Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Should we cheer for Ghana?

A few developmentbloggers have been following the World Cup enthusiastically, cheering for African teams (now just Ghana).

I don't understand.

Does anyone really believe that if Ghana wins the World Cup the Africa will grow faster? That malaria incidence will drop? Is the World Cup an AIDS vaccine that someone eluded researchers all these years?

I understand that many Africans are rooting for Ghana. They want their team to win just like most Germans want Germany to win. If Ghana wins, Africa will celebrate. It might help Africa's image, somewhat, in part of the world and, maybe, raise a few African''s self-esteem. It might also draw a few people toward soccer and away from academics, though, too. Or it might distract governments from priorities like health and toward . . . well, building stadiums. Most likely, the marginal, ephermal joy of a victory will fade quickly and Africa will remain largely the same place it was a month ago.

There is a utilitarian argument that we should cheer for Ghana since Ghana probably has the largest fanbase (unless East Asia has likewise unified behind it's representatives). But that logic would force everyone to root for the Yankees every October. After all, New York is the biggest city and the Yankees are the most popular team. It also presumes that who you cheer for will impact the game's outcome. Any argument that compels me to both cheer for the Yankees and believe in a "spooky action-at-a-distance" principle is asking too much.

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