December 13, 2022

AP Photo

Today’s NY Times feed commented on the potential for change in the winner of the World Cup.  Today marks the first of two semi-final games of the 2022 World Cup being held in Qatar.  All 21 previous men’s World Cups have only had finalists from either Europe or South America.  When Morocco qualified for the semifinals, it became the first African nation to get this far.  Today’s match features a more traditional lineup, with Croatia (Europe) and Argentina (South America).  The semi-final match tomorrow will feature Morocco (Africa) playing against the reigning champion France (Europe).  If Morocco can beat France, it will be the first country outside Europe or South America to make it to the final.  German Lopez of the Times said this is part of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

When I looked online, I found the game played at the World Cup is called Association football, commonly known as football or soccer.  This is a sport played between two teams of 11 players who use their feet to propel the ball around a rectangular field (pitch).  The object of the game is to score more goals than the other team by moving the ball into a rectangular framed goal defended by the other side.  The game is traditionally played with two 45 minute halves, or a 90 minute match.  There are an estimated 250 million active players in over 200 countries, making it the world’s most popular sport.  In the English-speaking world, association football is usually called “football” in Great Britain and most of Ulster in the north of Ireland.  People usually call it “soccer” in regions where other types of football are prevalent, such as Australia, Canada, South Africa, most of Ireland, and the US.  The term soccer comes from Oxford “-er” slang, prevalent at the University of Oxford in England from about 1875.  Initially spelled assoccer it was later reduced to the modern spelling.  The word soccer arrived at its final form in 1895 and was first recorded in 1889 in the earlier form of socca.

The World Cup reflects the history of both the tournament and the sport.  The tournament was a European invention that began in 1930 after disagreements between FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) and the Olympic Committee’s handling of the sport.  The European powers also spread the game more widely in places they had colonized, and it quickly took off in South America.  The first World Cup was hosted by a South American country, Uruguay.  European and South American countries had historical roots in the World Cup and have performed better in the tournament, so organizers made room for more teams from those continents.  Money also plays a role as richer countries can spend more on developing players.  Based in some of the richest countries in the world, European leagues, teams, and governments can spend more on developing better soccer players and programs.  The world’s best players go to Europe to play in its lucrative professional leagues, which are widely seen as the major leagues of men’s soccer.  Based on its historical success, South America also has more infrastructure than other continents to develop players and host top-notch, competitive leagues.  It is another way the self-fulling prophecy has played out.

THOUGHTS:  Morocco’s success in this year’s Cup and Qatar’s hosting are both signs of the possibility of the European and South American centers loss of power.  The next World Cup could also shake up the game as the initial rounds will include 48 teams (not 32) allowing for more geographic diversity in who qualifies.  Still, other signs suggest little has changed.  The other three teams remaining in this year’s World Cup are from Europe or South America.  European teams have also won the last four World Cups since 2006.  If Morocco does make it into the final, it will be an anomaly.  It will have to happen again in four years to make it a trend.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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