Tuesday, June 13, 2006

World Cup global sociological effects

World Cup boosts growth, binds ties, even sparks war
By Mark Rice-Oxley Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

Question: what quadrennial sporting extravaganza brings the world together for weeks on end, transcending war, poverty, class, and culture, and culminating in the most watched television event ever?

If you guessed the Olympics, odds are you're an American.

The rest of the world knows better. Soccer's World Cup kicks off Friday in Germany. And while the month-long spectacle may not leave much of an impression on Americans, for most other nations it is an incomparable event.

Brazilian banks will close early, British productivity will nosedive, elections in Mexico could be affected, the fate of the French prime minister may hang on results. The event will touch even the frozen wastelands of Antarctica, where scientists have set up a live Internet feed so as not to miss the action.

And at the grand finale on July 9, as many as a billion people - one-sixth of humanity - are expected to watch 22 men, adept at propelling a piece of leather around, compete for the ultimate victory in team sports.

Why is the event so popular?

One reason, says soccer writer Simon Kuper, is that the World Cup provides a stage for old rivalries to be played out. It enables small nations of the world who ordinarily have little say in that other great international sport - diplomacy - to settle scores and resolve questions of status and national identity with a few cathartic kicks

Another reason for the overwhelming popularity is that soccer is so pervasive. The international soccer federation FIFA has more members than the United Nations (207 vs. 191). Two years ago, 198 countries started out trying to qualify for this summer's finals. The game has taken root in so many places because it's so easy to prepare and play, according to Fernando Soares Schlindwein, an academic from Brazil. "The nice thing about football is that you can play it with anyone with almost anything," he says. "People play with fizzy drink cans, or oranges, or socks rolled into a ball.

It unifies people from all social class."

Read the full article here

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