Hannah Arendt Part I: The Lasting Effect of “The Banality of Evil” – a football match

The last time that I was so angry and sad was in the summer of 1982. On the same day that I qualified as a dentist, France was playing West Germany in the World Cup semi-finals in Spain. Maybe you remember that match. For me it was one of the best football matches that I have ever seen. It had everything including an incident that made me so very angry. At the end of the match, which the French lost on penalties, I burst into tears. I remember that day vividly, not because I got my degree, but because “les Bleus” lost a match that they shouldn’t have. 
 
 
Thinking back it’s not so much the result that angered me (and it still does). It’s the injustice of the way that they lost that I couldn’t and still cannot stomach. The incident occurred 10 minutes into the second half with the scores level at 1-1. The outstanding French defender Patrick Battiston found himself in a one-on-one situation with the equally outstanding German goalkeeper Harald Shumacher. The German came rushing out of his penalty area as if he wanted to smash a door down with his foot. The door was Battiston. The ball clipped the crossbar to go over the goal for a goal kick. Battiston fell to the ground, unconscious, and was rushed to hospital having lost 2 teeth (I could have replaced them!) and cracked 3 ribs. Shumacher was not sent off for the incident and didn’t even get a yellow card. The game ended 3-3 and went to a penalty shoot out, and, guess what, Shumacher, who shouldn’t even have been playing, saved a penalty which sent the Germans through.
 
 
Shumacher has always denied any wrongdoing. For him, he was just doing his job. If he really believes that then, maybe, he should read about “the banality of evil” as described by the Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt.
 
 
34 years later, “les Bleus” got their “revenge” (it’s only football) on the Germans and are through to the final of the European Championships. I am still affected by that 1982 semi-final and whenever there’s a semi-final between France and Germany I cannot get myself to watch it. Last night I watched the last 10 minutes of the match. Maybe it’s the beginning of my rehabilitation.
 
 
Today, I have the same anger and sadness that I had in 1982 and it has nothing to do with football. In the same way that Shumacher thought that he was just getting a job done, so the UK thought that it was voting in the right way for a better future. Maybe Hannah Arendt should also be read by the British people.




 

 

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