AFR: Of world leaders and vuvuzelas?

A Football Report: By Soraya Soemadiredja, Toronto.

For Canadian residents, the World Cup isn’t the only world event they’ve got their eye on this June. The G8 and G20 annual summits are going to be hosted, at great cost the Canadian taxpayers, in Toronto and Ontario.

Yes, yes, this is all well and good for political watchers, you say, but can I go back to my football? In a second, I promise. According to the Globe and Mail’s Canadian columnist, Michael Kesterton, thirteen of the nineteen nations and one geo-political region that represent 85% of the world’s wealth have “soccer” as their “national past time”, whether or not they are represented in the current World Cup.

What’s more, all of the G8 members, save for Russia, are playing in the tournament this June (eve, eleven of the sixteen spots for Europe in the World Cup are held by European Union members, and of the rest of the G20 nations, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and South Korea are also represented in the World Cup. That is more than half of the nations represented in South Africa currently.

Kesterton probably wrote some of these in jest (the national pastime of Canada includes “national unity debates”) since his methodology, if any, is not explained. In reality, I am not sure if all these nations would agree about his conclusions, though in this moment, heavily influenced by the furore of the World Cup, they might. Others would protest at soccer not being mentioned as their national pastime, like France. I’m sure a majority of their population may disagree (although who knows with the way les bleus are going), the same way that while soccer is not mentioned as a Canadian past time, you would not think that looking around at soccer matches and the packed bars and pubs during the World Cup. And, seeing the population of India and China, there are probably more football fans in those two nations than some of Eastern European nations’ total populations, but they probably do not represent a majority.

It’s funny to think that high level diplomats, bureaucrats and world leaders will definitely be talking football during the summits, which will occur concurrently with the last group stage matches and the round of 16 of the World Cup. But then again, they’re human, just like you and I, probably tuning in when we can to catch the nations they’re cheering on play. Maybe they’ve even got their own vuvuzelas and are getting swept up in the whole thing! I just hope they save the football talk away from the formal discussions! After all, the way the world is going, they do have a lot of pressing issues to tackle.

Although, let’s be honest, I’d love to be a fly on that wall when they get started. I wonder who’ll ref those arguments about referee calls and match predictions?