Soccer and the Romanticization of Globalization

In the latest "Impossible Is Nothing" ad spot for adidas, we see a young boy of some generically Latin descent getting chastised by an older neighbourhood man for apparently being a nuisance as he collects plastic bags from dumpster bins and flows of blowing debris. Our interest is certainly piqued as we wonder why the lad is so resolute in his pursuit of all this trash. The spot comes to its sugary finale when the boy carefully ties all of the bags together to form a pretty decent soccer ball that he happily flicks up over his head with the back of his foot.

While adidas' message of the promise that sport holds is certainly an important one, it must be tempered by the ironic and depthless romanticism in the ad that blinds us to the economic conditions that lead one to create a "real" ball from plastic bags in the first place (Gatorade is equally complicit in a recent spot that celebrates a young [black] boy [read:"from the hood"] who uses a shopping cart as a basketball hoop).

Perhaps I am guilty of an "anthropological gaze" in this case, which implicates the little boy as lacking the First World amenity of a "real" leather ball for play and thus trying to compensate for that lack.


We must remember, though, that at the end of the day this boy is an actor in a television commercial produced by the American subsidiary of a German-based multinational, which is designed to sell more soccer boots to those consumers who romanticize such an anthropological gaze. It is the depthlessness of the globalization spectacle.

The irony lies is the fact that adidas themselves are moving past the use of "real" balls for soccer: "German ball manufacturer Adidas is to make a presentation to FIFA on Feb. 26, when a chip-laden ball will be used at a test match. If the trial is successful, the ball will be used in the Carling Cup final in Cardiff on Feb. 27."

I somehow doubt that our fictional Juan will find any wireless transmitter chips in the next dumpster he is diving through.


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