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Andrea Arzaba
Student / Blogger (Mexico City)

Andrea Arzaba defines herself as a “journalist, peace activist, indigenous cultures lover and an eager world traveller”. Currently, blogger for Global Voices Online and for Adopt A Negotiator Project. Andrea is studying her BA in Communications at Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City. She studied last year at Universidad Complutense in Madrid, Spain.


When football allows us to dream

Published 22nd June 2010 - 21 comments - 4507 views -

Today Mexico lost against Uruguay. I was watching the match in a Mexican restaurant, where most of the people sitting at the tables were also supporting the same team (Mexico). I could observe the disappointment from their long faces. And even from the way they acted, as they did not talk as much as they did in the beginning of the match. The restaurant was so silent, while in the TV they were showing people dressed in blue and white costumes, jumping and shouting for their victory.

Before that game, I had heard some of my friends in Madrid talking about the FIFA in South Africa and how they preferred that a developing country from Latin America or Africa won the world cup, so at least “they were better than a developed country in something they actually did good”.

That comment left me thinking.


FIFA World Cup 2010. The official logo.


Could that be possible? Does the world cup actually mean something different for followers coming from a developing country than a developed one? Could you call them “more passionate” about their own matches? Is it true that they want, at least, to be better than Europe in soccer?

About the comment I talked before, I know my friends did not talked with a bad intention; it was just an usual observation. I have also talked to FIFA followers, students from countries like Belgium or Germany, who actually support developing country teams, just because of their lower economical and social standards. Because they think that these teams come from countries that might not be able to compete against developed countries in other things, that they “have nothing else but hope”. And they want them to achieve success.


Mexican fans holding their national flag at
Royal Bafokeng stadium in Rustenburg, South Africa.
Picture taken by Dylan Martinez /


Uruguay supporters celebrating their national teams victory.
Picture taken from

Football allows entire nations to dream.

Becoming equal, or even having a better level, than developed countries is something that might “only be possible in soccer" for developing countries. Is this one of the main purposes for the developing world? To become "better" in something, and get a victory against developed countries in something they might be able to achieve? What do you TH!NK about it?


(Andrea Arzaba, June 2009)


Category: Equality | Tags: fifa world cup, fifa,


  • Kevin Rennie on 22nd June 2010:

    It ‘s amazing how much energy and passion results in so much disappointment. Australia nearly always wins because of the people who have come from countries around the globe that make up our multicultural society. Many were/are refugees who fled/flee oppression, war, poverty and famine.

    An extract an article I wrote in 2007 illustrates our situation tonight when Australia plays Serbia:

    “A Soccer team coached by a Croatian was made up mostly of students of Serbian, Bosnian and Croatian backgrounds. Their families were refugees from a war where they were bitter enemies and genocide had surfaced as “ethnic cleansing”. The team went on to win the Victorian State Schools competition that year. For a while the teenage machismo was replaced by genuine humility, as the boys didn’t need to boast or role play.”
    Australia’s multicultural society works!

  • Johan Knols on 23rd June 2010:

    Hello Andrea,

    It is not that difficult. Every country wants to be better than another country. Whether it be in sports or economic success. It gives us a good feeling and a chance to be very nationalistic for a period of time.
    But to answer your question, yes, I do believe that the drive from developing countries might be just a bit higher.

  • Iwona Frydryszak on 23rd June 2010:

    Looking at soccer and world cup I think that the “developed countries” soccer players get so much money, prestige that they can easily let “developing countries” to win once… unfortunately… there is no passion in most of the games among developed countries

  • Iris Cecilia Gonzales on 23rd June 2010:

    Hello Andrea,

    I think sports is very much a good venue for developing countries to see concrete “success” results. And it gives such countries a very good nationalistic feeling.

  • Iris Cecilia Gonzales on 23rd June 2010:

    Let me add that I really like the photo. It’s very nice.

  • Ian Sullivan on 23rd June 2010:

    @iwona - the top players from developed or developing countries all get paid loads of money.

    I think football means a lot to people all over the world whether you’re rich or poor or from a rich or poor country.

    I don’t think that it stands up that players from developing countries have more drive to succeed at football.

  • Hussam Hussein on 23rd June 2010:

    It’s nice to dream, supporting your favourite football team.. go Mexico go! smile

  • Luan Galani on 23rd June 2010:

    Hi Andrea,

    I loved it!
    The photos are great =)
    I believe that for players, being from developing countries or not, football has the same importance. However, it is the other way round for supporters in developing countries. It is a concrete way of experiencing success and forgetting, at least for a few minutes, the difficulty of the daily life.
    Nice post, by the way. Thanks.

