Sunday, June 11, 2006

On second thought, I'll take the soccer without the side of geopolitics.

One of the features of the Disney (ABC and ESPN) World Cup coverage is the announcers' occasional efforts to lend some context to the games by telling you a little about the countries involved. If I've got the formula right, earlier in the second half they like to put up a couple of graphics that tell you the countries' populations and capitals, and the form of government (Holland is a monarchy, it turns out) and the language spoken. As long as they stick to these basics, it's not particularly obtrusive -- certainly nothing like the Olympics coverage, which is nearly unwatchable.

And then there was the match last night between the Ivory Coast and Argentina, a compelling pairing purely from a soccer perspective. The announcers could not stop talking about the civil war in the Ivory Coast, and how the nation had come together over football, at least for the moment. Unfortunately, they did not have a whole lot to say about it. The low point was the suggestion that the rebels had holed up in the north "without water" for six months. Um, right. Stick to soccer, guys.

For soccer's power to cause conflict instead of dispel it, I commend Ryszard Kapucincki's The Soccer War, about a brief war in 1969 between El Salvador and Honduras triggered by a soccer game.

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