SAY IT LOUD
The UN, Kofi Annan and the World Cup
When a UK political press aide suggested that, “This is the right time to bury bad news” immediately after the 9/11terrorist attack on the World Trade Towers in the USA, she got the sack.
As a spin-doctor or ‘spin-mistress’, I suppose, she was only drawing her bosses and colleagues’ attention to the fact that potentially damaging news and sleeping scandals could be leaked to the papers without much notice. The whole world’s focus was on the one thing that united all peoples across the globe in grief – 9/11.
In the aftermath of 9/11 the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, world leaders, and even some infamous despots all rallied together in their grief and call for action against terrorism, and also called for restraint in relation to those caricatured as potential sympathisers of the perpetrators of such an barbaric act.
After 9/11 several events had happened to draw the world’s attention and unified all peoples of race, creed, colour and religion to act together as humans. Talk of the Asia tsunami, our own 7/7, earthquakes, famines among many others and we have seen the world’s peoples clamour together with one interest to make a change.
But never has humans been more collective in their attention and interest than in the football World Cup.
Unlike the unfortunate comments made by the press aide to bury bad news in the event of a situation that draw people together, we should rather want to bring to life how a mere piece of leather bounded round together and chased around on turf by twenty-two crazily anxious men could bring about world respect, tolerance, empowerment, partnerships, peace, prosperity and unity.
Definitely, the World Cup period is one we ought to use to expose and promote all the positive things that the UN stands for.
If you agree with me, please sink further back into your couch, relax and read what one Charlie Hunt, working with the UN, has written. This is really an ingenious piece depicting how Kofi Annan might be thinking at this frenzied World Cup period.
“THE SECRETARY-GENERAL HOW WE ENVY THE WORLD CUP
You may wonder what a Secretary-General of the United Nations is doing writing about football. But in fact, the World Cup makes us in the UN green with envy. As the pinnacle of the only truly global game, played in every country by every race and religion, it is one of the few phenomena as universal as the United Nations. You could even say it's more universal. FIFA has 207 members; we have only 191.
But there are far better reasons to be envious.
First, the World Cup is an event in which everybody knows where their team stands, and what it did to get there. They know who scored and how and in what minute of the game; they know who missed the open goal; they know who saved the penalty. I wish we had more of that sort of competition in the family of nations. Countries openly vying for the best standing in the table of respect for human rights, and trying to outdo one another in child survival rates or enrolment in secondary education; States parading their performance for the entire world to see. Governments being held accountable for what actions led them to that result.
Second, the World Cup is an event which everybody on the planet loves talking about. Dissecting what their team did right, and what it could have done differently -- not to mention the other side's team. People sitting in cafés anywhere from Buenos Aires to Beijing, debating the finer points of games endlessly, revealing an intimate knowledge not only of their own national teams but of many of the others too, and expressing themselves on the subject with as much clarity as passion.. Normally, tongue-tied teenagers suddenly becoming eloquent, confident, and dazzlingly analytical experts. I wish we had more of that sort of conversation in the world at large. Citizens consumed by the topic of how their country could do better on the Human evelopment Index, or in reducing the number of carbon emissions or new HIV infections.
Third, the World Cup is an event that takes place on a level playing field, where every country has a chance to participate on equal terms. Only two commodities matter in this game: talent and teamwork. I wish we had more levelers like that in the global arena. Free and fair exchanges without the interference of subsidies, barriers or tariffs. Every country gets a real chance to field its strengths on the world stage.
Fourth, the World Cup is an event that illustrates the benefits of cross-pollination between peoples and countries. More and more national teams now welcome coaches from other countries, who bring new ways of thinking and playing. The same goes for the increasing number of players who between World Cups represent clubs away from home.
They inject new qualities into their new team, grow from the experience, and are able to contribute even more to their home side when they return. In the process, they often become heroes in their adopted countries -- helping to open hearts and broaden minds. I wish it were equally plain for all to see that human migration in general can create triple wins -- for migrants, for their countries of origin, and for the societies that receive them. Those migrants not only build better lives for themselves and their families, but are also agents of development -- economic, social, and cultural -- in the countries they go and work in, and in the homelands they inspire through new-won ideas and know-how when they return.
For any country, playing in the World Cup is a matter of profound national pride. For countries qualifying for the first time, such as my native Ghana, it is a badge of honour. For those who are doing so after years of adversity, such as Angola, it provides a sense of national renewal. And for those who are currently raven by conflict, like Côte d'Ivoire, but whose World Cup team is a unique and powerful symbol of national unity, it inspires nothing less than the hope of national rebirth.
Which brings me to what is perhaps most enviable of all for us in the United Nations: the World Cup is an event in which we actually see goals being reached. I'm not talking only about the goals a country scores; I also mean the most important goal of all -- being there, part of the family of nations and peoples, celebrating our common humanity. I'll try to remember that when Ghana plays Italy in Hanover on 12 June. Of course, I can't promise I'll succeed.
Kofi Annan ”