The Beautiful Game part II- the favortism
In all the revelry and pageantry that encompasses this event, the major problem I have with the World Cup is that it's biased. Not corrupt necessarily, but biased. FIFA, the organization that runs the show is a pro-European soccer cartel that ensures that a European team has the highest probablility to be crowned champion at the end. Out of 32 teams that enter the field, 14 are from the European continent, 5 from Africa, 4 from South America, 4 from North America/Carribean, 4 from Asia and 1 from Oceania (e.g. Australia, Fiji, New Guinea,Tonga). For those math/logic types, that means that a team from Europe is basically twice as likely to be standing at the end than a team from everywhere else in the world. Now we could all kick and scream in protest, but that fact won't change as long as FIFA is in charge with large sums of European funds. Besides, these teams STILL have to win on the field which provides some high drama when "small" countries like Ecuador and Ghana actually beat up on "big/favored" teams like Poland and the Czech Republic.
The favortism element of the WC got me thinking about how us soccer fans are like mini FIFAs in choosing the teams to support. The teams I decided to root for were
Ecuador, Ghana, France, Cote d'Ivorie, Croatia, and Brazil- the country which coined the term "Joga Bonito" (beautiful game). I had reasons to favor all of these teams, just not very good ones. For example I've visited Ecuador and France, I chose Brazil because they are an exciting team to watch, one of the tribes I share genes with resides in Cote d'Ivorie, Ghana is in Africa and I liked Croatia's unique checkerboard uniforms.--> HUH?!?!?! Then, as each of my teams began dropping like flies, I began rooting for the underdog- more than likely a non-European team- regardless of whether I chose to support them in the beginning or not.
This is not supposed to be so arbitrary is it? But it is. It's a GAME. To quote the blog My Travelling Face after his English squad got beat, " So I was pissed off for about 10 minutes, got the beers in and watched France beat Brazil. I didn't cry or get in a fight like the fuckwits on the news. It's just a game. No-one is dead." Sure national pride and four years worth of bragging rights are on the line, but after the final game is over, everyone resumes their daily lives, some with a higher alcohol tolerance than before, but for the most part, things return to normal.
But it's not so arbitrary in the grand scheme of things. I began REALLY looking at the teams I chose. Ecuador, Brazil, Cote d'Ivorie, and Ghana are a) African or b) have large resident Black populations with a team that are mainly Black. While playing email chess with Nick the Greek, I mentioned that I was hoping for an African team to make it to the late stages of the Cup and that wasn't happening. He replies to me, "There IS an African team heading towards the finals- FRANCE" and I'll be damned!!! They have more Black people than any other non-African team (By the way Nick, what do I get for winning the bet?). We choose the teams we relate to, whether it's intentional or not and there is nothing wrong with that. I'm a little FI-FA short and stout........
Seriously though, this game is providing much more than a passing form of sports entertainment. Cote d'Ivorie has been involved in a civil war for the last few years and the ONE thing that brought the two warring factions to the bargaining table was this year's WORLD CUP. Brazil, in the 1970's was on the brink on social collapse and the one thing to save it was Pele's dazzling performances on the pitch. Guatemala and El Salvador actually FOUGHT a short war in the 80's because of a World Cup qualifying game. Come to think of it, this competition actually has MANY political implications for better or worse, and if it can keep people thinking with some civility for a change, who am I to criticize it? It might be the only way cocky European nations are able to war with each other without actually pulling the rest of the world into it. Maybe FIFA is doing us a favor after all....