Love Football, Hate Poverty

Costa Rica - overall ranking: 1

Spain - overall ranking: 2

Mexico - overall ranking: 3 (joint)

Argentina - overall ranking: 3 (joint)

Switzerland - overall ranking: 5

Netherlands - overall ranking: 6

Belgium - overall ranking: 7

Germany - overall ranking: 8 (joint)

Italy - overall ranking: 8 (joint)

Ghana - overall ranking: 8 (joint)

Portugal - overall ranking: 11

Australia - overall ranking: 12

Cameroon - overall ranking: 13

France - overall ranking: 14

Honduras - overall ranking: 15

Ecuador - overall ranking: 16

Croatia - overall ranking: 17

Uruguay - overall ranking: 18

Nigeria - overall ranking: 19

England - overall ranking: 20

Brazil - overall ranking: 21

Cote d'Ivoire - overall ranking: 22 (joint)

Chile - overall ranking: 22 (joint)

Japan - overall ranking: 24

Algeria - overall ranking: 25

Bosnia and Herzegovina - overall: 26 (joint)

Greece - overall ranking: 26 (joint)

Colombia - overall ranking: 28

USA - overall ranking: 29

South Korea - overall ranking: 30

Russia - overall ranking: 31

Iran - overall ranking: 32

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What is whoshouldicheerfor.com?

whoshouldicheerfor.com is a fun way of ranking the teams playing in the World Cup 2014 based on global justice issues. The results may surprise you, so have a look around and get involved! Who are you going to cheer for?

A VERY BIG DISCLAIMER

whoshouldicheerfor.com does not in any way represent WDM’s official view on the policies pursued by the countries featured, nor should it be taken as an overall ranking of how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ countries are (though countries that spend the least on their military should be applauded while those with a huge military budget should be condemned). It is intended to be a fun and interesting way to think about serious issues. Please take it in that spirit.

argentina germany

Argentina v Germany

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by Martyn Barson

It has taken 62 matches, but here we are, the final of the festival of football, the circus of capitalism that is the World Cup. And what a final we have: Argentina verses Germany. According to one ex-England player “Football is a simple game. 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.” That maybe true of football but is it true for the Who Should I Cheer For rankings? Let’s look at how these two teams compare.

Starting with carbon emissions Argentina take a convincing win with 4.5 metric tones per capita compared to Germany’s 9.1. Germany’s carbon emissions have been an achiles heel for them through out this tournament.
Argentina follow this up with a close win on percentage of women in government, winning that as well 37.7% to 35.4%. Argentina take the lead again on military expenditure with just 9% of GDP compared to Germany’s 1.3% of GDP. Despite the low expenditure, both sides have shown a good defensive record throughout the tournament.
Germany pull it back on inverted finical secrecy as the information for Argentina is not available. It could be said, like Messi’s performance in the semi-final the information is missing. Following on from that Germany take a big win on the inequality adjusted Human Development Indicators, taking that 3 to 17.

Where does that leave us? Both teams appear to be evenly matched, Argentina’s ranking could be said to like their performance. Good all round ability with positive contributions from a number of players across the park, but missing something.

Germany have shown they have quality across the pitch and their Who Should I Cheer For ranking reflects this with strong performances across the indicators. But Germany’s carbon emissions, like their backline, leaves them vulnerable, despite the brilliance of Neuer.

The support of the crowd may also be  a factor, lifting Argentina , as they stand with them in their battle against the injustice of unfair debt repayments.

In the end these rankings, like the FIFA world cup rankings, are just a bit of fun but slightly more accurate. What they do is remind us that despite all the claims otherwise, football is just a game. When the final whistle is blown these issues, unlike the World Cup, won’t disappear for another four years.

 

 


Whoshouldicheerfor.com is a platform for individuals and groups interested in social justice. The views of the blog posts do not necessarily represent those of WDM. If you would like to submit a blog post, along with a picture if possible, email Effie.jordan@wdm.org.uk

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One, two, three viva l’Algerie

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Photo: CC by Naceron/flickr

Unfortunately Algeria went out before this could be posted.  It seemed a shame to waste it…

By Matt Carr

Algeria is not a country that has had much to celebrate recently.   In the 1990s, the Algerian government’s refusal to accept an imminent Islamist victory in national elections prompted a savage conflict between the ruling FLN and an array of Islamist groups.

An estimated 150, 000 Algerians died in a war of massacres and counter-massacres, state-sponsored ‘disappearances’ and extra-judicial killings that traumatized Algerian society, which the government eventually won, with the tacit support of an ‘international community’ that was more concerned with the flow of gas than it was with democracy, legality or human rights.

