Saturday, June 3, 2006

The Soccer Wars

That's the title of my essay in Sunday's Washington Post Outlook section. It bears more than a passing resemblance to this blog post from earlier in the week. The punchline:

Soccer will never bring about peace on its own. The flip side is also true -- by itself, soccer cannot start a war. The World Cup, like the Olympics, suffers from a case of overblown rhetoric. Bono's assurances to the contrary, the passions inspired by the World Cup embody both the best and worst forms of nationalism.
A few citations, beyond those found in the earlier post. Joschka Fischer's quote about the World Cup can be found in Goldman Sachs' The World Cup and Economics 2006

Click here or here to find information about the soccer game that was played during the 1914 Christmas Truce.

Both Sports Illustrated and ESPN discuss Pele's ability to inspire a temporary cease-fires in Biafra. Thanks to commenters who brought up both examples in the prior post.

Here's a link to the Edmans, Garcia, and Norli paper demonstrating the correlation between international soccer losses and poor stock market performance. And here's a link to the 1973 Richard Sipes paper, "War, Sports and Aggression: An Empirical Test of Two Rival Theories" that appeared in American Anthropologist.

For more on the World Cup and international relations, check out Michael Moran's useful and link-rich summary at, and Pablo Halkyard's linkfest at PSDblog.

Finally, a thank you to Frank Foer for getting on the phone and chatting with me about Frank Rijkaard spitting on Rudi Voller -- though Frank always enjoys talking about soccer. And let me once again praise Foer's How Soccer Explains the World as a good read regardless of whether you like watching soccer.

And yes, between this and my Newsday op-ed on the World Baseball Classic, I plan on cornering the public intellectual market on sports and international relations. Bwa ha ha ha ha!!!

posted by Dan at 07:21 PM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, June 1, 2006

Hugo Chavez wants to impoverish the developing world

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez wants OPEC to join his anti-American bandwagon. The Financial Times' Carola Hoyos reports that he hasn't been all that successful:

Ministers of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, the oil cartel, on Thursday united against Venezuela to reject its call to cut the group’s production.

The vast majority of the 11 delegates meeting in Caracas on Thursday said they were set to agree to keep pumping at nearly maximum capacity. Opec produces 30m barrels a day of oil, about 40 per cent of the world’s total.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil producer, led the cartel’s efforts to counter Venezuela and Iran’s attempts to use Opec as a tool against the US.

Oil prices are at near record highs and a reduction in Opec’s production would have led to a further rally, analysts said. They warned that this could have undermined world economic growth and pushed up inflation.

Hugo Chávez, Venezuela’s populist president, has tried to use Opec to spread his anti-Washington message and to push energy nationalism.

One way he has done this is to back Bolivia to join Opec as an observer and Ecuador, which was a member of the group from 1973-1992, to rejoin as a full member. Both countries have recently moved to wrest more control of their energy assets from international companies. Bolivia in March sent its military to take over its gas fields.

Mr Chávez, in addressing Opec ministers, said: “We are third world countries, countries that for years and years have suffered colonialism, countries that are condemned by much more powerful states.”

He added: “The life of our organisation has not been easy. We are under an unfair way of exploitation. Oil is the reason of the permanent aggression of the US empire. Oil did not benefit the Venezuelan people while the US empire was drinking our oil,” Mr Chávez said.

Like a tenor reaching the climax of his aria, Mr Chavez grew more and more animated: “Opec is a liberator of countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East,” he concluded.

The faces of other Opec ministers revealed their unease with such inflammatory rhetoric. Saudi Arabia, especially, has tried to stop Venezeula from hijacking the meeting to push its nationalist cause and its spread its criticism of the US, Opec’s biggest customer. Many Opec countries do not consider themselves third world nations. (emphasis added)

Read the whole thing, because there's some interesting bits of info about the possible expansion of OPEC's membership.

For now, however, let's focus on Chavez's bolded statement, because it's pretty much the opposite of the truth. If one posits that the cartel's reason for existence is to keep the price of oil at artificially high levels, then OPEC does little for the third world except to impoverish countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East that are not members of OPEC.

