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FIFA World Cup 2018: Croatia, like quarter-final opponents Russia, are united by football but divided by politics

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Published: 09:26 GMT, Jul 7, 2018 |
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When Karl Marx was defining socialism, he mentioned how it’s the movement of the socius. Philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre was not as subtle, and went on to use football as an example for the nature of organisation. He suggested any activity (praxis) done by an individual which is for the benefit of the team, will eventually elevate him. The collective action distills the individual thought through the immersion in a greater cause, in the same spirit of a collaborative build-up leading to a beautiful team goal. This thinking — the tempering of talent with the fine steel of team ethic — has been the backbone of Russia and Croatia as countries, and also of the finest teams to have graced Eastern Europe.

Yet, with any kind of philosophy, footballing or institutional, there is a duality — a stark contradiction between the collective responsibility football enthuses on the pitch, and profiteering off of it. For all of Croatia and Russia’s systematic synchronisation on the pitch, the politician tremors under it are palpably persistent. And while Russian football’s complicated working relationship with President Vladimir Putin has garnered wide attention, little has been noted of Croatian football’s institutionalised corruption.

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