Saturday, June 03, 2006

World Cup Roundup

The USA is ranked 5th??

Although my son is an avid soccer player, and we enjoy watching his games intensely, I have to admit that like most Americans, I don’t follow professional soccer too closely. An exception for me, however, is the World Cup. I usually do follow this huge event and enjoy watching it and tracking the teams.

The USA has qualified again for the World Cup this year. Perennially, the team has been considered a joke around the world even though they did manage to cling to life in enough games in 2002 to squeak into the quarterfinals.

This year, they are not considered a joke at all. The team has improved to the point that FIFA has them tied for fifth place in the rankings as the teams head into the Cup. The main reason the USA Team is so highly regarded is not so much for the individual skills of its players, but because they are known to be one of the most superbly conditioned teams in the world. Their players have been willing to submit to training regimens that some of the prima donna, highly paid stars in the European leagues would not allow themselves to be subjected to.

FIFA’s world rankings before the World Cup.

1 Brazil
2 Czech Republic
3 Netherlands
4 Mexico
5 Spain
7 Portugal
8 France
9 Argentina
10 England
13 Italy
19 Germany

Even with that high ranking, the USA has a tough road ahead of it. It starts out in one of the most difficult groups, with Italy, Ghana, and the Czech Republic. Tough teams to beat, every one of them.

High ranking or not, the USA is considered a long-shot (90-1)to win the Cup. Here are the current favorites among the oddsmakers:

Brazil: 3-1
Argentina: 13-2
England: 7-1
Germany: 8-1
Holland: 9-1
Italy: 9-1
France: 10-1
Spain: 16-1
Portugal: 20-1
Czech Republic: 25-1
USA: 90-1

Now, for the darker side of the cup... Our friend Paula has posted here about moral relativism in Germany, and while some Germans are worried that the behavior of Neo-Nazi hooligans might embarrass the Germans in hosting the World Cup, the bigger story might be in the human trafficking that is expected to occur.

Importing 40,000 Sex workers for the World Cup? Is Germany out of control?

Prostitution is legal in Germany, and for the World Cup, it is expected that in addition to the 400,000 legal prostitutes already working in Germany, an expected 40,000 additional “sex workers” will be imported/lured/drawn/coerced into coming to Germany to meet the expected “demand”.

Human sex trafficking and slavery is one of the world’s most under-reported problems. Thousands and thousands of Eastern European and Asian girls and women are being manipulated and abused in this world-wide scourge, often to meet the tastes of men in the West.

Some people here and abroad advocate the legalization of prostitution. How can a moral case ever be made for it? I know that there are woman who say that they do this of their own free will without coercion. Can that ever really be true? I find it hard to fathom or believe that a woman could ever do this without severe moral, social, psychological and physical trauma. I have three daughters of my own. If anyone should ever suggest to them the viability of this as a “career choice”, the consequences for that person would be most unpleasant.

What can the Germans be thinking?

Here is an NPR radio story on Concerns Over World Cup's Impact on German Sex Trade, and a BBC video piece.

Here are some anti-human trafficking links:

Nuns show the red card to forced World Cup prostitution (CATW)

Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute

Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW)


Paula said...

I wish good luck to the USA team. :-).

Here in Germany some officials have said that the "sex-workers" were invited in order to "calm down" the hooligans.

What you said on the prostitution is very true.

I saw here a hidden form of prostitution: the phenomenon of mail/internet-ordered brides. Western men marrying young and beautiful women from poor countries.

Some men would go in the respective poor countries to choose their "wives". These women are chosen because in addition of being young and beautiful, they are considered (by the men who marry them) as submissive and ready to comply, not like their "liberated" western sisters.

The women are desperately poor and they would do anything to get out of their countries.
How these marriages evolve in time is easy to guess.

crystal said...

I've heard absurd arguments for the legalizing of prostitution as a kind of women's liberation ... I doubt anyone would choose to be a prostitute if they had a better alternative.

Joe said...

Hi Jeff,
I have not found time to post much in the way of commentary to your blog. But as I have been travelling these past months I have been checking in to see you. After all these years knowing you, you continue to amaze me Jeff.

Last night I returned from a business trip to Germany (Münich). The world cup frenzy has already taken hold and it promises to be a wild affair. Sorry for soundng so naive, but I am always struck by how well the German (citizens) as a whole have handled 2 enormous transitions over a relatively short period in history: the transition post WWII and again after the fall of the wall. I am sure there are issues (such as the drawn out, ongoing struggle for healthcare reform) that put a strain on the population, but outwardly the collective German face is positive and enthusiastic about contributing to a good EU future. I always enjoy my interactions with my German business partners. (Once again, forgive my naivetè.) I guess its more a testament to the HUMAN spirit...

Paula's point is a good one and I can see it all over Europe (with or without legalized prositution): Inherent in the fabric of the human character, there seems to be an insatiable hunger for dominance in one form or another. We see it on a large scale (driven by greed) through exploitation of entire nations' resources in Africa and we see it on a more individual level (albeit large scale) thru exploitation of women and children for sex. Control is a good thing. Laws provide us with the structure to control ourselves and protect one another's rights at the same time ... We have returned to the age of "if it feels good, do it".

Steve Bogner said...

Jeff - My older son is an avid soccer player, and we're looking forward to the world cup (Tivo will come in handy, I'm sure).

I remember reading about the problem of prostitution and the world cup, but I forgot where that was published. It is a terrible problem. And here in the US it's estimated that there are 18,000 to 20,000 people each year who are victims of human trafficing. That's 1 person per state, per day, every day of the year.

