The World Cup’s Classiest Countries

Senegal and Japan would seem as far apart culturally as they are geographically: the West African nation of 15 million is poor, highly diverse ethnically and linguistically, and predominately Muslim; the East Asian island nation of 125 million is among the wealthiest and most homogeneous societies in the world, and is heavily influenced by Buddhist and Confucian thought.

Yet this year’s World Cup brought to light one unlikely but endearing similarity: both cultures share an appreciation for cleanliness and etiquette, even amid the highly competitive (and often very messy) environment of federation football.  Continue reading

Brief Reflections on the World Cup

Although I am not a huge sports fan, I must admit that the energy surrounding the World Cup can be infectious, such that I find myself enjoying some of the games. Soccer is one of the few truly global institutions in our increasingly globalized world, enjoyed by literally billions of people across the planet.

Hundreds of millions of people from all walks of life are, in one way or another, taking part in the same collective experience. Not to sound sappy, but imagine — never in our thousands of years on this earth have so many people across so many different boundaries shared in one thing.

To be clear, I am not naive about or in disagreement with the various criticisms and controversies surrounding this particular World Cup and FIFA in general (which are similar to what bedevils the Olympics and the OIC). I just find it fascinating from an anthropological and historical perspective how something can transcend so many different cultures and nationalities.