Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The World Game

I'm reading a moderately interesting book about the history of football (or 'soccer' as we call it here). It's a serious study, and quite a long and heavy book but I have to read it because a dear friend lent it to me - someone who I admire - and said I had to read it and I didn't have the courage to say 'no'. It's not that I don't want to read it, but when I have so many books piled up with more literary value I'd rather watch a BBC documentary on this topic than read a 900+ page small-fonted book.

But, I am enjoying it on a kind anthropological level.

In the introduction, the writer suggested that soccer has permeated the cultures of every country on Earth in a way that no other sport or precise cultural activity has. The last World Cup final was watched by half the world, allegedly. He said something along the lines that no other thing on Earth could get three billion people doing the same thing at the same time, peacefully.

He tried to think of some other pursuit that has permeated all cultures. Not a product as such (eg: Coca-Cola is known everywhere, but Coca-Cola is one brand, just like, say, Manchester United is). The best he could come up with was MTV - an institution that in turn promotes many different bands - but many hardcore Arab states may block that, not to mention the poorer places that don't have tellies.

So I got to thinking about things that have cultural significance in every place on Earth.

Microsoft? I reckon that's everywhere, but unlike soccer, it's not something that people are passionate about. I think it may have commercial significance, but probably not cultural significance.

CNN? Nope, Al-jazeera would tackle that notion.

AC/DC, the band? Nope. A product.

The Metric system? Nope.

A4 paper? Close, but still not cultural (A4 paper is surely the standard in all nations).

Red Cross? Hmmm - yes, probably known everywhere, but it doesn't inspire an opinion, as such.

The closest I got was: Coffee drinking.

You know, he may have a point. In life, we have rituals around births, deaths and marraiges, and all the rest is kinda personal, or tribal, but not so much global. We don't have global laws (well, none that stick), or global opinions, or global agreement on anything, except for the rules of soccer which are global, and we also share a love of it (mostly). Not so much here or the US, but we are catching up slowly.

Soccer transcends race, wealth, politics, religion... gender is perhaps the missing thing in all that, but if its the best thing we have as a planet, then maybe we need to give it some credit, and perhaps, lean on it a bit to set standards for the rest of the world to look up to.

Israel vs Palestine, shaking hands after the match, playing fairly. That could do more for the current situation than any amount of Annie Lennoxes and John Pilgers talking shit.


Lewd Bob said...

How about jeans? Sure you might be able to name a handful of countries where they might be hard to find but I'd say, even if the harshest Islamic state or the hottest, most humid environment, you'll eventually find a pair walking down the street.

Boogeyman said...

It's a sad day when one has to read a long, small-font book just to get laid, eh PQ?

He said something along the lines that no other thing on Earth could get three billion people doing the same thing at the same time, peacefully.

And then killing their soccer players afterwards if they lose badly.

Or beating up the fans of a rival team.

Ahhh, soccer, the peace promoting sport.

Perseus said...

Oh if I thought I'd get a root I'd read it in a flash. But no, this book came from a married man, and so sex was not on the radar.

There is plenty of soccer violence, yes, but I think it;s getting better over time.

Jeans - yep, good call. It unites. Probably at least four billion people consider the wearing of jeans to be acceptable, confortable and fashionable.

Lewd Bob said...

...lean on it a bit to set standards for the rest of the world to look up to.

Israel vs Palestine, shaking hands after the match, playing fairly.

All very idealistic and I wish it could achieve such things.

But let's look at the Olympics. This is where we're supposed to unite and love each other. The rings are a great symbol of this unity. But they've been going for quite some time and we don't seem to consequently love each other any better. They cheat, steal, lie and it's ultimately all about the sponsorship deals they can bag when they return home. But I love Usain Bolt.

Soccer players are arrogant and are paid obscene amounts. It's not about the common man any more, it's about sponsorship, deals and cash.

Oh but I do love it.

squib said...

My high school geography teacher used to say that soccer is the circus in bread and circuses. He also used to bandy the phrase 'capitalist pigs' about. He was Scottish

My own observations have led me to conclude that soccer players are more spunky than Australian footballers. Why is it so?

Perseus said...

"Why is it so?"


I'm an uberhet, and even I have a crush on him.

Pity abour his speaking voice. Sounds like a squeaky hinge.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

The last World Cup final was watched by half the world, allegedly

My bullshit detector twitched on reading that.