Since then the mafia-like structures that Algerians call ‘le pouvoir’ have retained their deathly grip at the upper echelons of Algerian society,  and the terrible violence of the 1990s has largely left Algeria untouched by the ‘Arab spring’, under the rule of the sclerotic Abdelaziz Bouteflika, a politician who has long since passed his sell-by date and has ruled the country for 15 years.

In April Bouteflika was re-elected with more than 80 percent of the vote – a majority that many Algerians regard as a government-managed fiction, but Bouteflika is the system’s man, and Western governments see him as a guarantor of ‘stability’ – which means Algerian oil and gas and Algerian cooperation in counter-terrorism.  Meanwhile more than 50 percent of Algerians in the 16 to 29 age group are unemployed, and some 23 percent of the population live below the poverty line.

It would be ridiculous to assume that a football tournament can compensate for such events.  But the magnifcent performance of the Algerian football team has nevertheless provided millions of Algerians with a source of national pride for the first time in many years.

Against South Korea they put on a thrilling display of attacking football, winning 4-2 in one of the classic matches of the tournament.   Against Germany, the country that once contrived with Austria  to put them out of the 1982 world cup in Spain at Gijon, ‘Les Fennecs’ – the Fennec Foxes, were equally fluent, determined and occasionally dazzling, and at times threatened to run the torpid Germans ragged.   Had they actually finished their moves and taken their chances,  they might have pulled off an epic victory and gone into the quarter finals.

In the event they couldn’t do this, but they nevertheless warmed the hearts of many of their countrymen, both in Algeria and France, and millions who watched them.   And now, in a sport dominated at a professional level by overpaid egocentric millionaires who make more money in a week than some people make in an entire lifetime, the national team has taken the remarkable decision to donate all its $9 million prize moneyto ‘the people of Gaza’.

This decision was announced by Algerian striker Islam Slimani, who declared of the Gazans ‘ They need it more than us.’

Compare this to the squalid and mean-spirited attempts by Marine Le Pen’s Front National to impose a French version of the Tebbit ‘cricket test’, by condemning Algerian support for their team in France as a symptom of ‘immigration failure.’  Or the ban on ‘ostentatious’ foreign flags imposed by the Nice municipality when Algeria were playing.   Or the vile killings of world cup spectators by Boko Haram and al-Shabaab who have decided that watching and playing football is ‘against Islam.’

No wonder thousands of their countrymen celebrated their return.   Naturally the politicians that so many Algerians despise have attempted to benefit from their popularity, some of whom turned up to meet them at the airport.    In addition Algerian state television has broadcast a special programme about them called ‘ Thank you heroes.’

No doubt there are many Algerian policians who would like the population to think about football rather than more pressing matters.   Such manipulation is only to be expected, and cannot detract from the Algerian team’s beautiful gesture.    The team played as Algerians and also as Muslims.   Their donation is an act of pan-Arab and pan-Islamic soldidarity that carries the echo of Algeria’s more heroic period as a beacon of decolonisation and Third Worldism in the 1960s.

But it is also a simple gesture of humanity, in a world where such gestures are conspicuously absent.    And for that reason we should celebrate it too, and be glad that even in these dark times, a team of footballers has done something that is unselfish, splendid, and really quite noble.

This blogpost was originally published on Matt Carr’s website.

Matt Carr is a writer and journalist. He is the author of four books, and his articles have been published by a number of print publications. He blogs about politics, books, history, cinema, music and other things that interest him.


Whoshouldicheerfor.com is a platform for individuals and groups interested in social justice. The views of the blog posts do not necessarily represent those of WDM. If you would like to submit a blog post, along with a picture if possible, email Effie.jordan@wdm.org.uk

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Brazil: red card for police brutality?

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Photo: Mídia NINJA

 

By Sarah Jacobs

Last week, FIFA President Sepp Blatter congratulated Brazil for the lack of social unrest during the World Cup, referring to the million-strong protests of June 2013 against corruption, police violence and poor spending on public services.

Blatter seems to have missed the point, unaware that the huge amount of money spent on security and policing and restrictions on the right to protest have had an impact on the size of protests in the run-up to and during the World Cup. Protesters have been restricted, repressed and intimidated by the police. And increased attention on police brutality has brought the debate around the demilitarisation of Brazil’s heavily-armed Military Police into focus.