Jeff said...

Hi Paula & Crystal,

You both touched on an interesting point, one which is related to the bondage of women in general, and what it means for a woman to be liberated from that bondage.

Paula brings up the topic of the mail-order bride, and it is a well-known syndrome here as well, where the otherwise unmarriageable male looks abroad for a submissive wife in a purely financial sort of transaction. Sadly, in much of human history, women have been "transacted" in this fashion and have been well aware of the score themselves in terms of what constitutes their "worth" in a man's mind. In return, women have adapted in ways to reassert and maintain their own methods of control in response.

I work with a wonderful young Indian woman who was summoned home not long ago, for the purpose of being wed in an arranged marriage. She dutifully went home, but found that once she got there, she couldn't go through with it. As she later explained it, it's difficult to have a foot in the East and a foot in the West. She understands what her parents want and respects them, but at the same time she is westernized enough not to submit to an arranged marriage. Her story made me think of my own great-grandmother. My Neapolitan great-grandfather whom I mentioned in the previous thread lost his first beloved wife in childbirth. They'd had children already that still needed to be raised. He had a friend who said, "My sister back in Italy is alone. I will send for her and you can marry her." My great-grandmother was very unhappy about this. She never wanted to leave Italy. She never wanted to be here, but she had to obey what her older brother had chosen for her.

We need to be careful, however, not to judge them too harshly in our own modern mindsets. When we look at the divorce rate, it almost seems as if the arranged marriages work out in the long run almost as well as the ones we choose for ourselves. Sometimes parents have wisdom that young people lack when blinded by passion. :-)

As Crystal points out, the legalization of prostitution has been sold as a sort of liberation, but is a false liberation... One that objectifies and dehumanizes a woman more than ever. The lack of options can certainly lead women to this hopeless choice...

We often talk about the vocations crisis in terms of the priest shortage. I think we give short thrift to the tremendous impact that the shortage of Sisters has had on society. Women in desperate straits in former days had the option of being able to turn to one another for mutual support, help, and meaningful work in the Sisterhood.

Jeff said...

Hi Steve,

(Your son plays soccer as well? How old is he? My son is in the 4th grade. His coach is disappointed that he won't be back in the fall, because he has decided that he wants to try his hand at football, which starts this Summer.)

Thank you for bringing up the numbers involved in human trafficking in this country as well. It is not just a European problem, but a worldwide problem.

Jeff said...

Hi Joee,

Thanks for the great post. You put some very good perspective around Germany's recent history. We just had a German family move in to the house next door, where they plan on living for the next few years. They are a wonderful family from Munich. We've got everybody running back and forth between our yards, regardless of the language barrier, like one melded household.

Sin is sin, power is power, and domination is domination, no matter who or where it comes from.

Stop all war on the weak..


Paula said...

Jeff,I want to add one more thing. We were talking about liberation. I think that pope JP II and Edith Stein--St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross--had pointed in the rigt direction: a new kind of feminism is needed in today´s society.

Liam said...

I am rooting for the US team and also Spain -- Will Spain ever do as well as they should considering their soccer tradition and talent.

There are a lot of dark aspects to European soccer as well--there was an article on racism in soccer in the NYT today. Imagine going to an NFL or NBA game and having an entire section of fans holding up banners with swastikas, giving fascist salutes, and making monkey noises every time a black player touched a ball. Europeans seem to feel this is just part of soccer. I remember sitting at a cafe in Madrid the day there was a match between the two Madrid teams. The "ultras" (hooligan-type fans) marched from one stadium to another, and there were hundreds of police employed to escort them to stop a possible riot. A lovely use of my tax money.

I agree with what everyone says about the evil of prostitution, but I feel about the legalization of prostitution that I do about that of drugs -- making them illegal has done nothing but creating immense wealth for the nastiest of people. I don't want any woman to feel forced into prostitution, but if there is going to be prostitution, who should be regulating it -- the state or the pimps? I don't see legalization of prostitution as incompatible with cracking down on networks that force women to be in a slavery-like situation.

Of course, if there were more economic justice in our society, fewer women would be forced into prostitution for economic reasons.

Jeff said...


Very true. Much of what gets passed off as feminism today seems to be a betrayal of feminism's original ideals.


I do see your point, even though I have a hard time imagining pimping or being a house madam as respectable legal professions in and of themselves, under the auspices of the law or not. To quote Bobby DeNiro as Travis Bickle is Taxi Driver, "This is no thing for a person to do..."

Will Spain ever do as well as they should considering their soccer tradition and talent.

LOL... No, I don't think so. Are they the chronic under-achievers of the World Cup or what? It seems every time the old Black Sox will have someone like Butragueno who scores bushels of goals in the opening rounds, only to have the team not show up awake at all for a quarterfinal or semifinal game. It's an old story, but it goes on....

Liam said...


It is a difficult call. No, being a pimp will not be a respectable profession -- but there are a number of professions that are legal but are not respectable. Whether or not prostitution is legal, I thoroughly agree that the monsters that transport women to foreign countries and threaten their lives if they try to escape should be more seriously pursued.

The other team I usually support is Ireland, but alas, they didn't make it this time. I'm happy to see Spain ranked above Italy, Argentina, England, and Germany. If it weren't for those Brazilians!

The reason for the high US ranking reminds me of how teams full of NBA stars have tanked in world competition. We may have a surprise this year in Germany.

By the way, I was in Massachusetts this past weekend for a wedding. You live in a state that is beautiful, if damp.