How is Africa fairing with past year's rise in oil prices? Let's check with the African Development Bank:

According to the African Development Bank (ADB), current oil prices will certainly translate into a higher average inflation of 2.6 percentage point for oil-importing African countries in 2006. High oil prices will exert a heavy toll on the finances of many oil-importing African countries. Increasing oil prices spell real economic danger for these countries as many companies faced with higher energy bills may attempt to cut down on cost and one way of achieving this is to lay off some workers. In the event of such a situation, governments of affected countries will see their tax bases eroded. Lay-offs in one sector of the economy could have huge and devastating effects on the entire economy and many African countries already caught up in the throes of an economic crisis, may have to deal with more complex economic and political situations.

Lower employment prospects and higher inflation rates will obviously lower the purchasing power of the poor and this will have a ripple effect on the entire economy. Clearly, higher petroleum cost will increase commuting cost, and in the case of agricultural economies, – which many African economies are – the cost of getting the harvest to the markets will rise, pushing therefore the cost of food up and making it well beyond the means of the underprivileged who, prior to the escalating oil prices, were already living in very straightened financial circumstances.

Similarly, another danger that escalating oil prices pose to many African economies stems from the fact that even development banks such as the ADB, which finances many projects on the continent, will be affected. Firstly, many ongoing thermal power production projects which are being implemented on the basis that oil, the main input in those power plants, will be affordable. Secondly, higher energy prices will certainly affect a number of other key inputs which affect both the rate of return of existing projects and the choice of future ones. Infrastructure programs will cost more because construction materials are energy-intensive and this will reduce the Bank’s ability to handle many development projects on the continent. This situation is certainly bad news for many struggling African economies which have benefited from projects financed by ADB. The financial injections that ADB-financed projects bring to their economies may reduce or even dry up if world oil prices remain a huge challenge to the global economy.

Hmmm.... what about Asia? Well, the Asian Development Bank is not as sanguine as Mr. Chavez:
The region of developing Asia and the Pacific is potentially vulnerable to high oil prices. It is a large net importer of oil (in this section oil is taken to include petroleum energy products excluding natural gas) and much of its rapidly expanding energy needs are met by oil. Developing Asia produces about 11% of the world's crude oil, but consumes more than 20% of it, and this gap is widening. Economies in developing Asia are nearly as oil intensive in energy consumption and much less energy efficient than most industrial countries. For each unit of gross domestic product (GDP), measured at market exchange rates, developing Asia consumes nearly five times as much energy as Japan and nearly three times as much as the United States (US).

Despite its dependency on oil and a threefold increase in nominal oil prices since 2003, the region has performed well economically. But past resilience does not mean that developing Asia is immune to high oil prices. Signs of stress are indeed starting to surface: inflation is creeping up; fuel subsidies are beginning to cast a large shadow over fiscal prospects in some places; and high oil prices may become a prominent factor that will further prolong the region's generally anemic investment demand--outside the People's Republic of China (PRC)--that has prevailed since the Asian crisis.

Click here to see a more in-depth analysis by the ADB of the effect of higher oil prices on the region.

In fact, let's just excerpt this 2004 International Energy Agency report to see the effect of high oil prices on the non-OPC members of the developing world as a whole:

The adverse economic impact of higher oil prices on oil-importing developing countries is generally even more severe than for OECD countries. This is because their economies are more dependent on imported oil and more energy-intensive, and because energy is used less efficiently. On average, oil-importing developing countries use more than twice as much oil to produce a unit of economic output as do OECD countries. Developing countries are also less able to weather the financial turmoil wrought by higher oil-import costs. India spent $15 billion, equivalent to 3% of its GDP, on oil imports in 2003. This is 16% higher than its 2001 oil-import bill. It is estimated that the loss of GDP averages 0.8% in Asia and 1.6% in very poor highly indebted countries in the year following a $10 oil-price increase. The loss of GDP in the Sub-Saharan African countries would be more than 3%.
[Surely Chavez is correct about the Middle East, right?--ed. Er, no. According to this UN Development Program table, the Arab states have actually seen their energy efficiecy per unit of output decline by close to 50% in the past 25 years. Countries like Egypt and Jordan would get hammered as well.]

Hugo Chavez has zero interest in helping the countries of the developing world. And it's a good thing for the developing world that the rest of OPEC chooses to ignore him.

posted by Dan at 02:17 PM | Comments (19) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Will Iran and the United States talk?

The New York Times' David Sanger provides some background to President Bush's thinking on Iran:

President Bush reversed course on Wednesday because it was made clear to him — by his allies, by the Russians, by the Chinese, and eventually by some of his advisers — that he no longer had a choice. [Hey, bloggers could have told him that!!--DD.]

