Tuesday, June 13, 2006

World Cups and Working in the Field

The world’s greatest sporting tournament is already well under way and I have been swept into the football madness that is consuming the city of Maputo. Now I am not a very committed or motivated soccer fan but I absolutely go crazy for the World Cup. To me it is the epitome of sports as politics and I cannot help but become infatuated by the socio-political subplots and the exceptional displays of skill on the field. Now if only international disputes could be solved in accordance with the beautiful game…then we would really be on to something!!

As a Canadian, our sporting passion is generally fueled by hockey, not soccer, and most Canadians have long given up on our nation’s chance of qualifying for soccer’s greatest tournament. As a result, most Canadians tend to throw their support behind their family’s country of origin. I’ve always said that if Canadian were to ever qualify again for the World Cup (we did once in 1986, failed to score a goal and promptly lost all three opening round matches) most Canadians would still cheer for either Germany, Italy, Portugal, England, Brazil over our boys playing under the Maple Leaf.

When it comes to my allegiances in International Soccer I tend to throw my support behind England, although their pitiful display against Paraguay on Saturday left me to believe that the English fans will have to wait another four years before they will come close to being crowed world champions. I also have the tendency to always root for the underdog in sports and at the World Cup that has generally caused me to cheer for the African representatives. I was particularly interested in the Angola-Portugal game in which the Angolan side tried tenaciously to defeat their former colonial rulers but could not overcome an early 1-0 deficit and lost by a single goal.

The Brazilian community here in Maputo has had a considerable impact on the local population as most Mozambicans are quite emphatic supporters of Brazil…as well as any African nation going up against a European powerhouse. It looks to be a fascinating tournament and it will be interesting to see who will pull off the shocking upsets, the memorable moments and eventually end up as World Champions.

My posting will likely continue to be sporadic in the coming weeks as my colleague Cremildo and I are once again heading up into Northern Mozambique to work in the field. We will be working with three different partners during that time and it promises to be a very eventful two weeks. We will be completing the first phase of our impact study on HIV/AIDS training for Banco Oportunidade in the Zambezie Province then heading back to the city of Nampula to work with Caixa das Mulheres (CMN) and Ophavela.

When we began this project we underestimated the difficulties that we would have in encouraging progress with our northern partners that are separated from us by almost 3000 km. CMN especially needs a lot of onsite assistance and this visit will hopefully inspire them to work harder on their partnership building and implementation of their HIV/AIDS workplan. I am also extremely excited to work once again with Ophavela in the field as we will have the opportunity to train their staff in conducting focus group discussions with their members. We will then travel into the rural districts to discuss with the members about potential changes in their group policies to better accommodate members that are either infected or affected by HIV/AIDS. This is the type of grassroots microfinance that is really inspiring to me and it continues to impress me with the benefits it brings to the members.

So I guess I’m signing off for the next little while as the internet connection tends to be spotty at best when we travel up north. Enjoy the World Cup everyone and I will be back towards the end of the month.




Anonymous Mom said...

Don't forget your malaria medication!!!!

2:53 p.m.  
Blogger J-WAB said...

To me it is the epitome of sports as politics and I cannot help but become infatuated by the socio-political subplots and the exceptional displays of skill on the field.

Spoken like a true MA graduate.

Va Azzurri Va!!!

9:11 a.m.  
Blogger Elise said...

good luck, hope all goes well! :)

9:23 a.m.  
Blogger Sean said...

first of all - "to me it is the epitome of sports as politics..." - grow a set!

second - "the world's greatest sporting tournament..." why do you follow/believe this stuff? Really, it's a bunch of pansies running around the field falling with the slightest bit of contact - a game where the ref kicks people out of for touching another player twice (the yellow card warning is nice of them - very sweet)... the whole "sport" should grow a set!

Oh my, if only the world's problems could be solved by a simple game of kickball - that's a great way to look at things - oh and I like your knowledge of canadian soccer history... this from a guy who I've never heard mention the game once before... and you've talked about everything - did you hurt your ankle jumping on the bandwagon?

forget the malaria medication, make sure to take your anti-pansy meds!

Sean, starting the golf course chatter already

Love ya buddy - we'll see you in a few weeks... folk fest, golf, good times!

11:14 a.m.  
Blogger jpmozambique said...

first off, boon you should be one to talk about being too much of a poli sci geek!! And as for your beloved italians...they will be lucky to get beyond the second round.

Second of all, Sean get a life, look beyond winnipeg for a change and see how the world cup ignites passion among even the most casual soccer fans around the globe. It's a bandwagon that i have no problem riding for one month every four years.

i'll be seeing you on the golf course buddy...that is if we can survive the front nine!!

6:34 a.m.  
Blogger Sean said...

Oh we're not surviving the front nine... and to the "get a life" comment - what's the point if the LOT is having a reunion when you come home, won’t I just lose that life? One of us ain't coming home that day - and the morning line from Vegas has me in that pine box shortly after.

Second – a tournament which sees the same teams competing for top spot every four years is not as uniting as it appears. 32 teams make the greatest show on earth - how many have a solid chance at winning? 4, 5? Brazil's soccer progam - heavily funded... Italy - heavily funded... Germany, France, England - heavily funded... sure it's great that Angola can get there - but the reason why they're never going to win is the same why the Brewers will never win the World Series – no amount of natural skill can be funneled into a major championship without cash.

There will always be the “Yankees” (ball team, not American soccer program) throwing money at the top players, coaches and development staff. There will always be these big countries that just put more money into the program than Angola can.

(If you say that there is psychic income received by all countries just for making it - that's great... but there still is a winner - there still exists another opportunity for the economic powerhouses to once again show how great they are and exert their ‘dominance’ on the lesser well-off nations).

Perhaps the world should focus more on sending food, aide, other forms of support - wouldn't that unite everyone a little better?

Soccer hooligans rioting, english crowds facing germany chanting "two world wars and one world cup" - columbian players getting shot when they come home from making a mistake. There's a lot of emotion tied up to these games – people take such pride in watching their team win… if they don’t – that emotion is channeled to anger…

Pitting one nation against another isn't always the best way for peace.

Now - those of you who love the game of soccer - that's cool... it's the top players in a sport battling out... it's more fun than watching two groups of 6,7 year olds running up and down the carpathia school yard. The best of the best - great... I'm just saying that I don't think it's quite the "international dispute settling" tournament you make it out to be.

(I will "get a life" this afternoon - right now I'm ill).

8:43 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sean - you're an ass!

Jared - you think too much of yourself!

Me - I'm just a jerk!

See how much love the world cup brings out?

11:50 a.m.  
Blogger Crystal said...

Since I only watch the World Cup highlights on the news, I definetly won't join in on the debate! It is probably safer for me that way anyways. I would, however, rather watch the World Cup than watch the Oilers win the cup.

I just wanted to say, have a good trip Jared!

4:17 p.m.  
Blogger jpmozambique said...

alright this is all good....I would like to know who you are all cheering for in the World Cup and why.

10:09 a.m.  

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