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World Cup 2002 Korea Japan Special: Who owns the World?
 > World Cup 2002 Korea Japan Special Index

Why aliens could think the East was the West and Europe was the bottom, and why different concepts of the game deserve its place at the greatest tournament even with no chance to lift the World Cup. A first journey...

 Imagine you are from outer space, landing on earth, and (for example) by accident right on some pacific island. You would call Asia West and America East, and Europe maybe the bottom (presupposed you call North North and did not land with an downside up map what would be possible too). 

 The view and perception of the world, at least to the typical reader of this magazine, is probably quite eurocentric. And without any bad intentions this is considered as 'normal' and not reflected much. But it is underrated how such 'normalities' lay structures for perceiving the world and drawing the conclusions from the perceived. 
 To understand football as a world phenomen and what good football could do in the future it is important that different views have to be learned. 

 What this has to do with the Asian perspectives at 2002? Well, read on.  

  Of all continents confederations the Asian probably has the lowest percentage of its players playing at professional European clubs. Any player from other continents will have to adapt the European mentality if he wants a place in the first eleven of an European professional club. 

 This changes his style, his attitude. He has to accept the ethics of the game as well as the ethics of the business and in most cases he will reproduce those ethics as a key to success when he passes on his experiences at home. Asia, short of players gathering experiences in a European or South-American professional career, has tried to import such knowledge for example in Japan and China by hiring foreign coaches and foreign players to learn from. But Asia is big and Saudi Arabia or Iran cannot be compared to Korea or Japan. 

 Football (like the world) is not the exclusive property of Europe (including the American footballers and fans who are mainly of European descent), although sometimes it seems thought to be. So, in the past, different styles of football and different interpretations had developed. The West-Africans once neglected the question of winning when they were celebrating the event, the magic and played a style that fit well with the weather conditions and the call&respond heritage of the African oral culture. 
When such a side came to Europe it got rolled over by teams who had developed a tempo that was possible in the Northern weather conditions, rolled over by the help of the organisation that resulted from the concentration on the score as the exclusive target, and by the help of the knowledge which was made possible by a better media infrastructure and a longer experience. A better experience not at last determined by the colonialistic structures and its consequences.
 This all caused some bad results which in some European countries fitted well into racist images of  the stupid 'negroes' (at that time still commonly used word for Africans 1974 in Germany when Zaire fulfilled all requests to satisfy the racists klischees), not intelligent enough to play the game.

 Today Africans have conquered the European leagues and although it is known that they usually need some years to adapt for example to the German football mentality, they have become strong even in the typical German attributes. But on the way those players have lost some of their typical African properties, they think 'professional' in a European sense now.
 It has a backslash even to Africa where other types of players are preferred now. Players who fit into the European characteristics of the game. They are the preferred picks of coaches and agents because they promise success on the pitch as well as on the trade market. Player types like Jay Jay Okocha are hard to find in prominent clubs nowadays. Or did you ever hear of Makaya Nsilulu or Ayadi Hamrouni as a target of transfer speculations? (not only Africa: Shinji Ono had to change his style before becoming accepted in european football and so has the Japanese ideal: from Brazilian technique to european power)

  Africans have changed their style. At the recent African Cup Of Nations tournaments the only 'magicians' left have been the sometimes exciting Côte d'Ivoire, all the others mixed their playing style with various European (or South American) interpretations. Some might be sad about a touch of magic got lost. But it is the right of Africa determine on their own what they want and not just satisfy a folcloristic role Europeans like them in.

 In general football today leaves little options for a unique style as informations on the game becomes more and more similar worldwide and physis becomes more and more a determining factor.
 In Asia more nations yet seem to stick to their home styles. This is caused by several reasons: Only few have yet had the opportunity to compete at a World Cup final and only few players play at Europe. It is obvious, Asian teams play less physical than the rest of the world. Japan, Korea, China try to adjust their game, but the players usually are smaller than Europeans or Africans and yet cannot wrestle around them with the experience and cleverness of South Americans. 
 Still those three are making progress finding ways to improve while the rest of Asia suffers from the lack of competition with others, stucking in some kind of ghetto, in which football develops more slowly.

 In France 98 FIFA tried to clamp down on all kinds of physical game that endangers the health of the players. Europeans and West- and South-Africans complained, saw it as a disatvantage to their preferred physical styles, but for the elegant game of Iran and Saudi-Arabia and the running game of Japan or South Corea it could have been a boost. But: who determines what is the 'real' football? Money? (Then: who determines that money determines?) Who 'invented' football? Does it matter? And if, has it been England or China, where such a game has been played some thousand years ago? Or is it the past time World Cup winners who should rule? The ones who were 'there' first? Or the regions where the most registered players are? Or the parts of the world where the most (potential) players and fans are? And who decides what is a 'real' fan?

 In Asia more than half of the world population is living, people in Thailand and India are as enthusiastic about the game as everywhere else. They have a right to take part at the process and to help develop the ethics of the game, a right to contribute to the discussions about what is the more important in football, how important are the national teams, what role play fun, result, whether money should rule or even what part the handful of potent European clubs play. If a team wants to attack, their attitude is part of the world and their contribution should be part of the tournament even if they are in danger of getting punished by a higher number of goals against them as they might have allowed with a concrete wall style. 

  The World Cup should be also an exhibition of concepts of celebrating the game and not just an exhibition of whose football industry has prepared the best to beat the others. 

 Nobody denies the French, Germans or Brasilians winning anyway, the love at France 98 had been with the Jamaicas and Iranians, too. They carry the emotions the cold result and money ethics can not deliver alone. The Dow Jones index cannot create the feelings Khodad Azizi created by his goal at Sydney in the final 1998 World Cup qualifier Australia-Iran. The football money industry needs those different concepts and attitudes, too. There had been a considerable number of fans feeling inspired by the Jamaican party celebrations who might not have been adressed by the event otherwise. An argument for those business fetishists, too: A World Cup just made of Norways and Switzerlands, Belgiums and Slovenians would sell worse...


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