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How I choose which team to cheer for

I am not in general a sports fan. I used to follow sports quite avidly but over time have got very disenchanted with professional sports in particular because they have long become just a big business with greedy owners and corrupt officials exploiting fans. I have disengaged from each sport I used to follow one by one and now I really don’t care what happens with them. In the case of American football, I have moved even beyond indifference to outright hostility because of the brain injury issue.

The one sport I still follow somewhat is cricket, perhaps because it was my first love. But even there, I mostly follow the scores and rarely spend a lot of time watching the games themselves. The thing that tells me that I have ceased to be a sports fan is that even with cricket, I no longer feel euphoria when my favored team wins or feel dejected when it loses. I just note the result and move on.

This brings me to soccer, a sport that I never follow. But during the World Cup I pay some attention to it and since it helps to have a particular team to cheer for to build some interest, I feel obliged to pick some team and follow its fortunes. In doing so, I tend to use the following rules of thumb in deciding which team I like in the tournament or any given match:

Poorer countries are preferred over richer ones
Smaller countries are preferred over larger ones
Countries that have never won the World Cup are preferred over those that have
Countries that have progressive social polices are preferred over those that do not
Underdogs are preferred over the favorites

Note that soccer-playing abilities play no role since I have no idea how to judge that.

It is this that led me to choose Costa Rica as my team for the tournament since they came out on top in almost every category but after putting up a plucky performance, they had a heartbreaking quarter-final loss on penalty kicks to the Netherlands.

So today is the final game between Germany and Argentina at 3:00 pm (Eastern time) and my choice is Argentina. If Brazil had beaten Germany and played Argentina, the choice would have been more difficult.

Comments

  1. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    Another reason for losing interest in cticket is the match-fixing scandals. Twenty years ago I would have watched the extraordinary last wicket stands in the Indian and English innings in the current test match with fascination. Now I wonder about who arranged them. It’s almost certainly an unjustified concern, but that doesn’t make any difference.

  2. Trebuchet says

    In the case of American football, I have moved even beyond indifference to outright hostility because of the brain injury issue.

    There are, of course, similar concerns over soccer due to headers.

  3. Al Dente says

    If Brazil had beaten Germany and played Argentina, the choice would have been more difficult.

    Poorer countries are preferred over richer ones: Considering GDP per capita in USD, Argentina is $18,600 while <b Brazil is $12,221.

    Smaller countries are preferred over larger ones: Brazil has 8,515,767 km² (5th in the world and largest in South America) while Argentina has 2,780,400 km² (8th largest in the world and second largest in South America).

    Countries that have never won the World Cup are preferred over those that have: Brazil has won 5 times (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002) and Argentina has won twice (1978, 1986). Both countries have been runners up twice.

    Countries that have progressive social polices are preferred over those that do not: This is the difficult one. According to the Social Progress Index Argentina is rated at 70.59 but Brazil is just behind at 69.97. The Human Development Index ranks Argentina at #45 and Brazil at #85. As a tiebreaker I went with the Carbon Footprints per Capita index. In 2005 (the last year I could find data for) Argentina produced 1.01 metric tonnes of carbon while Brazil produced 0.53 metric tonnes.

    Underdogs are preferred over the favorites: Before the World Cup started Brazil was the 5 to 2 betting favorite to win the World Cup and Argentina was second at 5 to 1 (Germany was third at 4 to 1).

    So according to your criteria, you are a marginal Argentinian supporter over Brazil.

  4. says

    Poorer countries are preferred over richer ones

    The country is spending more, percentage-wise, of its much-needed money on soccer than the wealthier country that can more readily afford to waste its people’s money?

  5. MNb says

    Ah, MS, it is possible to enjoy sports for its own sake. WCh’s and ECh’s aren’t that much about money. Host Brasil will probably lose on it; the players don’t earn as much as for their own teams. FIFA probably made a lot of money, but if you compare this tournament with this compilation

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cfuD282WiWM

    you’ll agree that FIFA has done an excellent job of cleaning the sport.
    Today I enjoyed the finals even if I didn’t really have a preference.
    While your criteria aren’t bad there is yet another one: pick favourite players for their technical skills. I already have expressed my admiration for Bryan Ruiz and I was happy when you recognized why. So you now have a reason to follow PSV next season; that’s where Ruiz will play. And PSV is not a rich club compared to Real Madrid or Manchester United. PSV even hasn’t become champion of the Mickey Mouse League (Dutch Eredivisie) since six years or so.
    Fortunately there are many more of such players. Spend some time searching and you’ll easily find a handfull not too famous ones. It’s fun to root for them, as I can witness, exactly because winning remains rare enough to be something special. I mean, you know at beforehand that Ajax will win MML a couple of times each decade.
    Of course dislike also helps. My favourite player to root against is Cristiano Ronaldo, period. And that’s only fun if they are really good. So all in all it was a good tournament for me.

  6. Mano Singham says

    Trebuchet @#2,

    It seems doubtful that head injuries could be prevented without forbidding headers altogether. But since the use of hands is banned in soccer, why not heads too?

  7. Mano Singham says

    Silentbob @#7

    In the final, there was one moment when two players went up together to head the ball and whipped their heads towards the ball and hit each other. It must have hurt like hell and caused a concussion, though the players went back to play.

  8. Rob Grigjanis says

    Mano @9: I’ve seen more head-head impacts this WC than any I can remember.

    Re banning headers; I understand the point, but the ex-player in me cries ‘never!’. A nicely headed goal is a thing of beauty, and often sublime subtlety. Anyway, I suspect most damage would be done from heading long goal kicks.

  9. Trebuchet says

    Mano, #7:

    It seems doubtful that head injuries could be prevented without forbidding headers altogether. But since the use of hands is banned in soccer, why not heads too?

    I think headers have indeed been banned in some youth leagues in the USA.

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