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What's Up with South Asia?

There is a single corner of the world where nobody is paying the slightest attention to the World Cup -- what's up with that? It's not enough to say India and Pakistan don't have "soccer culture" -- China, and Korea, and Japan, and Thailand, and Togo, and Tunisia, and Saudi Arabia, and . . . didn't have soccer cultures, either, and they're now as soccer-mad as the best of them. But the billion or so Indians and Pakistanis could care less about the whole thing -- I don't even think they have national soccer teams. Something's going on, though I can't say I have the faintest idea what it is.

Truth Seeker:
Why anyone cares about grown men kicking a ball around confounds me. There are books to read, films to watch, letters to write, books to write, clients to answer, work to catch up on, hobbies to organize, projects in the yard, projects around the house, emails to sort through...
Maybe it's because my father never had an interest in sports that I have found all of them boring since I was about 12.
It's nice that there's something to keep the "little people" entertained so they don't riot or start revolutions, but for educated intelligent people, I don't understand.
6.17.2006 11:40am
Humble Law Student:
It is the ultimate failure of British imperialism.
6.17.2006 11:52am
Sports Watcher (mail):
Why anyone cares about grown men kicking a ball around confounds me. There are books to read, films to watch . . .

So instead of watching people kick a ball around, we should read about people who never exisited or watch people pretend to characters they are not? I enjoy all these, don't get me wrong. But I think it's just as possible to see beauty in a Ronaldo strike or a D-Wade crossover as it is in well-made cinema.
6.17.2006 11:54am
Anderson (mail) (www):
But the billion or so Indians and Pakistanis could care less about the whole thing -- I don't even think they have national soccer teams. Something's going on, though I can't say I have the faintest idea what it is.

Cricket?
6.17.2006 12:04pm
patrick (mail):
It isn't just South Asia, it is here in the United States. I bet the number of people who watched WWE Wrestling last night is bigger than the number of people who will watch World Cup soccer today in the United States.

We've got U.S. Open Golf, Major League Baseball, the NBA Finals, the Stanley Cup Finals, the College World Series and possibly NASCAR all on television this weekend.
6.17.2006 12:06pm
Kieran (mail):
>Something's going on, though I can't say I have the faintest idea what it is.

Cricket?


Yes, that's what he said.
6.17.2006 12:07pm
David Sucher (mail) (www):
"Educated intelligent people" might want to open themselves to organized team sports (to all spectator sports, I'd actually add) as demonstrations of grace, poise and power -- many of the the elements of "beauty."

Do many fans get carried away? Absolutely? Does their enthusiasm often seem like posing? Certainly.

But that doesn't diminish the fact that sports at the highest level show extraordinary atheleticism and, when you add team sports, displays of social coordination. There is little more fascinating that watching any expert in any field do the job -- whether it is a trial lawyer in cross-examination, a mason building a concrete block wall or a goalie blocking a kick.

I think we can have a sense of proportion about professional sports without dismissing them. Their practioners are great athletes and worthy of admiration.
6.17.2006 12:23pm
Grammar Guy:
But the billion or so Indians and Pakistanis could care less about the whole thing....

Perhaps "couldn't care"?

Sorry, pet peeve.
6.17.2006 12:34pm
David Post (mail) (www):
Grammar Guy: thanks, you're right, it should be "couldn't care ..."

And as for Kieran's suggestion that it's cricket that keeps the Indians and Pakistanis away from soccer, I'm not convinced. I know they're totally out of their minds about cricket -- but so are the West Indians (who love soccer). Not to mention the English. What's weird about the Indians and Pakistanis is that they seem to pour ALL of their sporting fervor into that single sport.
6.17.2006 12:41pm
Caddie:
One of my favorite anecdotes about India and soccer comes from this; India weren't allowed to play barefoot, so they withdrew. Perhaps there's still lingering bitterness?

