In a study conducted by La Liga Blog last week (257 participants), we found that 80% of football fans who preferred Cristiano Ronaldo over Lionel Messi also considered themselves to be politically ‘right wing’. When surveying self-confessed fans of Argentinean maestro Messi, we found that the opposite was true – 72% of Leo fans said they leaned to the left politically.
The politics of unhappiness, David Cameron recently called it. He surprisingly and persuasively argued that his premiership was undone by the ‘ordinary folk’ fighting back.
Lumping Brexit, Donald Trump’s victory in the US Presidential elections and the Italians ousting the incumbent Prime Minister, and Cameron’s view made sense. It was he claimed, arrogance on the part of the politicians and globalisation which brought about the change.
This is without considering the rise of ‘populist’ parties in countries like Spain. Ciudandos and Podemos are giving Juan Public his voice and he wants to be heard.
Not just in politics but in everyday life as well.
The rise of populist politics in Spanish society is rooted in the public tiring of corruption. The recent convictions of Messi, his father and the similar situation with Neymar underlines the political leanings of the respondents.
Our survey produced a militancy among the political upstarts against those they perceive as ripping them off via the public purse. Pending actions against Ronaldo and Mourinho, as well as Samuel Eto’o, influence the public’s thinking.
In a society where the gap between the wealthy and the rest is more noticeable than ever before, there is less admiration for the tax evader or conman, particularly if they are already obscenely wealthy.
Spaniards have always felt a strong sense of identity with their pueblo, region or the country; sometimes all three. We wondered though was this parochial view transferring to the football pitch.
In this post-Brexit, post-Euro, post-apocalyptic world, was there any tangible change in the way supporters considered the best players on the planet?
It was a question we needed answering so we conducted a survey prior to the recent Clasico to find out how fans perceived players and sought to establish whether there was a tangible link between their own political leanings and how they viewed the stars?
Barcelona and Real Madrid, two of world football’s most famous clubs, possess two of the most politically charged histories of any clubs in western Europe.
The Blaugrana were symbols of Catalan pride during the Spanish Civil War and the Camp Nou was one place during the oppression of the Franco dictatorship where speaking the Catalan language went unpunished.
Real Madrid were, by contrast, viewed as the Establishment Club. The older Spanish fan never forgets how they conned Barca out of Alfredo Di Stefano, kidnapping the mercurial striker and, it’s alleged, used government contacts to ‘dissuade’ him from signing for the Catalans.
Di Stefano went onto become an integral and much-respected member of what many consider to be the greatest era in Real’s history.
But what of their heirs? Lionel Messi, Neymar Jr and Luis Suarez; Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale were out initial ‘test subjects’ and the survey results proved startling.
Our survey, conducted entirely online and randomly, found that the players were popular with the different ends of the political spectrum. Is this the historical aspect of the club’s histories rising to the surface. Without the venom of the match, club loyalties were often pushed to one side and personal convictions came to the fore.
We focused on Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo initially, arguably the two most recognisable figures in the Spanish game at present. Unsurprisingly, we found that most people with right wing views preferred Ronaldo although with those who strayed occasionally to the centre, he remained surprisingly popular.
Messi meanwhile appealed more to the free thinkers, those who flitted from subject to subject and were more concerned with the cultural and artistic output of life. Anecdotally, we found these individuals to be more concerned with control than the average voter.
The two players in question are used to polarising opinions: Cristiano Ronaldo, who would be abused by the Catalan crowd in the Clasico, and Lionel Messi, adored and worshipped everywhere bar the white half of the Spanish capital.
When we broadened the horizon, and included other stars, the results became more provocative. Gareth Bale was largely ignored on the right end of the spectrum but left wingers strongly identified with him.
The Green Party supporters, a small but loud voice in Spain, hate Luis Suarez with his preference for an old shoulder was a turn-off. They found themselves disapproving of the way he leathered his shorts. None of the finesse, the caressing and generally love of the ball one expects from such an artist,
Neymar proved popular among the liberal elite, especially those who preferred style over substance while Gerard Pique’s foreign relations proved a problem for some but they admired his intellect in separating the small and humble issues without confusing them with mountainous regions.
The conclusion we drew is that with such high scores, we are convinced that we’ve tapped into a rising theme and one which we will keep our eyes on.`
257 football fans from the UK were surveyed last week and asked about their preferences over La Liga stars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as well as which side they leaned to politically, left or right. Of the 147 fans who preferred Ronaldo, 118 of them identified themselves as ‘right wing’ whilst of the 110 who preferred Messi, 79 had a political compass which leaned to the left.