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Does the World Cup Matter Anymore?

In a recent article in Foreign Policy, Simon Kuper argues that globalization has dampened the international intensity from the World Cup.  The games are no longer fueled with political, economic, or social unrest, rather they are simply pitting sometimes boring styles against even more boring styles.

It seems that the main geopolitical significance of the World Cup now lies in the logistics of organizing it. The soccer is just for fun (although in truth most of the games were dull). The World Cup no longer means much. And that’s a relief.

Tough to argue that point in 2010.  

During the qualifications and local tournaments, it seems there’s more interest in disliking the opponent simply because of who they are. Nothing gives me greater satisfaction than the USA hammering Mexico  The same can most certainly be said given the bags, bottles, and cups of urine thrown at the Yanks from 100,000 fans crammed into an 80,000 capacity stadium somewhere deep in Mexico.

When the World Cup (finally) rolls around, I seem to take the same stance as I do when watching the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament.  Where the heck is Slovenia and Algeria?  What clubs do these players play for?  How did they get here?  

In the recent run, England was fun but I wasn’t around in the 60s to be nostalgic about that win.

Maybe it’s time to reset the group formats so there are more teams from the same regions playing each other. After a few years of qualifying against these same teams, it’s quite likely rivalries will be born pretty quickly.

Or, maybe this is the new era of soccer. Globalization has reduced the mystique and ignorance of foreign countries, especially as more players ply their trade outside of their home countries.  We know enough about these countries that a game of soccer is just that – 11 v. 11 with no outside pressures.

Had the World Cup been worth it, we asked them? “I think rationally and fiscally, absolutely not,” replied Haffajee. “But emotionally, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”