And to jump on the cricket bandwagon -- it really is the king of all games, and an interesting question would be why there isn't more love of it around. It's both more interesting and takes more skill than baseball, so I suppose it's just custom that keeps Americans playing baseball. A shame, really.
6.17.2006 12:47pm
Just:

Cricket.
6.17.2006 12:55pm
Rush (mail):
Don't be hatin on Wrestling, those guys are the REAL athuhletes. You want to make soccer popular in the U.S.? Put the Undertaker or Hulk Hogan at one of the less vital positions. They couldn't do much worse than the current team, and we'd get our moneys worth out of the yellow cards.
6.17.2006 12:58pm
Brent (mail):
What we, as Americans, view of soccer is directly related to the amount of media coverage it receives. ESPN has become the gateway for our source of sports news. The company is responsible for what we see, read, hear, and talk about. It CONTROLS the American sports world. Duke lacrosse wouldn't have been a big deal if it wasn't for the school being Duke -- who else heard about the Navy quarterback who raped a girl on campus, ADMITTED TO IT over the phone, and is now court marshalled? This may stray a bit off topic from the original idea behind the post, but the effectiveness of ESPN relates both here and abroad.
6.17.2006 1:00pm
Rush (mail):
Its Courts "Martialed", by the way.
6.17.2006 1:10pm
Allen Asch (mail) (www):

Cricket?
That's one of several reasons given at this link: Saving Soccer in India

Is there any question to which someone has not written an answering webpage on the Internet? Not necessarily the correct answer, mind you...
6.17.2006 1:13pm
Alan P (mail):
They are also the best in the world in Field Hockey for men. I don't think they make them play in those cute little skirts.

What sports are popular where is often strange. Badmitton is very popular in Southeast Asia. Go Figure.

Baseball is popular in North America and most of the Carribean and South America and East Asia and really nowhere else. Maybe they just can't get past the joys of Cricket.
6.17.2006 1:21pm
DoubleDownRob:
Why don't Americans play cricket? It requires a break for high tea, that's why. most of us can barely sit through an entire NFL game without changing the channel, so i don't think we are going to sit through a 5 day test of anything. Except maybe golf, but even then, the only day that recieves real ratings is the final round.
6.17.2006 1:35pm
Jacob (mail):
Caddie:

It's both more interesting and takes more skill than baseball, so I suppose it's just custom that keeps Americans playing baseball.

I found cricket fascinating whenever it showed up on FoxSportsWorld. Though I still find baseball more interesting, I certainly understand others' complaints that it is "boring." But cricket requires more skill? Really? "The hardest thing to do in sports is hit a baseball" is one of the only sports adages I actually buy into, if only because it really is hard to hit a small 100mph object with a very thin stick into a 90 degree array. The only part of crick that seems objectively more skillful is fielding without gloves.
6.17.2006 2:25pm
DJ (mail):
Japan, Korea, and China are "soccer mad"? From my research, baseball is still king in Korea and Japan, and pingpong is more popular than anything else in China. Not to suggest that soccer isn't popular in these countries, but I'm not sure it's on the same par with Europe or South America.

And there's nothing "wrong" with South Asia. They dig their cricket and--like most Americans, Canadians, Australians, Dominicans, Cubans, Venezuelans, and millions of other people around the world--don't think they have any earthly duty to play or watch football.
6.17.2006 2:30pm
ars:
Because they're too busy manufacturing the soccer balls? :)

sify.com at least has complete coverage in 5 Indian languages.

A search on a subset of Indian blogs (I chose sulekha.com) shows considerable interest.

Similarly a search for Pakistani blogs yielded this blog post:

World Cup Fever in Pakistan

I'm guessing Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, etc will yield similar results. Are you SURE they're not paying attention? Do you have a URL or source for whatever leads you to believe otherwise?
6.17.2006 2:34pm
Paul McKaskle (mail):
David Post may well be correct about the great majority of South Asians and a disinterest in soccer. But there is a charming movie, directed by Khyentse Norbu, a Bhutanese monk, about a group of Tibetan monks who are passionate about soccer, so much so that they sneak out of the monastery to watch the 1998 World Cup and to play the game. The movie, "The Cup," was featured at the 1999 Cannes Festival and is available on VHS. The director (Norbu--who is the abbott of an important monastery) subsequently made another movie "Travellers and Magicians," much different but also charming. (It was filmed entirely in Bhutan but it has nothing to do with soccer. It is available on a DVD.)
6.17.2006 2:43pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):

There is little more fascinating that watching any expert in any field do the job -- whether it is a trial lawyer in cross-examination, a mason building a concrete block wall or a goalie blocking a kick.


