Friday, December 11, 2009

World Cup Blogging - Sweeping Team Review

It's six months until the opening match of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. I've mentioned several times that I'll be attending with my son Jacob, and that I intend to blog about it. This post is meant as a sort of introduction to the blogging project.

My intentions, none of which I'm willing to be held to in the final analysis, are to provide an interesting diary of my World Cup journey, including photographs and discussions about the teams and the experience with the fans on and off the field. Actually I could talk about anything, but it will all be about my World Cup Trip.

An initial overview of the teams is in order, but let me make it clear from the beginning that I consider the World Cup to have begun, not in Uruguay in 1930, but in 1915, with very few rules and no refereeing and lasting nearly five years. Of course the rules of war and soccer have some key rule differences, and I'll get to that in another blog, but suffice to say that they are both the determined struggle between nations for World Domination, and although there'd been previous, more localised competitions for domination, the very first true World Cup was World War I.

World War I, upon its completion (the USA the clear victor), gave rise to two extraordinary institutions, both of whose purpose it was to end war (as we've known it) for all time. The League of Nations failed of course, but FIFA has had some success.

The rules have only been suspended once since for the World Cup, in World War II (where the USA once again won the grand final), and for two whole olympiads. Since then the conflicts between nations without rules and referees have thankfully remained mostly local, though many of the countries in the South Africa World Cup have been in battle with each other since. Actual World Cups have been kept to the soccer format.

Soccer is, of course, a much more civilised manner for countries to seek World Domination than war. It's interesting to have a look over the participants of South Africa 2010 with a view to their current status in the World. A fascinating pattern emerges in this case.

In short, the thirty-two countries virtually define the anglocentric sphere, indeed the Western block of the world. For the first time USA, England, Australia and even New Zealand are all competing. The breadth of representation is theoretically there, as there is even a representative of Oceania, but New Zealand is the most anglophilic nation in Oceania, as is Australia, the leading qualifier in Asia, the most anglophilic country in "Asia."

Let's be clear I'm not trying to overlay any political judgements of my own here; I'm just making observations. All of the white cricketing nations are at the World Cup and virtually none of the non-white cricketing nations.

Although 'Asia' is represented by four countries, there is no representation longditudinally from Serbia East to... Australia. The other three are all adjacent to each other, two of them the most pro-American countries in Asia, Japan and South Korea, and then perversely North Korea. Fully flanked by America's allies in the region (not to mention the key American bases of Australia and New Zealand), North Korea, a dangerous and ridiculous caracature of both Asian authoritarianism and communism, both of which it alone represents. And its placing alongside the Portuguese block (Brasil and Portugal no less), and The Ivory Coast, could have been designed to make the caracature to be a spectacle of failure.

Every other World Cup contender is a respectable social democracy, from an anglo-American perspective.

There are no Arab states apart from Algeria, to the very West of Arabica. Notably the US's greatest potential geopolitical rivals, Russia, China, India and Iran - most of which have World Cup histories - are absent. Israel is perhaps the most notable of US allies to actually be missing, but so are all her enemies. The Middle East in fact is not there at all. Not even the ambiguous 'allies' of the USA like Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, who often are there.

Note the distinct blocks of participants on the World Map. European countries (including Algeria and not including only Serbia and Slovakia, close by and themselves a strange little couple of the most white and western East European lands) forms one geographic block. North American countries, with Honduras just across the water from Mexico, is a distinct block. If you go to the southernmost of South America with a latitudinal ruler and work your way up the continent, the first five countries you encounter are the World Cup representatives - all the wealthiest and most powerful countries, all politically close to the West. The Carribean and Northern South America is barely represented by Honduras alone. Asia is a small block of the Koreas and Japan, and then of course there's Australia and New Zealand geographically and culturally allied.

Africa is represented of course, but barely. Again there's Algeria in the far North, a Mediteranean country trying to represent North Africa and Arabica at the same time. Then South Africa in the far South, the most Westernised and affluent African country. Apart from these two all four countries are all-but adjacent in the Gulf of Guinea, or Ivory Coast, area. This is the relatively Western, affluent area of Africa, where the oil is, and generally with cooperative governments.

South Africa has a number of official languages, but it speaks to the World in English. The only non-European main-languages spoken at the World Cup will be Japanese, Korean and Arabic (by Algeria, which also uses French). The vast majority of the background chatter will be Spanish, English, French and Portuguese, with Germanic languages also represented. Latin and Greek based languages will be spoken by almost everyone.

All the classic Western countries are there, as well as all the major colonialists. France, the symbol of liberty, Greece, the symbol of democracy, England, the symbol of pluralistic democracy (as well as soccer itself), Swizerland, the symbol of neutrality, Spain, the symbol of piracy and loot, Italy, the symbol of ancient empire, culture and catholicism. The West is there in full force. All the seats of the major empires of civilisation are there - ooh, except the pre-Western ones of Persia (Iran), Babylonia (Iraq) and Egypt.

In short this is an Angloamerican World Cup, and even moreso than usual. An American ally, a capitalist westernised democracy, will win it. American Civilisation will win it. It represents a World just about the way the Americans might wish it was if they could.

I'll be talking fairly freely about the various contender's political histories, and especially about any engagements outside sport the various pairings of countries have had. Germany and Australian teams have fought one another, for example, in both World wars - I'll be examining who won these battles if anyone - mere group rounds for these unruly World Cups - and how the teams looked then.

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