The Idiot’s Guide To The Intellectual’s World Cup

“There’s a lot of support for England, as you might imagine – Anglophilia being a big factor in intellectual circles.”

So explained Bryan Curtis of on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer show earlier this week during an entertaining segment on how Americans choose which countries to support (other than the hapless USA) during the current World Cup. Curtis just published a piece about “Soccer and the Intellectual,” essentially a lengthy plug for the new book The Thinking Guide’s Fan To The World Cup. Itself a collection of essays by “literati” like Franklin Foer, Eric Schlosser and Dave Eggers (whose own chapter has been excerpted by Slate here), The Thinking Guide’s Fan To The World Cup offers depressing confirmation of Nick Hornby’s influence in the Colonies. “Many people would say that soccer is the latte or the Subaru of the sporting spectrum,” says Thinking Guide’s Fan co-editor Matt Weiland in Curtis’ piece, proving once again that self-confessed intellectuals know no limits when it comes to talking crap.
The Thinking Fan\'s Guide to the World Cup

Of course, you don’t need to be Einstein to know that England have been playing like a bunch of soccer moms up until now (albeit a bunch of soccer moms that have somehow won both their opening games). Nor do you need a high IQ to know that if you lose your opening match 3-0 to the Czech Republic and your next game is against Italy, you should probably have packed your bags already.

Quite apart from the fact that England and the USA have so far impressed only in their failure to impress, some people like to support a team in every single group game. They should head over to, a spin-off of the World Development Movement that lists per capita income, carbon emission and life expectancy among ten crucial statistics for each competing country. If you expect such a chart to give you automatic approval to support African minnows or South American societies over the mighty former colonial powers of Europe, think again: the Ivory Coast and Angola have terrible corruption ratings, while Brazil has the worst Income Inequality of all 32 competing nations. (Having visited Brazil, I can well vouch for that statistic – though it should be noted that data for Saudi Arabia is conveniently “not available.”)

Given that most iJamming! readers are in the UK or USA, you might be interested to know that Aid Spending takes up 0.36% of the national income in England and only 0.16% of the national income in the USA. And while you won’t be shocked to find out that Military Spending is higher in the USA than in England (3.8% of national income vs. 2.8%), so too, believe it or not, is Health Spending: the Americans spend 6.6% of national income against the Brits’ 6.4%. How much of that American health spending goes straight into the pockets of the insurance companies is not, however, noted.

The World Development Movement saves us the task of ranking each country according to its politically correct criteria and working, we can only assume, on the notion that high life expectancy is good, high carbon emissions are bad, and that the poorer a country is the more they should be supported – corruption and wealth inequality be damned – rates Ghana “the most supportable team in the World Cup.” Far be it from me to take the table seriously, but in a quick study of my own, pitting Costa Rica against Ghana, I found the Central American country to have higher income, life expectancy and health spending than the African leader, along with lower wealth inequality, national debt and corruption. Costa Rica is also the only country in the World Cup not to waste its income on a military. Quite how this puts it below Ghana is beyond me.

Serbia & Montenegro
is considered too new a nation to have valued data, and Togo has insufficient data, which means only 30 of the 32 competing nations are ranked. The bottom country? But of course: for its sins – high carbon emissions and heavy military spending presumably the most egregious – the USA is rated the least supportable team in the World Cup. No sniggering over in Blighty: the British-based World Development Movement ranks England 27th.

And now back to our regular programming.

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2 Comment(s)

  1. snotty moore

    16 June, 2006 at 12:38 pm

    Wow! Who the hell is Matt Weiland? If you just substitute the words ‘absolutely nobody, ever’ for ‘many people’ that sentence makes sense. I won’t be buying that book until it’s reduced to under a pound. August then.
    England were merely bad, rather than truly shocking, v T and T. The nearest comparison was last season’s Chels v Colchester cup tie, where you knew the big lads would win, but you couldn’t help but admire the little team. If we’d been two up at half-time, as Lampard and Crouch should and normally would have managed, the moaning would have subsided.
    Thank God we hold the sign over Argentina, because otherwise they look unbeatable.

  2. 20 June, 2006 at 12:53 pm

    I have no idea who Matt Weiland is, and fortunately I don’t place too much truck in these so-called intellectuals and their collective decision that “soccer” is now acceptable amongst America’s chattering classes. I do, however, love the fact t hat so many kids play the game in America and only wish they had more opportunities to progress with the sport once they get to high-school/cllege age.

    As for England, well, I write this an hour before the game against Sweden, and believe me, I do want them to do well. I really do. I’ve been wearing my England “baseball” cap (frpm Manchetser Airport) every day since the WC started. BUt I think they WERE shocking against T&T, especially if you allow for their form and reputation. It’s one thing to allow that the opponents played a great game of closing down the favorites, and I’m full of admiration for how T&T managed that, but it doesn’t excuse England’s woeful passing and finishing for the first 80 minutes. If you’re meant to be amongst the world’s best, you’re meant to be able to see of minor opposition without that kind of a struggle. (And yes, the same applies to Brazil. At least, I guess, we’re in good company.)




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