The World Cup ( Philosophy and Sociology of)

Even those who don’t appreciate the finesses and power of soccer should enjoy the current World Soccer (“Football Association”) Cup. It’s an event portent with philosophical implications. It’s the stage where, in full view of much of the world, the prideful and the powerful get their butts kicked by nobodies. England, the country that invented the noble game, seldom even gets close to a goblet, much less to the Cup itself. Right now, some of the European super-powers have trouble keeping their own against former dwarves. France got its ass handed out to it in one of its first games by recently non-existent Mexico. Then, the country went on to lose it to charity-case South Africa. Then, the French team melted down on the playing field. The French team is going home where some of its members, or at least its general manager, will probably be guillotined after a brief show trial. And why not? Marie-Antoinette was guilty of less. Super-champ Italy has to keep fighting for its very survival. Spain held its own with difficulty against tiny former minor colony Honduras. Even among the Europeans, it’s the unknown that keep looking good, Switzerland for one, Slovenia, a country the size of San Jose, California, for another.

In a cruel twist of historical fate, even the few sub-Saharan African countries (that means “black”), who had reasonable aspirations are getting rid of themselves. Their apparent mistake: Putting their fates in the hands of European coaches who were world stars yesteryear. Nigeria barely survived its encounter with South Korea. No one had heard of South Korean soccer until four or five years ago. The south Korean players look like they are fifteen or so. And the annoying music of plastic trumpets goes on in South Africa.

For the observant, there are also amusing sociological features to the World Cup. Here is one: Every national team who can includes black players. I mean players with some ancestry in sub-Saharan Africa (see above). That England and France should do so is no surprise. Both are former colonial powers with significant black populations. But what about Switzerland and Chiles, both of whom had prominently displayed black players when they fought? Switzerland never became involved in any colonial adventure. Any black person with Swiss citizenship must have acquired it within one generation, or within two years. Chile is one of those former Spanish colonies where black slavery never took much root. (In large part it was because African slave-work was associated with plantation-type agriculture, as with cotton, and sugar, and indigo, rather than with small peasant proprietorship and cattle ranches as prevailed in Chile.) And Chile is not prosperous enough to attract immigrants from Africa and from the West Indies, unlike the US, for example. A long time ago, when France won the World Cup, a German commentator actually complained that it was not fair because the French had many blacks while Germany had none!

Why the disproportionate representation of people of black African descent in soccer at the world level, as in so many other sports, in the US and elsewhere? I am reasonably sure it’s not due to active programs of affirmative action. There must be some other reason. Don’t expect to find any exploration of this interesting topic produced in America, and certainly not by American academics. It’s a forbidden topic, one of many. We have learned to live daily with hypocrisy because political correctness is largely victorious.

About jacquesdelacroix

I am a sociologist, a short-story writer, and a blogger (Facts Matter and Notes On Liberty) in Santa Cruz, California.
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