During the past month, according to European officials and some current and former members of the Bush administration, it became obvious to Mr. Bush that he could not hope to hold together a fractious coalition of nations to enforce sanctions — or consider military strikes on Iranian nuclear sites — unless he first showed a willingness to engage Iran's leadership directly over its nuclear program and exhaust every nonmilitary option.

Few of his aides expect that Iran's leaders will meet Mr. Bush's main condition: that Iran first re-suspend all of its nuclear activities, including shutting down every centrifuge that could add to its small stockpile of enriched uranium. Administration officials characterized their offer as a test of whether the Iranians want engagement with the West more than they want the option to build a nuclear bomb some day.

And while the Europeans and the Japanese said they were elated by Mr. Bush's turnaround, some participants in the drawn-out nuclear drama questioned whether this was an offer intended to fail, devised to show the extent of Iran's intransigence.

This appears to be Kevin Drum's fear as well:
The usual response, if talks are unwelcome, is to demand some kind of obviously unacceptable precondition for the proposed meeting. This forces the other country to make concessions before negotiations have begun, and since no one is stupid enough to do that, it derails the talks nicely....

Here's hoping it works. It might, especially if it's true that Iran is having troubles with its uranium enrichment program and wouldn't really lose anything by halting it for a while. Still, this is straight out of the Diplomacy 101 playbook as a way of responding to pressure to look reasonable without actually running the risk of reaching a peaceful agreement.

Kevin's overstating things a bit. Despite Iran's desire for talks, their rhetoric has been unyielding since Ahmadinejad came to power. Furthermore, as this Glenn Kessler analysis demonstrates, the Bush administration has actually shifted its Iran policy a fair amount since 2004.

Iran's response, however, does suggest to me that there's room to negotiate:

Iran this morning issued a wary but apparently less than final reply to the Bush administration's offer. "Iran welcomes dialogue under just conditions but won't give up our rights," Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said, in remarks quoted by Iranian state television. "We won't negotiate about the Iranian nation's natural nuclear rights but we are prepared, within a defined, just framework and without any discrimination, to hold dialogue about common concerns."....

A senior administration official said there is substantial agreement from Russia and China -- two nations that have resisted sanctions against Iran -- on an escalating series of U.N. penalties that would be imposed if Iran does not comply. He said negotiators are expected to finalize a package that includes potential sanctions for noncompliance, as well as benefits if Iran accepts a deal being crafted by several nations during a meeting in Vienna today. Rice left for the meeting shortly after her announcement....

The Iranian statement reflected the two strains that have guided Iran's nuclear diplomacy in recent weeks: A firm assertion that as a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the country has a right to develop peaceful nuclear power. But also an appetite to speak directly with Washington, after 27 years of hostile official silence, in hopes of avoiding punishment by the UN Security Council and perhaps eventually restore diplomatic relations.

In remarks to reporters this morning at a news conference in Tehran, Iranian Foreign Minister Mottaki gave the impression of dismissing Wednesday's offer from Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice as "no new words."

But it was unclear whether the remarks, quoted by the state news agency IRNA, were a framed response or the reflexive reaction of a hardline conservative. Mottaki's state television statement, for instance, appeared to represent an effort to keep the overture alive. One diplomat said the reference to "just conditions" could be read as a softening of Iran's official line, which has always demanded that any negotiations begin with no conditions at all.

"It sounds like an opening," said the European diplomat resident in Tehran. "Before they've always said 'no conditions,' so this might mean something."

In any event, few observers of Iran's government took Mottaki's remarks as the final word. Under Iran's theocratic system, the cabinet of the elected president counts for less than state organs under the direct control of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who as Supreme Leader of the Revolution holds ultimate power. Observers awaited word from Ali Larijani, a Khamenei favorite who as chair of the National Security Council has led Iran's negotiating team. A response may also come through by appointed clerics at Friday Prayers; the language of the sermons is routinely dictated by Khamenei's office.

In extending the offer to join Britain, Germany and France in direct negotiations with Tehran, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice on Wednesday said Washington would proceed only if Iran resumed a suspension of its nuclear program, calling that necessary to answer concerns that the program may be a front for developing nuclear weapons.