The Military Police have responded to protesters with liberal use of ‘non-lethal weapons’: tear gas, stun grenades, rubber bullets and pepper spray. Activists and journalists have been arrested, detained and beaten. One example is that of the 26-year-old protester Fábio Hideki Harano, who was arrested during a protest in Sao Paulo on 23 June after police claimed that he was carrying an explosive device. Organisations acting to support him, including Human Rights Watch, allege that the police deliberately planted evidence on Hideki, who remains in detention.

There have also been cases of police intimidation prior to protests, such as in Rio de Janeiro, when approximately 20 activists were arrested in surprise raids the day before the World Cup began.

Examples of police brutality have been highlighted by a recent Amnesty International campaign ‘No Foul Play, Brazil’, with over 110,000 people signing their online petition to ‘give the Brazilian government a yellow card.’ The campaign draws attention to concerns that the Military Police are not sufficiently trained to avoid the use of excessive force on protesters, and that the Brazilian government’s stringent security policies are suppressing the right to protest. Worryingly, Amnesty International has seen evidence that Military Police officers in Rio and Sao Paulo have on some occasions been hiding their identities during protests. Amnesty’s mid-World Cup round-up has details of many more examples of police repression, collected over the course of the World Cup.

Clearly, protesters in the city centres are not the only victims of police violence. Alan Brum Pinheiro, resident of the Rio de Janeiro favela Complexo do Alemão and coordinator of Raízes em Movimento (Roots in Movement) explains this in Domínio Público, a documentary that details developments in the city related to mega-events: ‘In the city, [police violence] was seen as an extreme form of State oppression against the people who were protesting. The message I have for the city is not to think that this is unusual, because it happens every day in the favelas; the only difference is that the bullets are real.’

Favela residents have been protesting during the World Cup too, drawing attention to the ongoing problems of police violence and repression in favelas, often taking place in favelas that are controlled by the military or by ‘Police Pacification Units’ (UPPs): controversial police operations installed in favelas in an attempt to curb violence and drug trafficking. Many argue that UPPs, far from improving quality of life and public security, have simply replaced trafficking-related violence with police violence. Several examples of police killings in favelas have made headlines internationally over the last year.

Brazil’s Military Police have a brutal record, and are responsible for thousands of deaths each year. Activists hope that the increased attention on Brazil will help push the demilitarisation of the Military Police to the top of the agenda.


Whoshouldicheerfor.com is a platform for individuals and groups interested in social justice. The views of the blog posts do not necessarily represent those of WDM. If you would like to submit a blog post, along with a picture if possible, email Effie.jordan@wdm.org.uk

Corporate power games: Should companies play in the World Cup or government?

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Video: Attac

By Matt Bramall, WDM

In an age of transnational capital, international financial institutions, multinational corporations and global supply chains, it is quite possible to make a convincing case that nation states (and ordinary citizens) are about as powerless as they ever have been. You could suggest that events like the World Cup are anachronistic and rather than countries it should be corporations putting out teams in the 21st Century World Cups.

That would, of course, be ridiculous.

But if we wouldn’t cheer on a corporate world cup, why would we accept a trade deal that gives companies power over nations and citizens? However, that’s exactly what the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) aims to do. It’s a so-called ‘free trade’ deal currently being negotiated between the EU and US.

The TTIP is a corporate power grab – plain and simple. TTIP stands to give companies a huge say in the writing of laws that affect them and gives them the ability to sue governments whose policies infringe their profits through something called the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). By elevating the transnational capital on a par with a nation state legally, and giving them the right to sue states, the ISDS poses a huge threat to our democracy.

Similar mechanisms to ISDS have been used in other trade deals by, for example, Phillip Morris to sue the Australian government for putting plain packaging on cigarettes as this infringes their profits (despite protecting the nation’s health!).

What the ISDS means is that the UK won’t be able to stop the privatisation of the NHS, or renationalise the railways as this will reduce company profits. We won’t be able to repeal the Health and Social Care Bill and we won’t be able to resist fracking. American companies will be able to sue the UK or other EU governments if we do.

But ISDS is not the only thing wrong with TTIP. In addition to ISDS, TTIP also plans to ‘harmonise’ (read: lower) environmental regulations, consumer protections, and labour and health and safety regulations to make it easier for companies in one country to compete with those in another.

This means that pesticides banned here, but not in the US, could potentially have to be made legal. Or GM crops, which have to labelled in the EU but not in the US may become legalised in the EU.

Basically, TTIP enshrines a joint race to the bottom in the name of profit – at the expense of our health, environment, and democracy.