Yah, and I can go watch mason's building walls and all sorts of experts doing their craft while learning interesting things on the history/discovery channel. I mean unless you are recommending people to watch courtTV, masons, TV chefs and the like just as much this argument isn't very convincing. There are tons of experts doing their crafts one can find on the tube and different people like different ones.

Besides, the structure of a sports broadcast is simply not set up to marvel at the skill ability of the athletes (except perhaps cricket). A different sort of broadcast might show off a soccer player's ability to control the ball or discuss find details of the craft. These sort of videos are cool in the same way the jordan clip on here awhile ago was cool. However, the broadcasts that we actually have are geared to people who want to root for a team not those who simply want to marvel at ball control or expertise.

Frankly, I don't know anyone who is really into big team sports (well except cricket) who doesn't derive a big part of their enjoyment for rooting for one team or another but maybe some of you here are and exception. I simply can't bring myself to care in the slightest who wins and thus the game becomes less interesting than watching some expert craft things on the history channel.

It's not that I somehow snottily feel that I'm to good to like sports, I've tried watching and would like to enjoy them but it just doesn't do anything for me. I guess (surprise) people just have different tastes.
6.17.2006 2:59pm
Can't find a good name:
By the way, India and Pakistan do have national soccer teams, but they were eliminated early in qualifying for this year's World Cup. (Pakistan was eliminated in the Asian group qualifying round, losing both its games with Kyrgyzstan back in 2003. India didn't have to go through the qualifying round, but in the first group stage, they had one win, one draw and four losses in six games, so they were mathematically eliminated from this year's World Cup back in September 2004.)
6.17.2006 3:16pm
Caddie:
Jacob --

I've played baseball for thirteen years and cricket for only one, which might have something to do with it, but even theoretically, I do believe cricket to require more skill in every aspect of the game -- not only fielding, as you say, but also in bowling over pitching, and certainly in batting. In cricket, you've also got the small ball and small stick (a cricket bat's probably about twice as wide as a baseball bat, but that doesn't help that much), with either a fast bowler (90 mph) or spin, which is ridiculously difficult to hit. And in cricket, you don't just hit the ball: fellows who whack it with poor footwork or strokework are reviled as baseball hitters. On top of that, you don't just come up to bat for two minutes, but can often be there for hours on end, depending on the format.

Which brings me well to my second point -- DoubleDownRob speaks pretty well for most Americans (and non-cricket fans at that), I think. We've got a vision of cricket as upper-class Brits playing a Test over five days in whites. While this is still the most important form of the game, there is also One Day International and a format new in 2003, Twenty20, which are strictly time-limited, and so not only end more quickly but don't have draws. Twenty20 matches last something around 3 hours. The common impression of ten fellows standing around watching and never getting dirty is also far, far off, as can be seen in this (wonderful) video on YouTube.

Sorry to hijack this thread away from soccer, but I really am awfully passionate about cricket. If you ever get an opportunity to look into it, give it a chance. It's not as boring as its rep makes it up to be. (And as a girl, I will also note that the players are rather more attractive than any of the big American sports: no steroids in cricket!)
6.17.2006 3:29pm
PersonFromPorlock:
DP, as far as the intrinsic appeal of soccer goes, I don't believe we can do much better than to quote Oliver Cromwell:

"I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken."
6.17.2006 3:39pm
eeyn524:
What ars and can't said: the basic premise of the post might be off. I work with several Indian guys and they are all way more deeply into the World Cup than the rest of us. You just don't hear much on the news because they were eliminated early.
6.17.2006 4:09pm
The Drill SGT (mail):
I think South Asians also invented polo, but of couse they used the head of the enemy at one point.
6.17.2006 4:53pm
GMUSL Rising 3L (mail):
Because people in India are much too smart to fall for the allure of the socialist-fascist sport of soccer?

