside Russia’s Revival Of Stalinist “Filtration Camps”

Though different than concentration camps constructed by Nazis, the “filtration” facilities nevertheless recalls a brutal history, and have been reopened under Putin, and ramped up since the invasion of Ukraine.

Civilians leaving Mariupol on foot

Anna Akage

"It was like a true concentration camp."

This is how Oleksandr, a 49-year-old man from Mariupol, described where he and his wife Olena were taken in by Russian security officers. Speaking to a reporter for the BBC, the couple was fingerprinted, photographed and interrogated for hours, and their phones searched for material that could somehow identify them as “Nazis.”

But there is another name given to that these locations, and the process, that have been set up to handle Ukrainians taken into custody in areas occupied by pro-Russian separatists: They’re called: “filtration camps.”

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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