While we are told that TTIP will lead to more growth and jobs, there is a lot of evidence that suggests that the benefits will be minimal – or even negative. Previous free trade agreements like NAFTA were predicted to lead to more growth and jobs in the US, but actually resulted in hundreds of thousands of fewer jobs. Even Barack Obama conceded NAFTA was a mistake – what makes TTIP any different? And it is it worth giving up all the things we hold dear for? And if it is ‘a good thing’ – why are negotiations taking place in secret and why aren’t civil society groups being consulted?

For all of these reasons opposition to TTIP is growing. On Saturday 12th July the first major protest about TTIP is taking place at 12p.m at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, 1 Victoria Street, SW1H 0ET. The protest is supported by 50 groups from across civil society from UNISON and GMS, to UK Uncut and Frack Off, to World Development Movement and Friends of the Earth.

As well as the event in London there are also events taking place across the country to mark the day of action and the start of resistance to TTIP. Events are taking place in Edinburgh Bexhill & Hastings, Brighton, Cambridge, Cardiff, Derby, Edinburgh, Glasgow, London, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne, Norwich, Nottingham, Reading, Sheffield, Swindon, and York. See www.nottip.org.uk for details.

Together these events will let politicians know that we aren’t prepared to let companies run the show. See you on the streets!

TTIP Matt pic

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Netherlands v Argentina: Does the World Cup have a home?

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By Chris Gaisie

As we come to the second of the semi-finals, many players and fans alike will be reflecting on what has been one of the most exciting and unpredictable World Cups in recent memory. While there have been some cagey matches in the latter stages of the tournament, the initial group matches saw a staggering 136 goals scored! Both Netherlands and Argentina boast some of the tournament’s top goal scorers; Robin Van Persie and Arjen Robben of the Netherlands have 3 a-piece, whilst Lionel Messi seems to be carrying Argentina with 4 goals so far. There’s no doubt many players will have impressed throughout the World Cup and could be snapped up by new clubs around the world.

It’s with general ease that football players can pack up and head to another country, but what about a refugee? Dutch News recently reported that the number of asylum seekers in the Netherlands has risen from 1000 a month to 1000 a week.[1] With this huge influx of people, junior justice minister Fred Teeven stated many asylum seekers may have to live in boats or tents. The country may also have to reopen refugee centres and old prisons in order to further accommodate those seeking asylum. To put it into perspective, despite a population roughly 2.4 times smaller than Argentina, Netherlands has 20 times the amount of refugees.[2]

While it’s great that Netherlands seems to look out for so many people seeking asylum, are boats and tents really acceptable? You could argue a place to stay is better than nothing, but this does a great disservice to both asylum seekers and their host countries. It’s not difficult to see some of the benefits of cross-cultural exchange. This World Cup wouldn’t likely resemble what it does now if it weren’t for players travelling to different clubs around the world, sharing and mastering their craft. However, if an asylum seeker’s only option is to just about get by living in a tent, they’re hardly going to be able to contribute to a country’s economy. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees notes that such living conditions lead to “wasted lives, squandered resources and increased threats to security.”[3] Hardly an ideal situation.

The quality of life refugees face has improved over the years, with now over half housed in urban areas as opposed to camps, but as the Millennium Development Goals suggests, there is still much work to be done.[4] While I applaud Netherlands for having the compassion to welcome asylum seekers, they-no we must all work to provide better living conditions for them. It’s an important issue which reminds me of these lyrics from Canadian rapper, Shad:

“To the guys that draw lines and make the borders real
But then bend the rules when there’s more to drill
Don’t turn away the stateless, think of the waste
If one in 3 refugees is a Lauryn Hill”

In fact, why not have a listen of the whole song, Fam Jam (Fe Sum Immigrins) here.

 

Chris is a youth worker for Reaching Higher, a youth organisation providing a range of creative and interactive activities for young people. www.reachinghigher.org.uk


 

Whoshouldicheerfor.com is a platform for individuals and groups interested in social justice. The views of the blog posts do not necessarily represent those of WDM. If you would like to submit a blog post, along with a picture if possible, email Effie.jordan@wdm.org.uk

 

 

[1] http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2014/07/asylum_seekers_may_have_to_liv.php

[2] http://www.tradingeconomics.com/argentina/refugee-population-by-country-or-territory-of-asylum-wb-data.html & http://www.tradingeconomics.com/netherlands/refugee-population-by-country-or-territory-of-origin-wb-data.html

[3] http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/PopAspectsMDG/15_UNHCR.pdf

[4] http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/2014%20MDG%20report/MDG%202014%20English%20web.pdf