It’s funny how a series of events lead you on to others. Everything I read seemed to have a reference to George Orwell.
It started when reading the fascinating ‘Slow Trains Around Spain’ by Tom Chesshyre, Published by Summersdale in 2021. During one of his 52 rides he visits the Aragon where nearby he tries to find where Orwell was shot by a sniper. Puting Orwell aside this is a book to bury yourself in, get under the skin of the true Spain and yearn for a quick return to exploring.
The Orwell reference prompted me to read ‘The Last Man in Europe’ written by Dennis Glover and published by BurlinnLtd in 2021. This is a novel about aspects of George Orwell’s life in particular his time spent on the Scottish island of Gigha just off the coast of the Kintyre peninsular where he wrote 1984. The last man in Europe was originally the name for 1984 before it was finally published. I had bought the book whilst on holiday in the picturesque coastal village of Tarbert in a shop that offers local books, paintings, gifts etc.
The novel really helped me to put Orwell in context, something I failed to do in the early 1970’s when I read most of his books. His time on Gigha was at the end of his life when he was writing 1984 but I also enjoyed a fascinating chapter on his involvement in the Spanish Civil War including being shot on the ‘Aragon Front’ and how he made it back to the UK via Madrid.
I was then reading the 21st edition of ‘Nutmeg’ ( A quarterly Scottish football journal I have described in a previous post) and up pops George Orwell again.
In an article by Michael Galagher ‘Old Firm Détente’ he recounts a time when in 1945 Moscow Dynamo visited Britain on a supposed goodwill trip to play football, one of which was a game against Rangers. The score was 2-2, Rangers having come back from a 2 nil deficit but that had no interest to Orwell.
Orwell gave his views in a famous essay ‘The Sporting Spirit’ where he stated it was “war minus the shooting”.
I reached for a copy of ‘George Orwell Essay’s’ which I still have on the book shelves. My copy was published by Penguin in 1970 and contains this three page musing.
George Orwell was dismissive of the tour that had confrontations and disputes in each game and he widened his views to the Olympic Games stating “international sporting contacts lead to orgies of hatred”. I wandered if his views were still valid and wandered hat he would make of the football Champions League with its multi country competition. More intriguingly what he would have made of the English Premiership where Manchester City (U.A.E.), Newcastle (Saudi Arabia), etc, use sport to promote an image of their country and culture.
The sporting undercurrent of “war minus shooting” seems to have subsided but there are still dark undercurrents raging. Other considerations seem to have taken over for example the nationalism of Eastern Europe is being expressed in a supremacy through racial abuse of black players. I think that George Orwell would have been pleased that Gareth Southgate, his team and players have promoted a more inclusive view of society helping to rid the national team support of some of its bigotry. However in the back ground to this the head of the U K’s football policing is organizing meetings to discuss the worrying large increase in disorder at football matches especially those below the Premiership.
Of the Olympic Games the opening ceremony of the winter games in China was a triumph in spectacle for this for this ever expanding influence. Against this though there are some key countries who are not sending officials as a protest against the treatment of minorities. So poliics are still played out in sport.
I think George Orwell would say that nothing has changed since his essay ‘The Sporting Spirit’ only that confrontation is played out in different ways and I would have to agree with him.