Monthly Archives: May 2010

Has Globalization Stolen the World Cup Magic?


Who is this kid? Pele terrorizes Sweden in 1958

Nobody outside of Brazil had heard of the 17-year-old who exploded onto the international stage in the 1958 World Cup in Sweden with a display of skill, audacity, guile, vision and sheer exuberance that was to make Pele a global household name for the next half-century.

His status as the global symbol of football excellence was all the remarkable considering that the world only got to see him three more times at the quadrennial World Cup tournaments, culminating in 1970. Pele, after all, played his weekly club football for Rio De Janeiro’s Santos, whose games weren’t available on satellite TV.

There are many reasons why World Cup 2010 won’t surprise us with a new Pele, but the first should be obvious: today any teenager even half as talented would likely be on the books of Barcelona or Arsenal already, and therefore a familiar face to European club football’s massive global TV audience. Continue reading

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Scoring Round 1 of Hillary vs. Ahmadinejad


Walking out on Monday’s U.N. speech by Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may have been good domestic politics for the Obama Administration and its closest European allies, but it won’t necessarily help them prevail at the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference that began Monday. In fact the move by delegates from the U.S., Britain, France, Canada, Hungary, New Zealand and the Netherlands, among others, may have perversely played to Ahmadinejad’s advantage.
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Why Ahmadinejad (Hearts) NY


Anti-Ahmadinejad protestors in New York last time: The Iranian leader will hope to see the Israeli flag flying prominently among those denouncing him

The US secretary of state Hillary Clinton was clearly unsettled by the news that the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, plans to show up in New York on Monday at the UN’s Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.

As far as the US is concerned, Iran is a pariah in the international conversation about proliferation, and halting its alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons is one of Washington’s key objectives at the New York conference.

“If [Mr Ahmadinejad] believes that by coming he can somehow divert attention from this very important global effort or cause confusion that might possibly throw into doubt what Iran has been up to … then I don’t believe he will have a particularly receptive audience.” At least she hopes not.

Somewhere in Tehran, Mrs Clinton’s remarks will have prompted Mr Ahmadinejad to smile his pantomime villain’s smile. He’s going to New York because he believes he’ll have an opportunity to confound US objectives.

Sure, he’ll be the focus of much opprobrium – senators from Mrs Clinton’s own party tried to reverse her administration’s decision to grant him a visa, apparently ignorant of their country’s obligations as host to the United Nations. And there will be hundreds of demonstrators across from the UN headquarters, perhaps some waving Israeli flags. At least, Mr Ahmadinejad hopes so, because he too intends to make an issue of Israel – not by threatening to wipe it out, but by pointing that Israel possesses a nuclear arsenal capable of wiping out Iran 20 times over, and yet doesn’t feature in Washington’s non-proliferation agenda.

So while the US hopes to use Iran’s failure to fully comply with the transparency requirements of the treaty to raise support for new sanctions against Tehran, the Iranians plan to draw attention to western double standards in applying the NPT. Continue reading

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Who ‘We’ Are When the Whistle Blows


Chelsea’s Drogba and Kalou fly the Ivoirian flag. But Kalou was very nearly a Dutchman…


The fleet-footed Chelsea forward Solomon Kalou might permit himself a wry smile as he stands at attention for L’Abidjanaise, the national anthem of the Ivory Coast, when Les Elephantes face Portugal in their World Cup opener on June 15.

Were it not for the stubbornness of former Netherlands immigration minister Rita Verdonk, Kalou would have turned up at the World Cup in the other orange shirt – as a Dutchman. By turning down attempts by the Netherlands football authorities to fast-track citizenship for Kalou in time to pick him for the 2006 World Cup, the conservative Verdonk actually spared his parents a major headache: the Dutch that year played a group game against an Ivory Coast squad that included Solomon’s older brother, Bonaventure.

But the episode is simply a reminder that international football often demonstrates just how fluid and fungible the notion of nationality can be. In the same 2006 World Cup, when Croatia played Australia, three players in the Croatian squad were actually Australian, while seven of the Socceroos were eligible to represent Croatia. Continue reading

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