Football is cruel, but it's nobler than politics

opinion April 26, 2014 00:00

By The Nation

2,328 Viewed

Politicians can complain all they like, but they're the luckier lot

A great manager once said that football was not a matter of life and death; it was more important than that. The sacking of Manchester United manager David Moyes this week only confirms the extraordinary nature of the world’s most popular sport. As far as management goes, football is ruthless, unforgiving and extremely demanding.
Many say politics is fierce and fickle. Thaksin Shinawatra reckons that Thai politics are particularly “cruel”. But the bottom line is that his sister remains the country’s caretaker prime minister despite suffering a series of scandals, embarrassments and what her supporters dub conspiracies, while Moyes has been shown the door because Manchester United are languishing seventh in a 20-team football league. The club even boast one of the league’s best records away from home this season, and Manchester United has remained the world’s top sports brand.
Football is therefore much more “impatient” than politics. That’s normal, you may argue. But the point is, should it be the case? Football is purely about pride and gloating rights whereas politics is about war and peace, full and empty stomachs, how we treat fellow human beings and so on. Shouldn’t it be the other way round? 
Who should learn from whom? A football manager has lost his job for losing a few matches, some of which turned on luck. Business executives are kicked out for just a small decline in their company’s performance. What about politics? We make it harder to punish politicians for worse crimes. Take Thailand, for example: There is the so-called National Anti-Corruption Commission, the Supreme Court’s political division, the Constitutional Court, the ombudsmen and the Senate, which has the power to impeach. On the few occasions that wrongdoers do fall foul of these cumbersome mechanisms, they can simply jam the gears by claiming to be victims of distortions or conspiracies aimed at driving “legitimate” power-holders out of office.
Why such complications? Why can’t it be simpler for bad political managers to be taken care of? Why should a nation have to wait until it’s too late or almost too late to eliminate poor or unscrupulous political performers?
Politics is a dirty game that involves real, serious and continuous attempts to undermine the rulers, goes the argument. Unlike sport, where results are undisputed – and hence, so are the performances – politics has to deal with fabrications, accusations and distortions 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Even if a country’s economic index or competitiveness ranking plummets, you can’t fire the prime minister without a proper inquiry. On charges of corruption, the burden of proof lies with the accusers.
If the arguments are reasonable, they also mean there is less sense of shame or responsibility in politics. In many cases, there is a thin line between the accusations and the reality. Has Thailand’s rice pledging scheme failed on such a scale that the government take responsibility? Or is the “failure” one big lie conjured up opponents of the Yingluck administration?
The answer may depend on whether you support or are opposed to this Pheu Thai government. The point is, it shouldn’t be the case. The sense of responsibility should transcend egos or the tendency to blame others. Coach Moyes has been fired for winning just 53 per cent of his matches in charge of Manchester United, while a South Korean school administer has committed suicide for pushing for a student trip that ended in a ferry tragedy. But in Thai politics there are never wrongdoers – just victims.