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Arsenal's sleeve sponsor is a problem

What is the truth behind the 'strange' sleeve sponsorship between Arsenal and the African country?

Arsenal's sleeve sponsor is a problem What is the truth behind the 'strange' sleeve sponsorship between Arsenal and the African country?

It's not a secret that the Premier League is the richest league in the world. A record due to several factors, not least the team jersey's sponsors, which generate a profit of 281.8 million pounds, about 310 million euros: a frightening sum, often criticized. There are in fact nine teams that have printed on their shirts sponsors linked to the world of betting, a fact that has not gone unnoticed by Labor Party who would ban, through a bill, this type of business relations, considering "bets like tobacco". It would be interesting to understand what the position of the Labor leader Tom Watson, signatory of the proposal, is about a sponsor who has nothing to do with betting, but which is very particular and no less controversial, being provided by a very special Arsenal supporter: Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda. Kagame has never hidden from being an avid fan of the London team, even openly criticizing the work of Arsene Wenger over the years: it's exactly from the "first year after Wenger" that Kagame has established a serious relationship between his favorite team and his country. At the team's debut, the sleeve sponsor on the Arsenal jerseys has left many confused and stunned: a pink salmon strip, on which the word "Visit Rwanda" stands out. 


Rwanda is a small country in East Africa, which became sadly famous in 1994 because of the genocide in which more than one million people died, one of the most ferocious in the twentieth century. After years of confusion and the attempt to establish those responsible for the incident, in 2000 it was Paul Kagame, leader of the rebels who helped stop the genocide, to be elected president of the Republic. Since then Kagame has imposed on the political scene of his country in an absolute and decidedly not transparent way. According to Amnesty International in fact, already in 2003 Kagame would have dissolved the main opposition party and forced the population to join his, the FPR; To date there would not seem to be independent mass media, and it has been reported for certain that, over the years, several journalists and political opponents have been killed. In the elections following his first election in 2000, Kagame obtained results that left very little to the imagination and alarmed the international community (which never intervened directly) about the suspected non-democracy and the manipulation of results: Kagame obtained 95% of the votes in 2003, 93% in 2010 and even 98% in 2017, being re-elected for the third consecutive time thanks to a constitutional reform of 2015, promoted by a referendum carried out under pressure from the FPR, which thus eliminated the constitutional obstacle according to which Kagame could not have applied for a third time. Kagame has earned an ambiguous reputation in the international field. Praised by many, given the attention to the economic growth of their country, the investment in infrastructure and new technologies, as well as the promotion of the inclusion of women in politics (Rwanda is the African state with more female MPs); however, it's criticized by many for its authoritarian ways on the edge of the ruthless - a United Nations anti-torture commission visiting last year was hindered and forced to leave by the authorities - for the indiscriminate repression of his political opponents and for the role played by the militias, which he once headed, during the genocide of the neighboring Congo.


Probably, while you were reading this long initial explanation, a very simple question began to mount in your head, in an ever more urgent and decisive way: but then, what does Arsenal have to do with a so problematic country? Many have asked for this, since the commercial agreement (it would seem to be around 30 million for 3 years, an unconfirmed figure) was known at the end of the summer. This kind of idea, raises questions and problems both on one side and on the other. The lightness with which the leadership of the Gunners has associated its brand, that of one of the most followed football teams in the world, with one of the most problematic countries and the most discussed leader, is quite disarming and also very indicative of the sports and political climate with whom we are dealing more every day. In the United Kingdom, The Independent has spoken of the matter as a further example of "the moral apathy that is poisoning football", and it is hard to blame them. On the other hand, it is enough to think of the governing body of world football, FIFA, and the very little general transparency shown over the years, so present and recognized that it has also become a literary theme. The last burning issue is the world of 2022 entrusted to Qatar, a country already in itself quite troubled and not quite transparent when it comes to money flows and politics; In fact, this summer two problems emerged that perhaps did not have the prominence they deserved: heavy accusations were made against Qatar about a possible defamation campaign, through the manipulation of the media at a global level, carried out in 2010 to the detriment of opponents of the Arab country in the race to win the world cup. FIFA has been urged to open an inquiry into this, but to date this has not yet occurred. Even more serious the conditions of the workers at the plants that will be used for the competition, defined by many as similar to slavery. It has been reported that, since 2012, more than 500 Indian and 382 Nepalese workers have died at work in two years, to date, things do not seem to have improved. Even here, FIFA has been urged by several parties to investigate and take a position on the matter, but also this time it did not happen. Without forgetting the world championships on Russian soil, just passed: a few weeks before the start, they were being condemned by international organizations, given the fresh investigations related to the use of doping by Russian athletes and the ferocious repression and discrimination reserved for athletes and in general to the LGBT community. Then the games started, Putin catechized and put his men in line, and everyone, eager to enjoy the games, forgot the mountain of contradictions and problems with which the host country had presented itself at the beginning of the competition.


All this to say that, if the institution to which every professional football team must give an account provides this type of example, it is not really science fiction that even individual clubs take lightly to go into commercial relationships like that. Arsenal is not even the first top club in the world to do it, but its case is undoubtedly particular. In fact, it is not clear what the company should obtain from the agreement, since the economic factor holds only partially; a club so important, one of the most followed in the world, could find another sponsor willing to pay out those figures, if not more. Paradoxically, the only explanation that currently seems to hold up is that of pure sporting passion on the part of Kagame, who fascinated by the idea of ​​being involved in the commercial life of his team decided to invest a huge sum for such a small and poor country. This is the other big problem, on the side of Rwanda: how can you think it's a right move to invest thirty million euros to sponsor an English team, when more than half of your people live in extreme poverty? (A Rwandan citizen lives with around one pound a day, on average). The response of the government has arrived unambiguously from several sides: more tourism will mean more funds to invest in the fight against poverty. In particular, the head of the development department, Clare Akamanzi, has been exposed, always through Twitter, an instrument incredibly used by the politicians of the country, first and foremost by its president.


A motivation that is very difficult to hold up and seems to hide the will of the Rwanda leader to normalize more and more his country in the eyes of the Western community (hence for example the compulsive use of social networks), an operation already partially successful given the excellent consideration that some heads of state reserve to Kagame. Not therefore a sincere desire to increase the economic development and social conditions of their people, but to earn points in the international arena to continue to make their own comfortable; the position of Arsenal that lends itself to this mechanism without hitting the wound becomes even more serious. For now this partnership goes to join a whole slew of unclear and quite questionable reports which can be added to two others which regarding also the FIFA, just to mention the most in view at the time, extraordinarily famous companies, such as Manchester City, owned by the Abu Dabhi United Group, and Paris Saint Germain, of the Qatar Investment Authority: clubs that have poured into the market a frightful and unregulated amount of money, with almost no regulation to limit its actions. Right now, taking up the speech properly made by The Independent, the moral apathy is the host, and none of us poses too many questions about this, until in our houses arrives on time the game we were waiting for; certainly there is now that the world of football seems to be more and more anesthetized, heavily drugged by cash flows and trade agreements of various kinds that are perhaps leading to a point of no return, at the moral level as well as at the economic level and international legislation. We, who are the last wheel of this heavy wagon, we can only make sure not to let the news pass over our heads, but stay informed and ask questions, even if inconvenient: for example if on the sleeves of our favorite team suddenly appears the tourist message of a country checked in view by the international community on topics such as torture, political and cultural oppression, the anti-democracy of its government and the possible complicity of its totalitarian president with a genocide of the neighboring country.