The World Cup

Posted: June 17, 2010 in Politics, Sport

Originally in my Wiltshire Blog

World Cup influenza is here and it’s contagious!

It’s impossible not to write about the World Cup this week.

I know because I tried, and failed. I tried not to write about the World Cup because that’s what everyone is writing about. I have to be more original, I thought to myself.

After mulling over a few different ideas, and getting nowhere with them, I gave up.

Why try to fight it? The World Cup is here, and it’s brilliant!

World Cup fever has hit Devizes, Wiltshire like no tournament can. When England played last Friday this ‘sleepy market town’ – as it is often described in the media – came to life with flags, fancy dress and football.

In the hours preceding the game the pub-goers spilled out onto the pavement and drank their beers in the sunshine – in defiance of the town’s ‘no alcohol’ policy.

Everyone was enjoying the World Cup fever and the electric atmosphere that comes before an England game.

The scene reminded me of Cologne in 2006. During the last World Cup I visited Cologne for a short time and was amazed by the energy which ran throughout the city.

When I arrived at Cologne train station I saw thousands of football fans from around the world. Everyone was wearing their home team’s strip; it as a sea of primary colours and face paint.

I love the World Cup because football is a sport real people play all over the world, every day. It’s not an esoteric sport like shot put, nor a boring sport like marathon running. And, in England at least, it’s not an elite sport.

George Orwell famously said that sport is ‘war without guns’. When you see the vigour that some teams play with, and the exaggerated patriotism that comes with every World Cup, it’s hard to disagree. But what a great alternative to war football is!

In All Quiet on the Western Front, one of the German soldiers darkly jokes that the First World War should be settled in a game of chess. In the 21st Century however, chess is boring and not easily televised, so let’s settle our problems on the pitch instead!

If you saw the North Korea v. Brazil game the other day you were probably surprised to find yourself backing North Korea. One pundit said that North Korea has done more for international relations in 90 minutes of football than they could ever achieve through politics.

If you happen to be a student of conflict resolution, or Secretary General of the UN, you can learn something from this.

Scrap the secretive meetings between men in suits and hold a football tournament instead!


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