Simon Kuper, author of Soccernomics, explains in his recent piece in Foreign Policy, “Soccer Explains Nothing“, of how soccer and the World Cup has lost its geopolitical implications. But he almost refutes himself when explaining that the World Cup is reflective of the globalization process that is bringing the world closer together. He comically buttresses this explanation through the changes in each countries styles of play. First, what used to be:
The World Cup used to set different national styles against each other. The Dutch attacked, the Italians defended, the Germans played badly and won, the Latin Americans dribbled, and the English huffed and puffed and screwed up.
Now, what they have changed into:
Everyone plays much the same way now (with the exception of the English, who still huff and puff and screw up.) Teams like the United States, Paraguay, and Japan have doubled down on boring, athletically honed, well-organized Western European soccer in recent years. In South Africa, the Dutch defended, the Germans played well and lost, and the Latin Americans mostly stopped dribbling.
Kuper does have a point. Much has changed, in the world of politics and in the world of soccer, but there is some sort of constant in that, through the changes world politics and soccer mirror each other. As long as soccer is the sport of fanatics (I’m not talking about the watered down American kind, but the English hooligan kind), soccer will be like a religion to most nations and most peoples. And as most religions are good windows to explain groups of people and interactions among them (the realm of politics is slowly realizing the mistake of not accounting religious factors), soccer too can still explain everything.