Monday, June 14, 2010

Your Culture On Soccer

The World Cup has only salutary effect: people writing about countries’ cultures through the prism or guise of soccer. It’s an excuse, really; usually the writer has wanted to say it anyway, but just needs the proper hook. The World Cup is that.

So here’s a story about Brazil:
… Kaka attacked then-coach Carlos Alberto Parreira’s decision to allow his players to have sex during the cup (whereas Kaka proudly declared himself a virgin before his 2006 marriage). Four years later, the conjugal visits are out, and the evangelicals hold Bible readings during practice. While their teammates have not converted religiously, they may have culturally: this Brazil side is notably lacking “frivolity,” replacing the flashy trappings of highlight-reel tricks with something far more austere, and uncompromising. And the “us against them” mentality that Dunga has fostered certainly meshes well with the evangelical belief in an “elect.” [Quick interjection here: the belief of an "elect" is very particular to the Calvinists/Congregationists, and in no way should be attributed to all evangelicals.] One could call it “Calvinist” football – not the Brazil of the past, but maybe the Brazil of the future.

Kaka—the Brazilian Tim Tebow?

Here’s a story about Germany:
… there have been several Polish-Germans of Silesian background to have played for Germany (including Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski in this squad), Joachim Löw's team also has players of Bosnian-Serb, Brazilian, Ghanaian, Nigerian, Polish, Tunisian and Turkish descent.

This new German team has been many years in the making. Hosting the last World Cup catalysed a reassessment of what it means to be a modern German.

The success of Jürgen Klinsmann's side at the tournament united the country and gave birth to a patriotism that was not weighed down by the baggage of history.

The national flag, with all its dubious nationalist association, was suddenly an object of pride and, to the astonishment of many, was even hung from the windows of houses in the German-Turkish community.

Germany was changing and so was its football team. Between 1995 and 2004, 1,278,424 foreigners took German citizenship and the laws regarding eligibility were liberalised in 1999 through major reforms.

And North Korea:
As for North Korea's star striker, he is the Japan born Jong Tae-se, who plays in Japan's J League, drives a Hummer and finds his team mates appealingly quaint. Writing on his blog earlier this year, Jong described a stopover on a team trip from Switzerland to Austria, during which his team mates were stunned to discover you had to pay to use the gents in a station. "They turned to me," recalled Jong, "and said, 'This is truly what capitalist society is like.'" It's a reasonable point.

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