World Cup Hosts, Winners and Political/Economic Systems

Keeping with the World Cup theme, I read a very interesting book a few years ago by Franklin Foer entitled “How Soccer Explains the World” in which he outlines that soccer is not merely a pastime but often an expression of the social, economic, political, and racial composition of the communities that host both the teams and their throngs of enthusiastic fans. I thought it worthwhile to look at the past hosts, winners of the World Cup and the political/economic system that prevailed in these countries at the time.

Source: The Thinking Fan’s Guide to the World Cup.

Command Systems not so successful.

According to Foer the Communist countries have the better of the results against the non-communist countries. Played 118 Won 46, Drawn 32, Lost 40. However a Communist country has yet to win the World Cup. He suggests that the reasons for this are as follows:

  1. Coaches thought that science could provide the information to win games – i.e. evaluating teams on the number of passes, tackles, shots etc. This might work in athletics or gymnastics but doesn’t include the individual skill and risk-taking involved in winning games.
  2. The harsh conditions of communism also meant that a lot of players defected to other countries that were more democratic.

Fascism as a driving force

The existence and adoration of a single, omnipotent leader is conceivably the best known characteristic of fascist governments. In Italy Benito Mussolini was always seeking to use popular culture in his quest to grasp authority and to convert Italian society, and sport was a key part of this strategy. Fascists took control of football in Italy and by the mid-1920s had proceeded to revolutionise the game, building stadiums all over the peninsula and creating a national team which was to dominate the international game for four years, winning two World Cups (1934 and 1938) and an Olympic gold medal.

Under leader Francisco Franco, Spain was also a fascist regime although it was described as an autocracy rather than a totalitarian state like those of Italy and Germany. This might explain why Spain’s fascist dictatorship endured from the 1940s into the 1970s. Franco was an avid Real Madrid supporter and, according to some, the regime provided decisive aid in the club’s signing of the best player of the fifties, the Argentine Alfredo Di Stefano, even though Barcelona had already agreed terms with him. Franco viewed the triumphs of Real Madrid and of the Spanish national team as in some way
his own.

However he did face serious opposition from the Basques and the clubs Athletico Bilbao and Real Sociedad were the only venues where the Basque people could express their cultural pride without ending up in jail. In the south of the country FC Barcelona was the heroic centre of the resistance to Franco’s military dictatorships. Their home ground, Camp Nou, provided an environment for Catalans to voice their strong disapproval of Franco’s military dictatorship.

Brazil – 5 World Cup wins.

Brazil is the most successful country in terms of performances in the World Cup. Three out of their five World Cup wins have come about under military/fascist regimes. Also Argentina in the 1970s and 1980s achieved soccer’s golden prize under the watchful eye of the fascist generals. Since 1934, no fewer than seven World Cups have been won by countries with some form of fascist ideology.

Freedom House stated the 2018 tournament hosted in Russia was not ‘free’ with autocratic control by Vladimir Putin. Same can be said for Qatar where democratic elections or political parties do not exist. Freedom House states that “While Qatari citizens are among the wealthiest in the world, most of the population is made up of non-citizens with no political rights, few civil liberties, and limited access to economic opportunities.”

According to Franklin Foer, in spite of the common modern assertion that civilisation is in discord, football provides substance to the argument that a civilised world order is possible. But globalisation single-handedly cannot be seen to achieve this objective. In order to achieve a world environment where citizens have tolerance and respect for each other the institutions of a vivacious domestic liberalism must also be created and sustained.

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How World Cup countries would compete in economic variables

From the Wall Street Journal Graphics. Here is a great graphic that looks at how those countries competing in the World Cup would fair when you consider variables like:
Highest unemployment rate, Highest inflation rate, Highest murder rate, Most McDonalds Restaurants Per Capita, Lowest traffic death rate etc. Click link below:
How the tournament would play out if 32 countries were competing in things other than soccer.

Stats for World Cup Countries

Stickernomics – can you fill your World Cup sticker book?

Panini World Cup stickersAnother interesting article from The Economist which looks at collecting those football stickers at World Cup time. It started with the 1970 World Cup in Mexico and today there are 640 stickers to collect – 20 per team.

Mathematicians from the University of Geneva have worked out that you would need to buy 989 packs to fill your sticker album and it assumes that each sticker is printed in the same volumes and randomly distributed. From the 2010 World Cup the same researchers checked the distribution of stickers sold for a 660-sticker album in Switzerland and out of their sample they expected to see each sticker 9.09 times on average – 6000/660.

The Sticker Market
Rather than buying all these stickers it makes sense to create a market so that stickers can be traded. As with most markets liquidity is very important – the more attracted to the market the greater the chance someone has that sticker/stickers you are after. In order for 10 keen sticker-swappers to complete their albums they would need 1,435 packs between them and also take advantage of Panini’s (company who sell the stickers) practice of selling the final 50 missing stickers to order.

Everyone has their favourite
But is every collector rational – I know when collecting stickers for the 1970 Album I would have given 2 or 3 stickers in exchange for any Brazilian player – Pele was worth 5 stickers. Maybe today Messi, Neymar and Ronaldo are worth more than one sticker. This then creates an exchange rate for top performing players.

Brazil needs World Cup boost

With the Football World Cup about to commence the Brazilian economy doesn’t look as if it would get past the pool stage. Brazil’s high inflation and low business investment has put a damper on the expected lift from government investment in projects leading up to the World Cup. Business investment fell 2.1% in the first three months of 2014, the biggest decline in two years. Brazil, the world’s seventh largest, has prices rising at 6% per year, above the central bank’s target. The central bank has kept its key interest rate at 11% in an effort to combat rising prices. Furthermore growth prospects have been revised down to 0.4% for the first quarter of this year. The graph below shows that slower consumption and investment will mean below average growth which is unusual considering they are hosting the Football World Cup and the Olympics.
Brazil  stats