The Global Cup
The just completed World Cup was an amazing event. Along with the Olympics it is the truly global sporting event. I would venture to say that in the 32 countries that had teams in the Cup the ratings and awareness of the games was much greater than for the Olympics. In those countries, hundreds and thousands and perhaps tens of thousands of people came together in public places to watch their teams, cheering or moaning as one.
I realized that eight years ago, in the early months of this blog, I had written a column about the 2006 World Cup in this space. The focus then as now is on how our accelerating electronic connectedness is allowing us to all think of ourselves as global citizens in ways prior generations could not. This of course is much more pronounced that eight years ago as we can now watch on our hand held devices – the iPhone was introduced in 2007 – and in real time due to the high speed wireless connectivity that has largely come into being since 2006.
High speed Internet eliminates time zones. Everything is live for us, wherever we are. We can all experience a live event no matter our location. There is no time delay. This is one of the dynamics that is ushering us into the global stage of human evolution. As I stated at one of my TEDx talks, the Concept of Place has changed forever. We are the first iteration of humanity to live in both a place and a space. The space is cyberspace. That changes our lives and our consciousness. We are not restricted by place, though our sports loyalties are clearly place based.
In a time of seemingly endless war and on-going economic hardship, it was so nice to see people come together around the positive reason of rooting for “our” team. Work stopped, schedules were changed, strangers hugged, life was altered for this shared experience called the World Cup. We connected globally around a sporting event held in a single country. Sure there are the Olympics, but so much of that is introducing us to sports we don’t really care about except – maybe- once every four years. Soccer/football is a passion for billions all the time. That is what makes the World Cup unique.
However, it must be pointed out that the two largest countries in the world, China and India, are not much involved with the sport. Together, the population of these two countries represents more than 36% of world population. In fact, the most populous continent, Asia, was largely not represented at the World Cup. I don’t have access to viewing numbers from that continent, but I am sure they are much lower than those of Europe, Latin America or the US. However, the awareness of the World Cup in Asia, due to accelerating connectedness, has to have been much greater that 10 or 20 years ago.
Relative to the specifics of the World Cup in Brazil, aside from the flops and faking of injuries, there is one thing that became clear about the host country’s team. In a book, in columns and in speeches that I give, I address what I see as a significant dynamic for this Transformation Decade, the Collapse of Legacy Thinking. Legacy thinking is from the past. It shapes how we see the present, through the thoughts of the past. Everywhere I look as a futurist I see legacy thinking collapsing amidst ever-faster dynamic change.
The perfect example of legacy thinking in the World Cup was the team from Brazil. Coming into the Cup, all one would read or hear about Brazilian soccer was that it was “the beautiful game” and that Brazil was the dominant power in the world. The media stories about this always seemed to mention the great Brazilian players of the last century and the fact that five World Cups had been won. That is kind of like saying the New York Yankees are going to win it all this year because Mickey Mantle played for the team in the 1960s and they won some World Series in the 1990s. As for the “beautiful game”, well, the Brazilian team had the greatest number of fouls of any team. So they weren’t beautiful, nor did they win. If the citizens of Brazil had not been steeped in such legacy thinking they wouldn’t have been so surprised at the outcome.
Finally, in a time of strife and conflict around the world, of great economic uncertainty, it is clear that the celebratory support of the World Cup globally was a passionate escape from negativity. It was so nice to see large groups of strangers happily joining together to root for their national team.
If only all that effort and attention could be redirected toward world peace or a sustainable world, we might have both. Naïve I know.