Globalization is erasing country borders. It’s expanding something to a worldwide scale, and generally making the world a little bit smaller. When you think of globalization in terms of sports, the best example is soccer. Soccer is something that started in 1863 as a simple game played in England by people of humble beginnings and not long after that turned into a worldwide phenomenon (Parrish). Soccer has over 3.5 billion fans worldwide. When you really think about that number you realize how big of a deal that is. That’s about 50% of the world’s population. Meaning that 1 in every 2 people watch, play, and generally enjoy soccer. The globalization aspect of it comes in when you know that its regional popularity is in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas: basically, almost the entire world.
Soccer was globalized when the FIFA World Cup was established in 1928. Being the single most watched sporting event in the world, the World Cup is a way to bring the world together in a delightful way. According to FIFA’s website, “It fulfills FIFA’s objectives to touch the world, develop the game, and build a better future through a variety of ways.” They also mention, “As of mid-2007, FIFA has grown to include 208 member associations, thus making it one of the biggest and certainly the most popular sports federation in the world” (“FIFA World Cup”). The World Cup has been held every four years since the inaugural tournament in 1930, except in 1942 and 1946 when WWII stopped it from being held (“FIFA World Cup”). Countries compete against each other in these tournaments in a process of elimination until one country comes out on top and is titled champion.
Every four years the World Cup is held in a different country known as the host country. In 2006 the host country was Germany, in 2010 it was South Africa, and in 2014 it will be Brazil. Host countries reap plenty of benefits from holding the world cup in their country. Besides bragging rights, countries rake in millions of dollars from tickets, merchandise, and tourism. Germany’s international broadcaster, Deutsche Welle, reports that when the World Cup was held in Germany in 2006, it not only earned their tourism industry $399 million in revenue, but also produced 50,000 new jobs (DW Staff).
An even bigger benefit was proven in 2010 when the World Cup was held in South Africa. The 20 Centers for 2010 campaign was launched. The campaign’s aim is to create 20 Football for Hope centers in various locations in Africa that’s’ purpose is to promote education, football, and public health in disadvantaged communities all across Africa (“FIFA World Cup”). This is a great example of when the benefits of the World Cup go beyond country borders and benefit an entire continent. Being the most viewed sporting event in the world, the World Cup has quite the influence on what happens in the world. So many people wait years to watch the Cup and they take away what is being offered in cases like special campaigns. That being said it’s great to hear that this organization is using their influence in a positive way, that is to better the world.
Another great example of how soccer is globalized is the way that the teams work. When matches aren’t played between national teams, meaning players play with their country of origin, they’re played between football clubs. Football clubs have players from all around the world playing on their team; it’s all based on skill and has nothing to do with nationality. Football clubs are what I believe to be the prime example of what erasing country borders is all about. You can have a football club like Barcelona who has members that are Brazilian, Cameroonian, Argentinian, Dutch and Mexican to name a few, all while located in Spain. Another great example is explained by Daniel Kaplan, “Last season, when the British soccer team Liverpool FC played Real Madrid, the number of Spanish players in Liverpool’s team outnumbered those playing for Madrid” (Kaplan). It’s a system that brings people from all over to work together to achieve a common goal that is to bring entertainment, to play, and ultimately to win. According to Branko Milanovic of Yale Global Online:
Soccer is the most globalized sport. Owners of any sporting team demand and pay for top talent from anywhere in the world. Before 1995, soccer rules in Europe limited the number of foreign players to a handful per club. A Belgian player successfully protested that the rules violated European laws on labor mobility and discrimination. Since then, the doors have opened wide and skills in the game have improved, though talent is increasingly concentrated among the wealthiest teams and nations. (Milanovic)
The fact that they took it as far as bringing up labor laws and discrimination so as to demand to play in a different country’s team shows these players’ passion for playing with a strong team, and their passion for the game. Although players play for football clubs throughout the years, when the World Cup roles around most players return to their country of origin as a way to still represent their national pride.
Over the years, soccer has seen more and more globalization. During my research I came across a couple of charts that explain it all very clearly. There are flags of national teams on the top of the chart and flags of football clubs on the bottom of the chart with lines drawn that connect the two. The lines represent what football club a country’s players play when they don’t play for their national team. These lines are connecting all kinds of combinations of players from different countries and continents (Lemos and Lima). It shows how much of a world effort soccer has become. I saw the 1994 chart and thought that it was quite globalized, with lines drawn connecting the countries of Asia, Europe, South America, and some of Africa, until I came across the 2010 chart. In just 16 years the amount of lines had approximately quadrupled and lines connected a much bigger variety of national countries and football clubs. Oceania and North America where also added to the mix when previously the two continents weren’t as involved. Also countries, like Saudi Arabia, that previously shared the same members on both their national teams and football clubs and didn’t bother mixing with other clubs were now branching out to other places and swapping players with different countries. This increase in expansion across borders is impressive and gives us the idea that the world is in fact becoming a little bit smaller every year and hopefully the future will see an even bigger trace of globalization.
Generally the World Cup is a great example of what globalization is. Soccer started in one country but eventually expanded to include the whole world in this phenomenon. It’s a world effort because one country can’t have a world cup on it’s own. During the opening ceremony of the World Cup, when stadiums are packed and each country’s flag is being represented, when someone from Japan can be sitting next to someone from Brazil, and someone from Spain can be sitting next to someone from South Africa, when everyone in the stadium feels a sense of oneness and that they are truly a global citizen is when country borders are practically erased. It is at this time that soccer becomes more than a sport; it becomes a culture.