But Rice's statement also offered an assurance that Iranian officials have made their central demand. "The Iranian people believe they have a right to civil nuclear energy," she said. "We acknowledge that right."

Based on what Rice and the Iranians are saying, there is definitely a zone of agreement to start talks. Tee U.S. acknowledges that Iran has the right to a civilian nuclear energy program, which could obviously include enrichment. However, the Iranians, if they're serious about talks, can acknowledge that recognition without actually engaging in enrichment activities while talks proceed.

What happens next will be a very interesting test of both American and Iranian intentions.


UPDATE: If nothing else, this strategic shift appears to have created a united front at the Security Council, if this AP report is accurate.

Eugene Gholz is more pessimistic about resolving the situation. He makes a strong case. I'm more optimistic than Gholz for the reason he offers -- that by taking this route, the U.S. has augmented the likelihood of multilateral action if Iran refuses to back down. In the end, I think China and Russia will prefer UN action over a nuclear-armed Iran.

posted by Dan at 09:32 PM | Comments (23) | Trackbacks (0)

Your memorable phrase for today
[N]obody wants to see a forty year old woman licking salt off a guy's neck and coughing up big phlegm balls from the smokes.
You'll have to click over to Laura McKenna to see it in context.
posted by Dan at 09:59 AM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

When Congress monopolizes the use of hot air....

Michael Hawthorne has a front-pager in the Chicago Tribune about how Congress is serious about ending America's addition to oil.... unless vacation homes are threatened:

The federal government has stopped work on more than a dozen wind farms planned across the Midwest, saying research is needed on whether the giant turbines could interfere with military radar.

But backers of wind power say the action has little to do with national security. The real issue, they say, is a group of wealthy vacationers who think a proposed wind farm off the coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts would spoil the view at their summer homes.

Opponents of the Cape Wind project include several influential members of Congress. Critics say their latest attempt to thwart the planting of 130 turbines in Nantucket Sound has led to a moratorium on new wind farms hundreds of miles away in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Federal officials declined to reveal how many stop-work orders have been sent out. But developers said that at least 15 wind farm proposals in the Midwest have been shut down by the Federal Aviation Administration since the start of the year....

Harnessing the wind is a clean and relatively inexpensive way to generate electricity without the troublesome byproducts of coal or nuclear power. But the vast collections of turbines--some of which are 40 stories tall--are derided by opponents as unreliable and unsightly.

Of the scores of projects proposed around the country, perhaps the most controversial has been Cape Wind. If approved, it will be the first offshore wind farm in the United States.

Most of the opposition focuses on the proposed location in a channel between Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard, the bucolic Massachusetts vacation areas frequented by many high-profile celebrities, business executives and politicians.

Critics of Cape Wind include members of the Kennedy family, whose summer compound is on Cape Cod. Both U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and his nephew, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., have said the turbines would spoil the ocean views, threaten the local tourist economy and endanger migratory birds.

The younger Kennedy, an environmental lawyer and activist who has supported wind power in other parts of the country, said putting a wind farm in Nantucket Sound would be akin to placing one in the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone National Park.

"This isn't the right location, for a number of reasons," Kennedy said.

Another opponent is U.S. Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), who has tried several times to block the Cape Wind project. In a 2002 letter to the Army Corps of Engineers, Warner included a handwritten note saying he often visits Cape Cod, which he called a "national treasure."

But the project continued to move forward until late last year, when Warner, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, slipped an amendment into a military spending bill. The one-sentence congressional order directs the Defense Department to study whether wind towers could mask the radar signals of small aircraft.

Since then, at the Defense Department's behest, the FAA has been blocking any new wind turbines within the scope of radar systems used by the military.

Warner's amendment also appears to have reversed the government's position on the Cape Wind proposal. Both the FAA and the Air Force had previously signed off on the project, which would be located within miles of a missile defense radar system.

"This has nothing to do with wind," said Michael Polsky, president and chief executive officer of Invenergy, a Chicago company with projects in Illinois and Wisconsin that have been blocked by the government. "It has everything to do with politics."

Warner's office did not return telephone calls seeking comment. A spokesman previously released a statement saying the Defense Department study "ensures that Congress will possess as much information as possible on wind farms' impact on military operations."

posted by Dan at 09:44 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Will the new Treasury Secretary make a difference?

The John Snow Death Watch is over:

President George W. Bush on Tuesday named Hank Paulson as his new treasury secretary, pending approval from the Senate.

