Dictatorships, even the ones disguised as democracies, will always try to control the masses. Since football attracts the masses, these dictatorships will try to control football as well.
Many dictators in the past had tried to abuse football for their own good. Benito Mussolini did all he could to help the Italian national team win the World Cup in 1934 and 1938.
Generalissimo Franco invested a fortune in Real Madrid, trying to turn it into a glamorous ambassador for Spain. The Nazis were more careful with football – Joseph Goebbels, the Reich Minister of Propaganda was known for saying “football is too fickle, therefore dangerous for us.”
Football games have often been examples of how democracy could show its beauty, even in the darkest of times. In Argentina, for example, fans threw tons of papers during the 78′ World Cup just because the Juntas said it was not allowed. In Iran, football is the only “Western” phenomenon that the regime couldn’t sweep to the underground as it did to pop music, alcohol and even neck-ties. In Egypt ultras of Cairo’s sports clubs were an important part of an alliance of youth activists, Islamists, and workers protesting against Hosni Mubarak.
Why does this happen?
Because football is freedom. It allows followers to freely choose who they want to root for, and to legitimately shout out their thoughts. It is a game that encourages and promotes creativity and imagination. It is the most democratic game - anyone can play it, and you don’t need accessories like a basket, a bat or a net, a swimming pool or a horse. All you need is some friends, four stones and a ball, though you can always stuff some socks or use an orange.
There aren’t too many rules, especially when compared to other team sports. In basketball and handball each attack is time limited; Volleyball and tennis limit the number of touches a player has in each rally; Rugby and American Football have rules concerning the direction of passing.
Football is basically free of all of that – especially on the grass-roots levels, where people usually develop their connection to the game.
Football is probably the most basic game of all. It’s spontaneous, and a celebration of the human body’s qualities. It’s a celebration for choice. It’s a natural game that makes people connect to their most primitive instincts, yet retains a sense of community.
That’s why football is so dangerous to dictatorships. It’s humanity at its best.