Soccer - a greater service to mankind than just kicking a ball

OPEC Bulletin COmmentary May-June 2006

The best wishes of the OPEC Secretariat go to the soccer teams from the Islamic Republic of Iran and Saudi Arabia at the 2006 FIFA World Cup finals that kick off in Germany on June 9.

These two Founder Members of OPEC will be among the 32 teams competing in the closing rounds of the tournament, for the coveted cup which will be awarded to the winner of the final in Berlin one month later, on July 9.

Across the globe, the World Cup captures the imagination probably more than any other organized international event. It symbolises the opportunity for players from a rich tapestry of nations, cultures and backgrounds to compete with each other for 90 minutes or more on a level playing field — using this term in a more literal sense than usual.

Soccer’s appeal is a basic one. Kicking a ball around is almost as natural as walking, the rules are simple and the game can be played on virtually any flat, firm surface across the world, where weather conditions permit. These are the fundamental elements.

Of course, in practice, soccer has become a highly sophisticated sport when it is played at an advanced level, particularly to national or international standards, with vast financial rewards for the handful of players who reach its pinnacles of achievement.

Nevertheless, at the grassroots level, the basics remain and the soccer culture is strewn with rags-to-riches stories. Many top players have had the most humble of origins, developing their dazzling skills on patches of land that would sometimes be unrecognizable as soccer grounds. Some don’t even have grassroots!

The World Cup finals provide the ideal international arena for such rich talent to shine before a global audience, either collectively as a team or individually as players. In this respect, it is a great equalizer.

But the competition’s service to mankind exceeds this.

It provides a distraction to the woes of the world during the course of the tournament. It adds faces and emotions to people in far-off lands, and this can be very important at times when international tensions are high. People are people the world over, whatever destiny may bestow upon them at birth. Lasting friendships can be formed, even among supporters of opposing teams. After all, the true supporter delights in soccer played with skill and dignity, whatever the team.

Why is all of this so important to OPEC?

OPEC’s Members are all developing countries. Even though they may be at different stages of socioeconomic development, they can easily relate to the idea of a singular attribute propelling them onto the world stage. In their case, it has been their abundant reserves of crude oil, the dominant energy source for the world economy. They too have experienced the disappointment of discovering that this is all that some consumers from the richer part of the world want from them, and that there is little interest in helping them develop their economies and integrating them into a truly global community.

This is why OPEC remains committed to the ideals and aspirations of other developing countries, as they seek to eradicate poverty and modernize their economies in a viable and sustainable manner.

This is why we welcome competitions like the World Cup and the Olympic Games, because they enable the international spotlight to be focused on the innate competence and capabilities of people in developing countries, even though this may be for only a fleeting moment. In a world full of injustices and inequalities, this may be a tiny step forward, but it is, indeed, a step forward, rather than standing still or even going backwards, as is so often, regrettably, the case.

Destiny can be highly capricious. Sometimes the difference between two teams can be just a lucky bounce.

“May the best team win!” is the most appropriate expression for a global competition like the 2006 soccer World Cup.

And let us hope that it is an OPEC team!
Alles Gute, the Islamic Republic of Iran!
Alles Gute, Saudi Arabia!

This Commentary is taken from the May-June 2006 edition of the OPEC Bulletin, which can be downloaded free of charge in PDF format from the OPEC website.

OPEC Bulletin (May-June 2006)

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