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The Politics of the Pitch: Claiming and Contesting Democracy Through the Iraqi National Soccer Team

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Abstract:

Sport was among the many cultural resources that George W. Bush used to justify rhetorically the need for war in Iraq. Specifically, he sought to capitalize on the unexpected success of the Iraqi national soccer team during the 2004 Summer Olympics. The Bush campaign produced a commercial that aired during the two weeks of Olympic coverage, in which Bush was credited with spreading freedom and democracy throughout the world. Simultaneously, the president claimed that Iraq's participation in the Games was possible only because of American-led action that had toppled Saddam Hussein. Rather than accept this narrative, many Iraqi athletes and citizens responded with anger and resentment towards the United States. This analysis demonstrates the extent to which sport metaphors are implicated in the contests over democracy. Moreover, it suggests that critics must engage the discourses of sport as they articulate with politics in an effort to recover the democratic potential of each.

Keywords: Democracy; George W. Bush; Iraq; Olympics; Soccer

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/14791420701296554

Publication date: 2007-06-01

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