IHP news #478 (July 13, 2018)

Global citizenship, SDGs & the World Cup

By on July 13, 2018


Dear Colleagues,

This year’s SDG High-Level Political Forum  in New York coincides with “the endgame” at the World Cup in Russia. SDG fans might agree with me that in many ways the World Cup has been a wonderful exercise in “global citizenship”, even if ostensibly everything seems to be about supporting one’s own national team  (and if everybody has at least one other national team you want to “go down” in the tournament sooner rather than later ! ).

Sure, when the Belgian national team suffered a sorry defeat against the French earlier this week, the ‘Global Citizen’ in me didn’t exactly go in overdrive. I’m not Justin Trudeau. But you can’t deny that the World Cup does show people around the world each other’s humanity, both on and off the pitch (including no doubt also in the streets of Moscow and other hosting cities).

The World Cup featured fair play (Kompany, Lukaku,…), “Vanity Impersonified” (Ronaldo), a teenager’s somewhat funny/provocative antics (Mbappé in the dying moments of the French-Belgian game, trying to win time), stars endlessly rolling over (and now copied around the globe by little kids who “wannabe like Neymar”), or trying to trick the referee (and the VAR) into yellow and red cards, free kicks, penalty’s, …  We also witnessed horrible tackles, coaches sometimes cynically trying to outfox each other, and intimidating referees; overpaid football stars singing aloud (or just mumbling) national anthems, very focused or instead looking slightly distracted, a bit melancholic even (thinking of their mistress perhaps); or shedding bitter tears after they had been eliminated, and/or holding their little toddlers in their arms, hugging their team mates ànd opponents … Not everybody will agree, but I reckon it’s all part of being human. The good, bad & ugly.

The same goes for the crowds in the stadiums: we could all witness the scenes of tremendous joy in the stands, the eyes of disbelief at a rather unexpected turnaround,  or the utter grief when one’s team is out – the Argentinian fans were my personal favorites in terms of how they wholeheartedly ‘experienced’ the game of their team. People from around the world could recognize each other’s deep felt emotions over the past weeks, and “mirror neurons” were – hopefully – firing happily all around the world. Social media were naturally also all over the world cup, including the jokes and memes going viral – both for better and for worse. No doubt there’s more than a bit of escapism about the global event, in a world that increasingly seems to be dominated by brutes and bullies. But even that is only human.

All in all, even if we know these football players just do their ( ridiculously overpaid and in more than a few cases, “tax optimized” ) jobs, the World Cup does manage “to leave no one really behind”. To some extent we all care – well, bar the cricket fans perhaps. That’s a rare thing.

As for Sunday, I was going to root for that silly ‘It’s coming home’ team – for one half, they actually played like a half-decent team on Wednesday. But I’m afraid l’ll have to reconsider. Will eat my shoes some other time : )

Enjoy your reading.

Kristof Decoster


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