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A football working class hero

Organised sport was originally for the elite with its roots in the English public schools. But taking advantage of the free-time offered by the eight-hour day, workers began to democratize games like soccer and rugby. We enjoyed sport as passive spectators and as active participants. Who can blame someone for enjoying leisure on a day off?

Before long, major social democratic parties across Europe were using sporting clubs and festivals to construct working-class identity and promote solidarity. By 1928, German sports societies had more than two million members, most of whom were affiliated with the Social Democratic Party. These clubs offered escape and a sense of belonging to the masses. Thousands hiked and learned to swim, freeing themselves, however fleetingly, from the grinding indignity of wage slavery. In Austria, during the Red Vienna period (1918-1934), a new stadium was built to host a “Workers’ Olympiad,” which welcomed participants from across the world—a testament to the…