We can let the results speak for themselves. France and Italy made fools of themelves. Especially Italy, who seemed to think that they could win real matches with only a reputation, a troublemaking attitude and foul play. Germany and England have stumbled ahead, but no matter how well they play in the first quarter final one of the teams will eliminate the other. Spain and Portugal have met expectations, but all in all, European football has been the failure so far.
Many reasons have been suggested - is it the high latitude, or maybe bad referees? It is hard to see why such factors would affect European teams more than other - especially not if these teams were as good as they think they are. But there is one explanation that does not require much explaining - This time Europe does not have home ground. I remember reading an article in the norwegian daily Klassekampen in 2006 that highlighted this fact, and I have been waiting four years to see that article confirmed.
A look at history give at hand that no European team has won a world cup utside Europe. In fact, the only team that has won the world cup outside its home continent is Brazil in Sweden 1958 (and in the USA 1994).
African teams have so far been underperforming. The expectations may not have been high, but the fact that only one African team, managed to go to the round of 16 - Ghana is dissapointing. I Ghana don't make it to the semi-finals, it will be the first time in World Cup history that the home continent has not been represented among the top four.
Fortunately there have been more nice surprises than dissapointments. South Corea and the USA have played nice and have earned their advancement well. Most striking so far has been the success of Latin American teams. Brazil and Argentina have advanced easily, and teams like Paraguay, Chile, Mexico and Uruguay have impressed. Have they managed to use a situation where European teams play abroad, and African teams are not good enough to make use of their advantage of home ground?
I don't know. One of the things that makes football so mesmerizing is the endless possibilities of making more or less relevant statistics. But do they really say anything about reality? If we forget about the numbers for a while, I would like to argue that there is a quite strong connection between football and social development. Could it be a mere coincidence that both Romania and Bulgaria had their golden year in 1994, during the short moment after the revolutions when the taste of freedom was still sweet, and the societies had not yet grown tired of endemic corruption and poverty?
Latin America's success in the World Cup tells us something about the world we live in. It is not any more dominated by Europe. And we Europeans are not who we think we are. We are not better than the rest of the world - we are simply better at being European. This is important to realize when we talk about development. As long as development is the same as westernization, the rest of the world will be developing for ever.
Latin America has not only dominated the matches. The colombian mega artist Shakira was also chosen to sing the world cup hymn "This time for Africa". As I remember, someone found it odd that no african musician could be mustered to sing the song. The thing is that Shakira has something that no African musicians have in this world - she can be mainstream pop.
Whatever music comes from Africa, is received in the west as ethno, and as such it targets a relatively narrow middle class audience. Not exactly the main audience of the FIFA World Cup. Maybe the fact that Shakira is hated or loved as a pop artist - not as an ethno artist, is something that shows that Latin America is integrated in the world in a world that Africa is not.
If we look beyond the results in the field, and the Shakira song, the event itself was not overly impressive. What I will remember most is the riots from the event workers, who were cheated on money. It is sad of course that the FIFA could not make sure that these people were well paied, but the great scandal is how these riots could take place, without even nudging the world cup schedule. WE read about it, and kept watching the games as if nothing had happened - that shows how weak these people are, not only economically but also politically. Could that happen in Brazil?
Things like these made it obvious that this show is not arranged by South Africa. It is an international circus that has come to town, but the main action is taking place on TV screens world wide. Why not have the next world cup on the moon - then no team would have the advantage of home ground.
In the end, this world cup tells the story of a globalized world, where Europe has lost its supremacy, but Africa is not fit to compete with Asia and Latin America. Nothing new there I guess.
When will it really be time for Africa? Maybe when the shift moves from purely material development to a vivid civil society, where politics matter. This is where countries like India, Brazil or Chile outshines Africa, at least that's what it looks like from my western TV screen.