Here are the upcoming World Cup soccer semifinals:
|Uruguay||vs.||Netherlands||-||Jul 6 11:30am (PT) on ESPN|
|Germany||vs.||Spain||-||Jul 7 11:30am (PT) on ESPN|
(And if the Final turns out to be Netherlands v. Germany, then they'll just redouble their efforts! Or, if it's Uruguay v. Spain, the whitest teams of the final four, then that will serve to, uh ... prove immigration skeptics wrong!)
Seriously, in today's mental climate, it's very hard for American soccer fans to express the thought, even in the privacy of their own minds, that soccer is, by the standards of big American teams sports, a white-dominated game.
At the highest levels of global soccer, about 75 percent or slightly more of the top players are white. Soccer in 2010 is like basketball in 1959. But, most Americans commentators are too mentally disabled these days to notice what's in front of their noses.
Let’s look at ESPN’s list from earlier this year of the “Top 50 players of the World Cup.” The five best players in the world -- Lionel Messi of Argentina (who is of Italian descent), Christiano Ronaldo of Portugal (a Tim Tebow-lookalike), Wayne Rooney of England, Kaka of Brazil (who is from an upper middle-class family), and Xavi of Spain --are white.
Out of the top 10, eight are white and two from West Africa. Out of the top 50, the proportions look similar. Judging from their pictures, I would say 10 are black, one is mostly white but clearly part black, and the other 39 look more or less white. None of the top 50 are East Asian or South Asian, and I don’t see any that are as part-Amerindian-looking as, say, Diego Maradona, the star of the 1986 World Cup.
In contrast, only one American-born white guy has been selected to the NBA All Star game in the last half dozen years. Most of the prestige positions in the NFL other than quarterback are dominated by blacks.
Of the soccer top 50, 24 are white guys from the six sunny powers of Spain (9 of the top 50), Italy, Portugal, Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. In other words, almost half of the global soccer superstars are Southern Europeans. As baseball discovered back in the days of Joe DiMaggio, it doesn’t really hurt your sport’s popularity to have stylish Mediterranean guys as stars.
The World Cup is a paradox: the results of individual games seem pretty random but the results always come out about the same: traditional soccer powers get to the finals.
When people go on about how much they love diversity, what they mean is that they want about an 80% white majority and 20% colorful minorities to spice things up, roughly what high level soccer delivers -- not the opposite. (But the opposite is what everybody will eventually get.)
Much of the glamor of the World Cup stems from it being a mostly white sport. Do you think up-and-comers like the South Koreans would be fascinated by the World Cup if it were traditionally dominated by, say, Indonesia, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Pakistan, and Bolivia? Would SWPLs in the U.S. love soccer if it were associated in their minds with "Kinshasa" rather than with "Barcelona"?
Look at what's happened to interest in track & field over the decades as East Africans have come to dominate the endurance races and the West African diaspora the sprints. (People don't believe me these days when I say that the Olympic running races used to be a really big deal. Who'd ever be interested in people running?)
The rules of soccer could either be more favorable to men of West African descent who are great at sprinting but lack endurance, the way the NFL and the NBA are, by making the game more amenable to sprinters by having more times outs (great for TV commercials) and substitutions. Or soccer could be made more amenable to highlanders with less speed but great endurance such as East Africans, Mexicans, Bolivians, Rif Mountain Northwest Africans and the like by preventing players from wasting time whenever play stops. But the rules are set in such a way that whites predominate in soccer.