How has the World Cup been for you?
Here are my thoughts on the competition, from today's The Australian.
Sadly, the Socceroos were knocked out today by a controversial last second penalty-but it'll take a long time before we forget their battling performances in the group stage.
The less said about England's abject performances the better.......
A better world is the ultimate goal
The gathering of the soccer tribes epitomises a different form of globalisation
June 27, 2006
REGARDLESS of how the Socceroos fared in this morning's second-round match with Italy, let's agree on one thing: the World Cup has been sensational. Not only for the quality of the soccer we have seen, the tremendous spirit of the players and the spectacular goals, but for the unprecedented way in which it has brought together people from across the world.
The fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the nuclear arms race were supposed to usher in global peace and understanding. Sadly, it never happened. Instead, since 1990 the world has become more divided, more dangerous, more unstable. The globalisation model that was adopted - involving the imposition of a one-size-fits-all political, economic and social template by the world's wealthiest nations, if necessary by military force - has not made the world a smaller, friendlier place. If anything, it has pushed peoples further apart.
The World Cup represents an alternative model of globalisation, and a far better one: it involves not the domination of one country or economic system over another, but the celebration of global diversity and respect for, rather than the destruction of, national sovereignty. All across the world, people are once again taking delight in their national identity, to the horror of globalists of the Left and Right. In Germany, flags are once more fluttering on rooftops: a sign that, 60 years after the horrors of World WarII, the country has at last returned to normality. The exuberant, attacking football Jurgen Klinsmann's team has played embodies the spirit of the new Germany: positive, confident, looking forward rather than back.
Australia, too, has advertised its finest, most admirable qualities to a global audience. The never-say-die attitude and buccaneering spirit the Socceroos showed in their matches against Japan, Brazil and Croatia will live long in the memory. Ditto the astonishing ball skills of the Ivory Coast, the best team not to make it to the knock-out stage.
The US has also won friends and admirers, even among those who regard its foreign policy with disdain. Bruce Arena's team played with courage and tenacity, and support for it exposed just how misguided are those who seek to politicise the World Cup. For instance, the World Development Movement's website www.whoshouldicheerfor.com offers advice on which countries we should be supporting on "ethical" grounds. Each country in the World Cup was assessed according to criteria ranging from health spending to carbon emissions: Ghana came first (the most supportable), the US last.
All very useful, but not when football matches are at stake. The Ghanaian team's play-acting and the blatant dive that earned it a decisive penalty in its match with the US would have raised the hackles of any neutrals, regardless of the country's superior record on greenhouse gases. And which pathetic souls would have cheered on Croatia against Australia on the basis that it stands at No.6 in the WDM's ethical assessment, while Australia is at No.28?
The po-faced politicisers fail to understand that in football, it's how teams play the game that determines the reaction of neutral supporters, not the policies of their governments. I knew nothing about The Netherlands or its politics when as a child I cried myself to sleep the night Johan Cruyff's magical team undeservedly lost the 1974 final. And my views on the war in Iraq had no bearing on my cheering on the nine-man US squad in its heroic, gutsy performance against Italy. The World Cup should be about transcending political differences, not extending them.
In Germany, if not on whoshouldicheerfor.com, that has largely been achieved. The atmosphere in the cities of the host nation, apart from the boorish behaviour of a minority of England fans, has been incredible, with supporters from all across the world - from Togo to Paraguay and Iran to South Korea - mingling peacefully. Each set of supporters has brought something special to the tournament: the Trinidadians and Tobagans their steel bands, the Togolese their witch doctors, the Aussies their irrepressible enthusiasm.
My favourite images of the tournament include Argentinian and Mexican fans linking arms together in the stadium in Leipzig during their teams' second-round tie, and a stunningly beautiful German girl, her face painted in black, red and gold, blowing a kiss to the world's television audience during her country's victory over Sweden.
The legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankly once remarked: "Some people think football is a matter of life and death ... I can assure them it is much more serious than that." He was right. The past three weeks have done more to engender a spirit of global community than any politician, pop star or secretary-general of the UN ever could.