Friday 11 June 2010

The thinking blog's guide to the World Cup pointy-heads

This blog's official mandate is to pay more attention to the Labour leadership contest than the World Cup over the next few weeks. (So we feel the pain of Messrs Burnham and Balls in particular, though we suspect Miliband the Younger, Diane Abbott, and both Ken and Oona may find the conflict somewhat less tragic).

Our own very mildly self-denying ordinance is to chime in on matters football only when we can find at least a half-serious social, cultural or political point to make. So here's a guide to what I'll be reading on the football front, beyond the proper footy coverage in the newspapers, and The Guardian's exceptional online coverage.

Do please let us know what we've missed out.

David Goldblatt, author of the unsurpassed The Ball is Round, is blogging the World Cup for Prospect from South Africa. Goldblatt has previously put the case for Taking Sport Seriously.

Nobody will take armchair football punditry more seriously over the next month than The New Republic. The show-offs have recruited Aleksander Hemon to head a team of Soccerati Galacticos at the TNR GoalPost blog.

Alex Massie kicked off with the essential point: if boring Brazil aren't interested in being the Brazil of our imaginations, then don't support them in the forlorn hope that they might recapture the spirit of 1970 or 1982. There has been a strong case for that since 1994. I was on that ticket in 2002, but then had to grudgingly back a humdrum Brazil once an astonishingly mediocre German team found its way to the final. Argentina were the new Brazil in 2006. Let us see if anybody can contest that crown with Spain this time. Save disappointment now by realising that Dunga's Brazil have no intention of putting in a bid.

Some of the finest football writing in the blogosphere can be found at James Hamilton's More than Mind Games - try this selection. I don't know how much live World Cup context and musing it will offer, but the blog has staked a claim for the 1908 Olympics as the first football World Cup.

I will also keep an eye on When Saturday Comes.

WSC's own World Cup web guide picked out the World Cup College blog. Try this on the psychology of excitement in the World Cup build-up.

Battle of the left's World Cup guides

The New Statesman has attempted a worthwhile ethical alternative World Cup wallchart

It, however, lacks an essential quality of partisanship, having now made everything a matter of degree and of complex trade-offs.

More seriously, our friends at the New Statesman have taken the new Coalitionist spirit to far, in that the Staggers index seems to me to mostly recommend - apart Portugal and Spain - support for the mostly now centre-right nations of western Europe, against the claims of the left.


Thinking hyper-partisan lefties should stick to our Next Left World Cup guide for clearer advice about who to be for and against - starting with South Africa against Mexico, and Uruguay against France tonight.

The World Development Movement have put the most serious work in to provide an informative Who should I cheer for? guide. "Anybody but America" (except North Korea, excluded for lack of data, rather than relegated on political grounds) is part of the answer. WDM's strong pro-poor bias means they are backing Ghana to lift the trophy, and cheering on most of the developing nations, but they also praise the Dutch and Spanish.

However, WDM's nuanced calculations do fail one common sense test: they are cheering for Mexico against South Africa today, and hoping the hosts lose to Uruguay and France too. South Africa ranks 28th out of 32 for the World Development Movement, in large part for its high levels of inequality, with the index not taking account of the apartheid legacy to mitigate that.

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