Javier Zanetti: A Great Soccer Player

The Zapatista Army of National Liberation have been around since 1994 but it wasn’t until Zanetti pledged his allegiance to their cause that I’d heard of them. In 2001 the Easton Cowboys, a team that prides itself on sending amateur players to troubled communities, toured Mexico and visited the Zapatista’s to play a match, fielding an soon-to-be famous Banksy in goal who, whilst there, painted some social activism. The Zapatista’s alignment to soccer is understandable considering the wealth attached to the game. In Zanetti they found an ally. He drove Inter to donate money from fines and funded an ambulance, alongside pledging money for water and donating a #4 match shirt.

The Zapata’s believe that globalization has negatively affected the lives of indigenous Mexican’s and are fighting a non-violent war against the Mexican state. They’re undoubtedly socialist. If we think back to Zanetti sitting quietly and listening to the Inter Marxist’s we can excuse him from being one of them, he was just being a good modern captain. For him to answer the calls of the Zapatista plea goes well beyond his duties and demonstrates fidelity to anti-globalization.

“We believe in a better world, in an unglobalized world, enriched by the cultural differences and customs of all the people. This is why we want to support you in this struggle to maintain your roots and fight for your ideals”.

Zanetti’s career has coincided with the strangled vine of commercialization in football, and, especially, how the powers-that-be have capitalized on the advancements of globalization. When Javier started his career in 1992 there was no Bosman Rule (or its implications for player-power), Rupert Murdoch was flirting with the FA, the Champions League had only just evolved from the European Cup and Nike were yet to involve themselves in the game. It’s safe to say soccer has changed before his eyes more radically in twenty years than it has done at any other point in its history.

Upon his retirement this summer Zanetti stopped playing and became a board-member for a club whose owner is an Indonesian, who also owns an MLS team, who recently said to the Financial Times: (October 2014) “I want to use the US model, where sport is like the media business, with income from advertising and content, mixed with the consumer goods industry, selling jerseys and licensed products.” Thohir’s figures indicate that 60% of Inter’s 280 million strong fan-base are Asian – a clear indication of the consumer-driven relationship between soccer and globalization. Heck, the last five Supercoppa Italiana’s have even been played in China, with this season’s final to be staged in Doha. It’s difficult to imagine how inward-thinking Italian’s have coped with this transition, having their game sold to the world.

Similarly Javier has previously spoken of his nostalgia for an unglobalized world. Perhaps this outlook comes from seeing the game he loves change beyond recognition. A humble man, when he was 16 he was released from Independent and began working as an assistant bricklayer to his father. Through determination he fought to stay in the game, and it should surely be clear how much Zanetti genuinely loves football. Mourinho romantically waxed;

“To me Zanetti represents the joy of living, the joy of making soccer your job every morning. He is the smile, the life force, the passion for training, the good cheer for everyone who works with him.”

The professionalism, self-esteem and zest for soccer allowed for a long successful career. Life, nowadays however, begins at forty. It will be interesting to see what the youthful Javier goes on to do from here; perhaps after all he could become the perfect politician his playing days indicated he would become.

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