Jul 9, 2014

I despise the World Cup, and I’m not ashamed to say it

Soccer is ludicrously corrupt and fundamentally silly. And that's why I not ashamed of admitting I hate the World Cup, writes Bernard Keane.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

As events in Brazil draw to their close and the departure of most of the teams involved removes what personal stake people feel about it, I now feel able to give vent to the white-hot rage that has been dammed up inside me for so long. I despise the World Cup. Not dislike it. Not hate it. But viscerally loathe it. Yes, yes, I know, I'm a grump, and I hate pretty much everything, but I actually have good reasons for my reflexive fury. First, there's the nature of soccer. Really, this is the least of my reasons for disliking the World Cup, because there's undoubted skill and grace involved in the sport. I played it myself, proud captain of my under-9s team, and my own kids played it. But fundamentally, let's be blunt, it's a silly sport. Human beings have four limbs, but this match, 10/11s of the time, pretends we only have legs. The moment when William Webb Ellis famously, and no doubt apocryphally, picked up the ball at Rugby in 1823 is a sporting moment comparable to the ape-men touching the monolith, or Dave Bowman entering the stargate, in 2001 -- a huge sporting evolutionary leap for humankind. Then there's the accompanying silliness, like the flares. Soccer fans are always letting the flares off in the stands. What on earth is it with flares and soccer? Are they so bored with the lack of scoring they want planes overhead to send rescue teams? Is there some weird historical connection between yachting and soccer that I don't know about? Where do you even buy flares from? Who started with the flares? Was there a William Webb Ellis of the flare? WHAT IS WITH THE FLARES?! And the dives. Even ardent soccer fans will agree the whole diving thing materially degrades the sport. Although I do like the dives where the diver doesn't just theatrically hit the turf, but then proceeds to writhe in unspeakable agony, perhaps with the occasional glance to see if he's successfully milked the penalty. Such amateur dramatics can be entertaining, of course, but the problem is they appear to decide the whole outcome of even the most important matches. But hey, look, all sports have their ridiculous aspects. At least soccer doesn't have scrums -- 12 people (or, in rugby, 16!) bend over and shove their heads between each other. Ugh. It's just ... so buttocky. No, I really despise the World Cup because FIFA is probably the world's most corrupt organisation. OK, I know, I know, the Los Zetas drug cartel, the Calabrian ‛Ndrangheta and the Olympic movement might demand a recount, but it's hard to go past an organisation that impoverishes whole countries as the price for the honour of hosting its quadrennial revenue-spinner. The current World Cup is reaping US$4 billion, tax-free, for the Blattercrats of FIFA, while Brazil is blowing $14 billion hosting the thing. Even just bidding for the thing costs serious money as well, as Australia discovered when it wasted nearly $50 million bidding for a World Cup that Qatar secured through bribery. The soccer World Cup is the ultimate repository -- or probably suppository -- of what I call Major Event Mathematics, that branch of applied maths beloved of consultants and sporting administrators, in which hosting large events produces double-digit economics multipliers and magically erases negative signs in front of numbers. FIFA, like the Olympics, is so corrupt it taints mathematics itself. OK, I can hear you say, sure, FIFA's a bunch of crooks, whatever, but can't you just enjoy a game that brings pleasure to so many billions of people? That's a bit like saying "look, the cocaine trade is one riddled with violence, corruption and exploitation, but can't you just enjoy this snort?" And, yes, I take the point about how billions of people around the world enjoy the World Cup. As an economic liberal, I can't laud market outcomes everywhere else and then complain that soccer is so successful (OK, I could, but then I'd be the sort of half-arsed selective economic liberal I'm always complaining about). But it doesn't mean I have to overlook the profoundly toxic global phenomenon that lies behind it. And it doesn't mean I shouldn't offer the one piece of advice that every soccer player should be told: "Pick the bloody thing up and run with it." OK. Fire away.

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77 thoughts on “I despise the World Cup, and I’m not ashamed to say it

  1. Robert

    ….and urinating in ones mouth and gang rapping poor innocent teenage girls is much better behaviour isn’t it???

    Rugby league and AFL players are a disgrace. The people that support this these sports and this type of thuggery are not much better either. I am very disappointed with this very poor piece of journalism. As I stated in a an earlier post, I would expect this agenda loaded trash from Rebecca Wilson and her News Corp mates, not from the supposedly progressive and ‘free thinking’ Crikey mob.

    Time to cancel my subscription guys…. The Guardian is a much better read!!!

  2. Damien McBain

    The biggest sporting event in the world is still just a sporting event.
    I’ll be happy when Google goes back to normal.

  3. Roberto Tedesco

    This article appears to have been cobbled together out of the usual myopic angry white man meathead troll pieces that turn up in the News Corpse press , as well as, on the weekends, in columns courtesy of thugby lovers Carlton and Fitzsimons. The usual blah blah criticisms are made, coupled with the unwillingness to engage with the sport on anything above a childish level. Why on earth do you bother?

    Here’s a thought: if you cannot stand a sport, don’t write about it. You have less than nothing to add to any thoughts anyone might have on the topic.

  4. Albert Ross

    Yes I am considering cancelling my sub too. This is poor, derivative trash as pointed out by others.

  5. [email protected]

    It’s puerile tripe like this thought-bubble of an article that I discontinued my Crikey subscription long ago.

  6. Kevin Herbert

    Note to [email protected]: You say

    “It’s puerile tripe like this thought-bubble of an article that I discontinued my Crikey subscription long ago”.

    Huh???…if you’ve discontinued your subscription, how did you post your comment?

  7. Kwame Romeo

    The 2014 Football World Cup,ignored the face of poverty in Brazil. The Brazil government spent more than US$14 billion, and FIFA scored with US$4 billion of tax-free revenue. Same analogy with my country, Antigua & Barbuda, the more government expends, the less is received by locals in employment, and controlling the commanding heights of the economy.

    Similar to Brazil, we are subdued in Favelas of lost hope, bitter betrayal, Shanty towns of injustice, drifting away in a trapped slum of grim reality! Where will we be left? Tomorrow will be as grim as yesterday, unless we demand changes! Let’s learn from historical examples, and create the necessary change. This process begins with social and economic infrastructure for the benefit of citizens politically, economically, and socially.

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