Monday, June 19, 2006

Why the World Cup should replace the UN

There is such a great spirit in the air here. I wonder how the blind nationalism endemic to this Cup can lead to this air of global tolerance that is constantly on display here. On the surface, it is counterintuitive. You believe in the superiority of your team over all others. The success of your tribe, your team, and your colors in the subconscious mind become linked to your own sense of personal success or failure. Perhaps that is the common denominator linking all these fans. They all put their heart and soul into their team and this game, and they all at one point or another will taste both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. As REM said best, “Everybody hurts sometimes.”


As I walked along the Rhine tonight at 3 in the morning on a cool summer evening in Dusseldorf, I was thinking, “Where else in the world could I have conversations with Argentines, Angolans, Mexicans, Swedes, Brits, Scots, and Serbians in a two hour outing?” I literally did this the other night. I bought an Alt Beer typical of the Rhineland and joined the never-ending street party. The setting is always the same. Only the characters, or in this case countries, fluctuate, depending on who’s playing in the stadia of Cologne or Gelsenkirchen. It truly seems like a global village. Set against a drab post-modern German exterior is a very colorful atmosphere. Flags and national team jerseys drape people’s backs. Hues of brown skin parade proudly alongside their pasty fare-skinned brethren.


I’m beginning to appreciate the World Cup as a satire on cultural symbols, stereotypes, and psyches. Mexicans wear giant sombreros. Americans impersonate Elvis. Even the Scots, who didn’t qualify for the tournament but would never miss a good party, were seen out wearing kilts. Yet, more than anything, the World Cup is an international meeting of the [drunken] minds. A reminder that people actually live and breathe and eat in Ghana. An opportunity to meet representatives from 31 other countries who have pride in their countries or love for the game of soccer, or both. A place where it is ok for men to put their arms around perfect strangers in a display of empathy for a painful loss. For one month every four years, racist and xenophobic thoughts are replaced by thoughts of a round ball.

So here’s my grand thought of the day. Instead of the often ineffective and toothless UN, we should have a World Cup themed international body to make and enforce world decisions. They will meet for one very intensive month every four years in a different country. Adidas will sponsor it. Ronaldhino will be the Secretary General. The number of votes will be decided by penalty shootouts. The more people that come from their country and make a penalty kick with the world’s fattest man goaltending, the more votes that country has. Headquarters will move from New York City to Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro. Everyone will be forced to drink a pint of German Ale before making a decision on anything. Sorry Budweiser. And ready for the best part? All those hooligans that are forbidden from attending the real World Cup will be deployed on any UN Peacekeeping missions. To all my friends who are lawyers, let’s make this happen.

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