  • Sylwia Presley on 24th June 2010:

    It does. I watched my dad today watching Italy - Slovakia game with great determination to Eastern European players to win. The Slovakian victory brought my dad to heavens! I think it’s a bit unfair to hear from UK commentators the surprise - although it is equally difficult to understand (I am not a football specialist) whether they were surprised due to the actual skills of both teams, or their origin. Whatever is the case I see developing countries cheering more for victories than those, who (1) are not from that category, (2) have a history of good, won games.

  • Iwona Frydryszak on 24th June 2010:

    @Sylvia, well, Slovakia isn’t a best team in the world and they are more concentrated on hockey. And Italy… World Cup winners… I watched the game in the market place on the big screen in my home-town- Wroclaw and in the audience there were half cheering up for Italy, half for Slovakia. It’s strange to read from your post that Slovakia is Eastern European country. For me it is still Central… somehow wink

  • Radka Lankašová on 25th June 2010:

    I think sports as such is a great phenomenon. Yes, we love to support our own country, it has a lot to do with sense of belonging and being happy. However we also love to support somebody who is - forgive me please the expression - “loser”. It gives us hope if they can make it, we can do too.

    I think I will never forget African swimmer “Eel” in Sydny Olympics. Poor little guy almost drowned, he was the last in the race, but he did not give up, finished the race and he got standing ovations. He was the real winner.

  • Radka Lankašová on 25th June 2010:

    And one more smile. France lost and footballers have to go to the president, prime minister and minister of sport to explain WHY. Isn´t it amazing?

  • Sylwia Presley on 25th June 2010:

    Iwona, you are right, I do apologize for placing the Country in Eastern - I meant Central and Eastern Europe (mistake due to the midnight commenting;)).

    I guess I simply miss the idea of being competition for fun, with no other connotations.wink

  • Hussam Hussein on 25th June 2010:

    Iwona, that’s an intersting discussion… depends what you mean with Europe, if you decide to include Russia then it could be said that Poland, Slovakkia, etc. are Central Europe..
    If you ask Georgian people, they will define themselves as Eastern-European. But how far should we go?
    According to the UN Poland for instance, is in Eastern Europe, and according to everyday people in Italy Poland, Slovakkia, etc are in Eastern Europe. I just came back from one year spent in Warsaw, and Polish define themselves as Central European. So I think that there are different views and “opinions”, depends on what we mean with Europe.

  • Sylwia Presley on 25th June 2010:

    I use both terms, but I know I should be more careful not to hurt anyone’s feelings. I think I tend to make this mistake, because I personally always use terms ‘Central and Eastern’ to avoid this type of need for clarification. However when lazy and tired I do use both ‘Central’ and ‘Eastern’ - personally, as a Pole, I do not mined. In public however I guess it’s worth being as generic as possible. You are right, Hussam, though - it really depends on how you look at it.
    Similarly there is a discussion in Oxford on term ‘developing countries’ as not being the most suitable. We should talk about it on TH!NK Ning;)

  • Giedre Steikunaite on 25th June 2010:

    Interesting discussion about the central-eastern thing! Geographically there’s already much confusion. My homeland, for one, claims to be the centre of Europe. There’s a special place for it called exactly that, 6km from Vilnius the capital. They took the most northern, southern, eastern and western points of one version of Europe’s map, and the lines drawn actually meet in Lithuania. But that’s just one version. It’s easy to see why people get mad when they’re called Eastern Europeans (if Europeans at all): having the centre, how can they be in the East?

    But I think the issue is much deeper than that. It has to do with meanings and stereotypes attached to the definition “Eastern European”. When people here joyfully ask me if I am from Luxembourg (because of my “weird” name), and I say no, I’m from Lithuania, they tend to murmur “ah…Eastern Europe..” and go away. Those who are not happy with immigrants in the UK tend to use the term “Eastern European” with a taste of disgust, and maybe that might be one of the reasons why we prefer to be known as central, and not eastern.

    I was recently asked why I speak in English with my Polish and Hungarian workmates. “You’re all the same anyways.” smile

  • Sylwia Presley on 25th June 2010:

    Yes, I know the feeling. I see people in the UK using the term ‘Eastern European’ in this sense too.

  • Giedre Steikunaite on 25th June 2010:

    Exactly! Eastern European is not so much a geographical term, but a psychological one.

    I think I already mentioned this example in another comment, but anyways: my Swedish friend did an experiment. She introduced herself here in the UK as Swedish, and received all sorts of encouraging comments and “good luck” wishes. Then she started saying she was from Poland. People would say nothing else and just leave…

  • Andrea Arzaba on 28th June 2010:

    I just loved this discussion!!
    Very very interesting
    Thank you everybody!!
    And we will see who wins the world cup in a couple of dayyyys


  • Daniel Nylin Nilsson on 05th July 2010:

    I think there are basically two reasons that you support a team - either you have some connection (like they are from your country or your city), or you perceive them as the underdog. I think the second reason is why people rather support a team for a developing country, and it is also why people love Barcelona. Somehow hey are still pereceived as underdogs in relation to R. madrid.

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