Mr Paulson has been the chairman and chief executive of Goldman Sachs Group since 1999, having joined the firm in 1974. He replaces John Snow, who held the job for three years and was long been rumoured to be stepping down.

The choice of the CEO came as a surprise and the dollar was mixed early Tuesday in New York on the news. [In contrast NPR reported that the markets were responding pretty well--DD.]

Mr Bush praised his choice as having “a lifetime of business experience’’ and “an intimate knowledge of securities markets.”

Greg Mankiw takes the opportunity to have some fun at Daniel Gross' expense. Gross, in a classy move, acknowledges that, "contrary to the argument I made in April, Bush has been able to find a Class A Wall Street type willing to take the job."

Question to readers: will Paulson hae a seat at the policymaking table, or is he merely going to be a much better salesman than Snow?

posted by Dan at 10:14 AM | Comments (20) | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Will Bono please be quiet, please?

This is probably a sign that I'm watching too much ESPN, but the channel's ads for the World Cup are driving me nuts. Adweek's Kathleen Sampey describes the ads:

Music from U2 is also used in the campaign from Wieden + Kennedy, which carries the theme, "One game changes everything."

The first spot is voiced by lead singer Bono, and broke last week on ESPN properties. This execution and the other spots will also be in rotation off-channel.

"It's a simple thing. Just a ball and a goal," Bono says in the spot as U2's “City of Blinding Lights” plays throughout. "That simple thing ... closes the schools, closes the shops, closes a city and stops a war."....

ESPN's senior vp of marketing Katie Lacey said in a statement, "Our goal with this campaign is to make World Cup soccer meaningful and relevant to American sports fans. We show the passion that fans around the world have through compelling stories that are set to the music of U2 and narrated by the band members themselves." (emphasis added)

These ads have induced excitement in some quarters, but at the risk of besmirching Bono's reputaion for saintliness, the claim that soccer stops war is just a bit much for me.

The conflict-reducing powers of the World Cup is based in what happened when the Ivory Coast quaified for this year's cup. As Bono explains in another ad:

After three years of civil war, feuding factions talked for the first time in years, and the president called a truce. Because the Ivory Coast qualified for the World Cup for the first time. Because, as everyone knows, a country united makes for better cheerleaders than a country divided.
This sounds great, and indeed, there are tentative signs that the Ivory Coast is trending in a positive direction.

However, in National Geographic, Paul Laity explains the precarious role of soccer in that country's political process:

Over the past six years, the Ivory Coast's southern-based regime has fomented hatred of immigrants and Muslims, yet many of the country's best soccer players are from Muslim and immigrant families, so the national team has become an irresistible symbol of unity. At the end of the Abidjan victory parade [for qualifying], the head of the Ivory Coast Football Federation addressed a plea to President Laurent Gbagbo: "The players have asked me to tell you that what they most want now is for our divided country to become one again. They want this victory to act as a catalyst for peace in Ivory Coast, to put an end to the conflict and to reunite its people. This success must bring us together." The party on the streets lasted another whole day....

Everybody—on both sides of the war—is willing the team to do well in Germany. But the mix of soccer and politics can get ugly. When the Ivoirians lost for the second time to Cameroon in the qualifiers, and it was believed their chance had gone, [striker Didier] Drogba—who had played brilliantly in the match and scored two goals—received threats and menacing messages from fans, and was worried enough to consider not playing for the national team. In 2000 Gen. Robert Guei, who had just engineered the country's first military coup, held the national team in detention for two days as punishment for being knocked out of the African Nations Cup in the first round. He stripped the players of their passports and cell phones, publicly denounced them, and suggested they should learn some barracks discipline. "You should have spared us the shame," he said.

With qualification for the World Cup secured, there is, for the time being, no shame. By itself, soccer will never bring about national reconciliation. (emphasis added)

Furthermore, Human Rights Watch just issued a rather pessimistic report on the country:
Government forces in Côte d’Ivoire, their allied militias and New Forces rebels alike are committing serious abuses against civilians with impunity, Human Rights Watch said in a new report released today. These abuses and the impunity that fuels them raise serious concerns about the potential for violence in the run-up to the October elections....