Sounds like pure spin, to me.

Perseus said...

That's why I added the word 'allegedly'... but you'd imagine that half of Europe, Africa and South America watched it, so let's give it a 1.5 billion connservative estimated audience.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Does the author talk about the origins of the game?

squib said...

Oh no, not Beckham eww!

I was thinking more along the lines of the Spanish team

I don't think it's spin at all. I never watch sport but I will watch a few games when it's World Cup

Melba said...

Me too. I love a game of World Cup soccer on the teeve. European Cup when Galatasaray won was ace, old man in dressing gown across road firing pistol into the air.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

old man in dressing gown across road firing pistol into the air.

Did he manage to hit any owls, Melba?

Perseus said...

"Does the author talk about the origins of the game?"

Yes, that's what the whole book is.

The bit about unifying the world was just in the introduction.

I'm at page 50, and we're just at the time where 'football' starts to split between those who want to use their hands and those who don't - which leads to rugby and soccer being different sports.

Melba said...

No Ramon, I'm pretty sure they would have eaten all the owls in Istanbul by the turn of the century. 17th that is.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

I like Istanbul more and more.

Perseus said...

I can't imagine owls being tasty. The only reason to eat an owl is in revenge for their existance, pepetrated by mentally lopsided owl-haters.

Personally, I find them to be graceful, beautiful, aesthetically pleasing, talented and powerful. Like Beckham.

I thought all chicks thought Beckham was hot? Or maybe it's jut a man-crush thing, because he's so god-damned talented.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

It is astonishing how quickly and thoroughly we have purged our tables of, say, owls (which, as Mary Land instructs in her 1954 tome Louisiana Cookery, are to be fricasséed).

From here.

Melba said...

I think Becks is hott, but the voice, oh the voice, reverses any moistness that might occur from seeing him in shorts or sans shirt.

I like owls too, so I can't understand why Ramon hates them.

Don't you know there was a great kebab shortage in Turkey for a couple of centuries so they had to eat other things.

squib said...

Ramon you inspired me to write a short story about a man who is afraid of owls

Also I'm getting a Pandora bracelet for my birthday because I love glass and I'm going to get an owl charm because they are bewtiful like Persey said and no Beckham always seems so vain and smug. He's Narcissus and talking of which, soccer players always look like mini gods out there on the green thing (field, pitch, I don't know) whereas Aussie footballers always look like ferals that have escaped from the pub. I think it's the shorts

Melba said...

Oooh Pandora squib. Do let me know if you find any good glass beads other than Pandora ones, because they have a very limited range of colours, designs etc.

I may as well come out on the owls. I don't just like them, I find them quite totemic and awesome. And I give my mother owls when I find them, ie trinkets and such.

So, I guess that is the nail in the coffin for you and me, eh Ramon? After our impasse over Israel, now Owl-gate.

squib said...

Will do Melba, you're right, it's a very limited range. I even checked to see whether the range was bigger in the US but no

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

I forgive you, Melba.

Squib, I appreciate anything which panders to my already monsterous ego.

squib said...

The main character ends up realising he has been a complete goose for being so afraid of owls

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Just before the owls kill him and everybody else on earth.

squib said...

Yeah, right

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

What was this post about, again?

Oh yeah, soccer - that's right.

Perseus said...

And you complain that posts end up being about my dating problems Ramon.

No matter where they go, it'll always end in owls.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

See also, The Soccer War.

Mr E Discharge said...

The closest I got was: Coffee drinking.

Masturbation has to be at least as popular as Soccer.

Melba said...

I was thinking of sex as being the global thing that we all share, but that's a physiological/biological thing. Not cultural.

Or is it?

Boogeyman said...

Alcohol drinking is nearly universal, and I would say it's a cultural practice, given that it's not essential nutrition. Not only that, alcohol consumption also permeates heaps of other other cultural traditions too.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Apart from a goodish chunk of the world that is Islamic, Boogey.

Boogeyman said...

Only a few Muslim countries ban alcohol outright, and I'll bet in those that don't (and even in some that do), many Muslims sneak the odd drink or two.

Fad MD said...

Just getting back to the owls for a second... this is for you Ramon!

Melba said...

Those owls are horrible. Now maybe I'm starting to see what Ramon doesn't see in them.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...


Fad MD said...

I knew you'd love it!!