Tomorrow I begin a bleary-eyed month of World Cup watching. In part to justify my reduced productivity over the next four weeks, I wanted to identify some of the key points at which global politics and world football intersect.
…(cue crickets chirping)…
I know others have done it, I have done it, and over at Foreign Policy they have just set up a blog to do it for a whole month. But you know what? I have actually decided that this World Cup I am not going to try to combine my professional and personal interests.
So there will be no talk from me of football diplomacy. Nor will there be any discussion of how football power relativities relate to global power relativities. Nor will I be postulating on the international political economy of football or how football teams reflect their nation's culture (see photo above).
For this month I will be separating sport from international policy. And it seems I am not alone.
Partly as an act of football-inspired mischief, I insisted that this year's Lowy Institute Poll include in its annual 'Feelings towards other countries thermometer' the three nations Australia will face in the group stage of the World Cup: Chile, Spain and the Netherlands. [fold]
It turns out that we don't hate our opponents, despite what they are very likely to do to us in the next couple of weeks. Netherlands has a high 72 degree rating (1 degree higher than the US); Spain is balmy 69 degrees; and only Chile is a more lukewarm 62 degrees (still a degree above China).
My thesis is further confirmed when you look at New Zealand's ranking. The country with whom we have some of our greatest sporting rivalries (at least in rugby and cricket, if not football) tops our thermometer ranking at a very warm 84 degrees. And while we did not have the UK, our other great sporting rival, on this year's thermometer, it too was a very warm 77 degrees in last year's Poll.
By this highly scientific evidence, it appears there is no correlation between sporting rivalry and international political enmity. Football does not cause wars, nor does it cause us to even mildly dislike other countries.
Of course, we may enjoy beating the countries we have least-warm feeling towards. So in the interests of international peace and harmony I suppose it is lucky that North Korea (29 degrees), Afghanistan (38 degrees) and Iran (39 degrees) are not in our group.
So there you have it. No more talk of football and diplomacy (unless, of course, I think of something good to pitch to Foreign Policy).