Human Rights Watch found that members of the government security forces continue to prey on civilians by extorting, robbing and, at times, beating those they are entrusted to protect. These abuses typically take place under the guise of routine security checks during which police and gendarmes inspect the identity papers of individuals they stop at road blocks, in markets or other public places. Nationals of neighboring states and Ivorians from the north of the country are particularly signaled out for abuse, on the basis of suspicions that they support the northern rebels. Individuals from these groups are targeted and frequently subjected to arbitrary arrests, beatings, torture and sometimes murder, particularly during episodes of heightened political tension.

In the northern part of Cote d’Ivoire, Human Rights Watch found that New Forces rebels routinely extort money from civilians through threats, intimidation or outright force. In the zone administered by the New Forces, citizens accused of common crimes are sometimes subject to arbitrary arrest by rebel-administered police officers, and the imposition of custodial “sentences” of questionable legal authority continue to occur with no independent judicial or executive checks.

The report notes how neither the Ivorian authorities, the leadership of the rebel New Forces, nor the international community has taken meaningful steps to bring to justice those responsible for serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in Côte d’Ivoire. Unless measures are taken now to combat impunity, a repeat of the violence experienced during the 2000 presidential and parliamentary elections could occur. In 2000, political, ethnic and religious violence in the run-up to the elections resulted in the deaths of more than 200 people and injuries to hundreds more.

HRW's history of the conflict says nothing about the World Cup qualifying as a trigger for peace.

[Isn't this a bit curmudgeonly?--ed.] Well, part of it is that ESPN's ads don't mention the other times that soccer affected international conflict:

Tensions [between Honduras and El Salvador] continued to mount during June 1969. The soccer teams of the two nations were engaged that month in a three-game elimination match as a preliminary to the World Cup. Disturbances broke out during the first game in Tegucigalpa, but the situation got considerably worse during the second match in San Salvador. Honduran fans were roughed up, the Honduran flag and national anthem were insulted, and the emotions of both nations became considerably agitated. Actions against Salvadoran residents in Honduras, including several vice consuls, became increasingly violent. An unknown number of Salvadorans were killed or brutalized, and tens of thousands began fleeing the country. The press of both nations contributed to a growing climate of near- hysteria, and on June 27, 1969, Honduras broke diplomatic relations with El Salvador.

Early on the morning of July 14, 1969, concerted military action began in what came to be known as the Soccer War.

There's also the role that soccer played in igniting the Balkan wars of the nineties:
For many Croats, the war began not in June 1991 but on the soccer field on 13 March 1990. That day Red Star Belgrade met Dinamo Zagreb at the Maksimir Stadium, Zagreb to settle a long standing disputed league title. The Red Star Delije were led by Arkan, the notorious warlord and Serbian ultranationalist.

Ozren Podnar reports that the Delije held up signs in the north stands saying "Zagreb is Serbian", and "We'll kill Tudjman" . A reference to Franjo Tudjman, the pro-independence Croatian leader. Even before the match, the Delije were tearing the plastic seats of the Maksimir Satdium and hurling them. They then attacked Dinamo fans with knives, tearing down a fence that separated them from the field and the North stands. The Yugoslavian riot police, who were mostly Serbs stood by and took no action. Incensed by the Delije aggression and the police inaction, thousands of DInamo fans, the Bad Blue Boys took to the field en masse. It was the biggest invasion of football fans in history. They quickly tore down the North stand which buckled under their weight and made after the Red Star fans....

"The game that was never played will be remembered, at least by the soccer fans, as the beginning of the Patriotic War, and almost all of the contemporaries will declare it the key in understanding the Croatian cause," wrote Zagreb daily Vecernji list marking the 15th anniversary of the event. It must be, the historians claim, that the Croats saw in the fans' actions and Boban's intervention a symbol of the resistance against the 70-year long Serbian domination.

If FIFA, ESPN, and U2 want to claim that soccer -- and yes, I know, it's called football everywhere else -- was the cause of peace in the Ivory Coast, then they should also acknowledge it's less savory contributions to world politics.

UPDATE: Some of the reactions to this post presume that I don't like either soccer or the World Cup. Not true -- I, for one, am hoping that Team USA can build on its excellent 2002 performance, when it advanced to the quarterfinals and then lost to Germany despite outplaying them for 80 of the 90 minutes of the game [not that he's bitter about it or anything!!--ed.]. I simply request that the game not be assigned magical properties that it does not possess.

posted by Dan at 08:07 PM | Comments (44) | Trackbacks (1)