In defense of Javi Poves

Last week Javi Poves, defender for Sporting Gijon B in the Spanish League’s third tier retired at 24, mainly citing his indignation at the way football is run. His feelings of resentment towards the greed, corruption and staggering inequalities in society contributed to by football reflect a generation under fire from austerity and the crisis of globalization.

There are already mixed feelings from the general public about his decision, there are those who think that his decision was stupid and wasteful there are also those who applaud his bravery; what is certain, however, is that this is historic and a glaring sign of the times. This is beyond a moral stand against the unfair practices in football and its hierarchies, his retirement represents football intertwined with the implosion that global capital has presented to itself. Whether it be personal distress, indifference to football or a combination of his disdain and current unnoticeable level in football his actions are taking his struggle to areas where he can best serve at the moment at the same time politicizing football. Politics has always been an underlying theme in many aspects of football, but this brings about another dimension especially in terms of how player’s progressive standpoints can influence society on or off the pitch. Javi Poves, player or not needs to affirmed for the trying to expose football as the conglomerate of greed and as a medium for raising consciousness.

As it stands the world is preparing to destroy itself – Javi Poves

Poves’ words may seem prophetic but they are a basic assessment of the economic and political instability felt throughout the globe. But we are not here to talk about Javi Poves, the social philosopher, but Poves the footballer who shed his skin for another and if these actions are indeed for the better. By his own admission, he is not an ideal in itself, he is only one of many who feel that the present inequalities are too much. This perception of inequalities has been apparent to him in football by no coincidence as in many ways football does exist as almost a microcosm of the increasing polarization felt today. There are more and more players and not enough big clubs to accommodate them, you are left with a reserved army of labor of sorts with Real Madrid, Manchester City and the like serving as the oligarchs of the system.  As Poves’ downplays his own relevance his convictions are still undoubtedly fuel to the fire. His own take on his regularity adds a universal quality to himself, extending to all young players who feel that they have been hit with the full brunt of a system that tips the scale heavily in favor of those who have accumulated wealth and consequently can manufacture talent instead of discovering it.

As discontent mounts in Spain, as well as many other European countries over the devastating effects of austerity this recent development in football should generally be seen as positive, it takes the game from the realm of the fetishism of its enjoyment into the realities of which it is a construct of. Riots in London in a way mirror this discontent for the current status quo, not in cases of vandalism but in trying to get a wider audience to notice how grave the effects of these issues are on basic social services and democratic or economic rights. The London riots are obviously not an isolated occurrence, they are at the peak of apparently declining social conditions, Poves’ retirement is another.

His assertion that Messi, Ronaldo and the like can do so much more with their influence and following is very true, unfortunately he does not have that luxury and there is no guarantee he will be granted it one day. In that sense his quitting becomes both pragmatic of his situation and somewhat equally significant in taking the issue to areas in which he can create a space for political discourse. After all, doing some good with UNICEF and endeavoring to strike at austerity and the ill effects of globalization are two very different things. The former is mainly a medium for charity, while the latter shapes policy, the culture of a generation and instills unity in a society for the urgency of collective action.  

The Poves Freedom

I don’t think Poves disliked football in general but it constrained him from his own personal involvement and fulfillment in working for social causes. His criticisms of football should be taken constructively. In other words, in a world highly swayed by the might of globalization and the vast accumulations of wealth, football nowadays isn’t always about the purity of the game or loyalty to the team. Ironically, the sport he built his career on was the very thing he denounced in order to bring weight to his position of improving football as a whole, not just a game.

Slavoj Zizek, a contemporary philosopher postulates that changing the coordinates of a given set of choices is in effect the greater freedom. Simply put, by not adhering to the set of choices or standards fed to you by social norms you effectively “choose the impossible” and create the space for a different dimension of alternatives. Poves does this with football, in the only way he can, by stepping away from it as the only way to rattle the cages of the powers that be and striking a social conscience into the heart of footballing ethics.  

I am aware that this piece does not really speak of tactics or of the major events concerning football as of late, but I think the example set by players like this is admirable. It provides a link between the usual enjoyment and analysis of the game and recognizing the game as vulnerable and contributing to the changes that many nations are currently undergoing. The question now is, is Poves starting a trend or will he have a unique identity in the history books? Whichever the case, his message has highlighted some of the more understated facets of football, not the corruption or greed on the surface but the transcendental nature that football has always had and how the game becomes a medium to push progressive ideas to the frontlines.

The Author

Maykel Beltran

Michael "Maykel" Beltran studied Political Science at the University of the Philippines-Manila. He has been a fan of football for a while and decided to combine various insights on social realities with football. Believing that the two are invariably linked and complementary he started a blog with his girlfriend, Maykel is also a political activist, involved in cultivating progressive politics, protesting local and global forms of injustice and other nationalist causes. Besides the developing Philippine football, he is also a fan of Arsenal FC and FC Barcelona.

2 thoughts on “In defense of Javi Poves

    1. I agree, perhaps the strike is also another indicator of the concrete effects of austerity even in football. Even if it has been resolved in Spain, Serie A looks poised to have a strike as well.

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