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All that Glitters is Goal: Changing the rules of the beautiful game

All that Glitters is Goal: Changing the rules of the beautiful game

By  Aadya sinha

Edited by  Anandita Malhotra,Senior editor,The Indian Economist

“Why does England Lose? Why do Germany and Brazil win? And why the U.S., Japan, Australia, Turkey–and Even Iraq–Are Destined to Become the Kings of the World’s Most Popular Sport? “

Soccernomics, a book written by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski, offers interesting answers to these questions, amongst others, that the multi-million parallel-economy that soccer entails. Using insights and analogies from economics, statistics, psychology, and business to cast a new and agreeable light on how the game works; it reveals surprisingly counter-intuitive truths about soccer.

“The heart of the matter,” Kuper said in a telephone interview from his home in Paris, “is that the thinking in soccer is outdated, backward and tradition-based. It needs a fresh look based on data. There’s a new global map, with countries like the U.S. and Japan already rising. And they will continue to rise at the expense of Europe as knowledge gets disbursed. And it’s happening very quickly.”

In our increasingly globalized world, such theories of research add to the idea that soft-power hegemony is the new parameter of measuring power, in the neocolonial context.  Despite the Cold War having come to an end, the importance of the sphere of influence continues to exist. Apart from soccer, the Olympics table standings too reflect to an extent the position of a given country in the international order. During the 80’s USSR and USA competed for the top spot, while in recent years China has come up as a major contender in the same.

Kuper and Szymanski believe that a high correlation exists between economics and soccer. They use the example of Turkey amongst others as evidence. They state that as Turkey’s population grew as its economy boomed, the national team kept getting better. In the 2002 World Cup Turkey placed third despite not having played in a World Cup since 1954. The authors believe that a country’s success in soccer correlates strongly with three variables: its population, its income per capita and its experience in soccer.And this, according to Kuper means that countries like the United States, China and even India have the potential of becoming one of the sport’s elite. For Turkey as for many other emerging countries, all three variables have been improving for a long time. The authors claim that Turkey went from being an unknown team to one of the best in Europe around the same time as it grew from being a midsize European State into the continent’s third most populous nation. This phenomenon was accompanied by a reduction in the population and per capita income of the rest of Europe, acting as a catalyst in Turkey’s growing soccer prowess.

Similarly cricket, played mostly in the Commonwealth nations, once dominated by England and Australia now sees the Indian Subcontinent as a dominant figure, reflected by the recent institutional reforms and power held by the BCCI.

In conclusion, the validity of the theories and explanations given in this book are yet to be proven beyond a point, but all said and done, this new perspective on soccer and success is surely an indication to the many aspects of life that the economy influences.

Aadya is your textbook bibliophile, as redundant as that statement sounds out loud. She finds solace in all that is and all that can be written. She is also  utterly obsessed with politics, as a’pol’ing as it might get.

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