The World Cup 2010 - Political fallouts

So the suspense is over, SPAIN won, the NETHERLANDS lost and it all happened at the very tail end of the game - the 116th minute to be precise. Spain won with just one goal. Big deal! I'm no expert in soccer, but it seems to me that a game that has to drag fully 16 minutes beyond the "normal" 90 minutes had to be pretty close to a draw. I bet people who watched wondered whether anybody would ever score!

But what really drew my attention was not the game in itself - and I'll readily admit soccer watching is a lot of fun, it's a spectacular game - no, what drew my attention were the comments made by everybody, CNN, BBC, France 24, the big papers like the New York Times and Herald Tribune etc. You'd think this was all about sport and nothing else, but no, it's serious stuff, it's about POLITICS and NATION-BUILDING!

There is an enduring notion that Sport can bring Good to the world. Mandela 15 years ago, during the African Nations Cup soccer event, said "sport has the power to change the world...It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair." That of course echoes the philosophy of Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the Olympic Games.

Bringing The World Cup to South Africa was seen by FIFA's president, Sepp Blatter as a special mission. "Football for hope", he called it and the South African President, Jacob Zuma, called business leaders for "billions of dollars to these shores for investment". At the opening, "we are all Africans!" screamed Tutu. While the South African team lost right away, Ghana saved the honour of African soccer and sowed the promise of future victories for Africans. But above all, South Africa came out as the political winner: now always invited to G8 meetings, it belongs to the restricted club of BIG Emergers ( the original BRICs plus a dozen others). South Africa is the Next Big Country and the hope is that sport will help heal the rift between the poor and the rich.

I have my doubts but then who's got a crystal ball? I don't and I'd be more than willing to hope that such an event - terribly expensive for the home country who has to foot the bill - does go towards something more useful than just kicking a ball around. The last Olympic Games certainly didn't help Greece and indeed, contributed to making its debt crisis well-nigh intractable...But let's keep our fingers crossed and hope that South Africa will not run into the same kind of problems.

But the hype doesn't stop there. Yesterday we were awash on all TV channels with the spectacle of hundreds of thousands Spaniards chanting in the streets of Madrid all night long, waving the red and yellow Spanish flag like a trophy. Their happiness was a Tsunami. While the Dutch sadly walked home in silence - it was nothing less than a national funeral.

Doesn't that strike you as extraordinary in this day and age? We are all Europeans, aren't we? Spain and the Netherlands both belong to the European Union - yet, when one scores a victory against the other in a GAME, for goodness'sake, people in the street turn it into a national victory as if a war had been won.

Can you imagine the same spectacle in America? Suppose a Florida team (that's a little like Spain, the Sunshine State) beats Rhode Island (a little like the Netherlands with its maritime past) , what do you think would happen?

Nothing? Yes, nothing.

Ah, poor Europeans - when will they ever grow up?