Who Really Needs A World Cup

April 16, 2009
Whether you've realized it yet or not, soccer is a big deal in this gloabalizing world. And every four years it's a huge deal for one country: the host of the FIFA World Cup.

All eyes are on the host country for the 32-team tournament, which is the most-watched sporting event in the world. And though showtime is just one month long, the host spends years vying, preparing and investing for the tournament. It has major potential to spur broad countrywide improvements and economic development. So when the U.S. made news recently by offering forth 70 stadia as possible host sites for either the 2018 or 2022 World Cup (along with a reputation booster from President Barack Obama), I had to filter out my national pride. Sure, the U.S. would make a good and clearly able host for the event, but it seems that the potential of the World Cup could be better directed towards a country that really needs large-scale civic improvement and investment.

Next year, for the first time, the World Cup will take place in an African nation. South Africa is currently preparing to host the event by constructing five new stadia, updating international airports, expanding road systems, improving inter-city connectivity and building entirely new inner-city transit systems. Though South Africa is the most developed country on the continent, by global standards it is still developing. The World Cup is an incredible opportunity for South Africa and many there have high hopes that the Cup will bring not only a boost to its global reputation, but also built and economic improvements that last long after the crowds have left. Brazil has been chosen as the host for the next World Cup, to be held in 2014. As another relatively developing country, the opportunities and challenges are almost identical. Both South Africa and Brazil struggle with crime, poverty, disease and economies that seem stuck on the top of the third world, just out of reach of the economic north. The World Cup may just be the opportunity each of these countries need.