Monday, June 12, 2006

World Cup and World Peace

Like many World Cup editions before this one, the excitement and the passion for the game has gripped the globe and many countries be it poor or rich, developed or developing, first world or third world. Every individual regardless of race or religion will set aside differences and come together to watch the beautiful game. So what is it about this beautiful game that can reconcile the world in such a way that even the United Nations can't? Why can't there be world peace yet countries can come together and play a football game together without any disputes or differences?

There can't be an answer for this. For years, the United Nations has been trying to unravel the mystery surrounding the beautiful game that binds the world together as one. Just a simple game of a ball and two sticks can create a social cohesion that puts the various peacekeeping measures of the UN to shame.

Which is rather why sometimes the simplicity of matters is better than complexity. A simple game of football unites the world that no peacekeeping agency can ever do while years of confrontations, cold war, dialogues and summits splits countries like a knife through hot butter. While the countries' peacekeeping measures are constrained by the various cultures and languages, football only speaks one language. Pure and simple.

True, there have been instances of racism in the ranks of some clubs but the incidents have been few and far between and largely frowned upon. The World Cup sees nations of different cultures, languages and religion congregate on one hosting nation to view the greatest spectacle on Earth and nothing major has ever happened. Except for a few hooligans from England, World Cups have always been fun filled days of nothing but football, football and more football.

Even spectators who do not have the exclusive tickets to the World Cups rely on their TV sets at homes to catch the action. And whether you are from Africa, Asia, Middle East or South America, our favourite heroes are always Beckham, Ronaldo and Zidane.

Maybe what the world lacks is a common social glue that unites them off field. Nations are often clouded with greed and vested interest and are often unwilling to embark in any form of cohesion that will advance the world as a whole. A case in point being the ongoing dispute between the USA and Iran where suspicions and confrontations about nuclear weapons seem to engulf our front pages everyday. Yet, only four years ago, USA played Iran in a World Cup fixture that was both incident free and thrilling. How does this relations see-saw so capriciously between off-field and onfield?

Nothing much these days are black and white. Often or not, there are shades of grey. And world peace is sadly smack in the middle of grey. Countries without any use to the developed countries are often casted aside and left to their own devices. Look at Rwanda where ethnic cleansing has left the country in ruins and yet no one has ever gave two hoots to the land because it is of little use to anyone. Many countries in Africa are plagued by the same crisis and yet the world continues to turn the blind eye to the happenings. Meanwhile on the other hand, millions of dollars are spent over the span of more than a decade to reform the likes of Iraq and Iran, albeit unsuccessfully, just because they have something that the world needs- oil.

Football has never been discriminating in areas of development or aid. Just as long as you have interested people, the likes of FIFA will actively seek to promote the game. And countries in Africa has proven that war, poverty and disease has not prevented them from perfroming in the footballing world as evident in the likes of Angola and Ivory Coast qualifying for this World Cup. In fact it unites them and the countries often forget the plight there are in for just that 90 minutes as they seat in front of their television sets, enthralled by the fortunes of their nation in the Cup.

Perhaps the UN has lots to learn from the other governing body, FIFA. How FIFA has managed to get nations to successfully play a game of football happily for many decades through the World Cups. As Kofi Annan said recently, ' The World Cup makes us at the United Nations green with envy. As the pinnacle of the only truly global game, played in every country by every race and religion, it is one of the few phenomena as universal as the United Nations. You can even say it's more universal. Fifa has 207 members; we have only 191.' And every single word that is true, how the World Cup has succeeded where the UN failed, in bringing the elusive world peace that is strongly desired but never achieved.

No comments: