I didn’t want to write about Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema allegedly soliciting the same underage prostitute in the first place, but now here I am working on a follow-up. C’est la vie. In what I guess I’m now calling Part 1, I brought up the issues of consent, exchange, and institutionalized morality, more-so asking questions than providing answers to them. In this, now dubbed Part 2, I’m wondering if it’s not a good idea to paint a picture of the broader backdrop for this alleged crime, which is, as maybe could’ve been guessed, money and fame.
Nietzsche once wrote that anyone who understood fame wouldn’t want it, but it’s hard not to imagine wanting to trade places with the likes of Ribery and Benzema, humans who get worshipped for playing a game.
As fellow Rant Soccer writer Alan Dymock so astutely pointed out, footballers have risen to the level of demigods: “Now, if we shove the overall political debate about attributing social worth to monarchs, it seems rather skewed that a British footballer is more notable than a foreign dignitary.”
They make millions of dollars to kick a ball around on a patch of grass. And meanwhile they’re allowed to commit all kinds of frowned-upon activities, including the purchase of people, with relative impunity. Why?
The title of the aforementioned Part 1 more than hinted at the fact that, when people are given infinite money and infinite power, they end up treating other people like objects, like play-things; this entitlement isn’t (or, at this point, shouldn’t be) surprising in the slightest. So is Ribery and Benzema’s alleged solicitation of an underage prostitute a “logical” conclusion of the bubble, made by unending praise and adoration (along with mountains of cash), that constantly surrounds them as footballers in this football-obsessed world?
When everything around you is an object—your object—offered up by the genuflecting football minions, then how soon before you blur the line between person and thing? How long before everything, absolutely everything you can conceive of, becomes a commodity?
I’m not excusing Ribery and Benzema. In fact, I’m attempting to do just the opposite. But I place the blame not just on them but on the entire corporate-sports mega-machine. Yes, this machine is a product of global capitalism in the larger context, but if prostitution is, as they say, the oldest profession, then surely commodifying people pre-dates the rise of the late medieval guilds. We can solve this problem, it seems, without solving the greater and more daunting problem of capitalism as State (and world) religion; we can, as Mr. Dymock suggests, start treating footballers as people who kick a glorified bladder around for 90 minutes, and not as an untouchable priesthood.