Just tossing that out there. With such wonderful countries like China, Iran, "Soddy" Arabia, and France being soccer-mad, it doesn't really strike me like a list of places to try to emulate in any aspect of life.
6.17.2006 5:40pm
Wild Pegasus (mail) (www):
China, Iran, Arabia, France. Good lord, does the conservative obsession with France know no bounds? Get a grip.

- Josh
6.17.2006 6:03pm
o' connuh j.:
The passion, the fire, sheer American force of will! Fantastic American performance tonight against the diving, cheating, whining, thuggish Italians who were outfought by 9 men team USA. Well done.
6.17.2006 6:37pm
Adam (www):
It's worth noting that despite having 56% of the world's population, Asia only was alotted 4.5 out of 32 slots in the World Cup.

Europe, with 12% of the world's population, occupies 14/32 slots.
6.17.2006 7:03pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
Well Trinidad&Tobago with 1/6000 of the worlds population got 1/32 of the slots, maybe it has something to do with skill and hard work? And how did Asia get .5 of a team? Its gotta be tough to win that way.
6.17.2006 7:17pm
Randall Shane (mail):
You can't just go on population, or the PRC and India would be allocated 5 slots each.

Nearly all the top ranked teams are from Europe or South America, but the rest of the world is slowly catching up.

Every cycle, as teams from outside Europe and South America move up the rankings, a slot moves from one of those two regions to the rest of the world.
6.17.2006 7:29pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
WOW 90 minutes of non stop action,fouls,yellow cards,red cards,headers,and it ends in a TIE!?!?!?!?!?!?!:( Isn't this the once every 4 year World Championship of the Universe? Tie games are unamerican, from the youngest little leaguers Americans play it to the bitter end. Theres no crying in baseball,and no tie games either. Football has them once every few years,but only after the teams kill themselves playing another 15 minutes, and in the championship game they play until someone wins. Theoretically the Colts and Giants from 1958 could still be playing.
6.17.2006 8:30pm
U.Va. 2L (no longer a 1L) (mail):
6.17.2006 11:02pm
Lev:
Video rec:

Lagaan - A musical about love, taxes, and cricket.
6.18.2006 1:31am
Volokh Groupie:
A couple things. India and pakistan both have teams--they're both ranked in the mid 100's i believe--you can check at the ELO soccer ratings, though i'm not sure whether they're the same for fifa right now.

India and Pakistan haven't really had the time to develop soccer considering it wasn't native to their area--the contrast here is cricket and field hockey where the two countries have been playign much longer, and which the people generally support more.

Soccer, despite the claims of being the world game, is in fact a largely european distraction which has taken 100+ years to spread. It is dominated mostly by small european countries or other countries which were former colonies of those european countries (particularily spanish colonies), though that doesn't say much considering the extent of past european imperialism. It's no surprise that areas dominated by former british colonies are more reluctant to be huge fans (India, Pakistan, even in australia where they've qualified i'd bet it comes in behind rugby and cricket as teh favorite sports.) though the reasons soccer has gained so much popularity in 100 years seem to be obvious. Its an easy way to encourage nationalist fervor and have means of peaceful competition between countries that would otherwise never be able to compete. It gives bragging rights and is one of the first forms of very visible globalisation on a social level.

as for the countries you mentioned--China, and Korea, and Japan, and Thailand, and Togo, and Tunisia, and Saudi Arabia-- many of them are in the world cup, and the countries have promoted that--it isn't that hard to get fervor and i'll wager if some south asian countries had teams in there they'd be quite passionate too..look at sri lanka or bangladesh in cricket. However, on the whole most south asians, considering teh dominance of agricultural life, as well as most people in teh world aren't probably watching the world cup. The fact that a good chunk of those who have the internet or tv are watching it only says something about the audience, not the game. Still, it is fair to ask why countries like india and pakistan, who have the resoiurces, don't try to field better soccer teams (if dharsoo from france played for india they might have had a better shot in qualifying).
6.18.2006 2:35am
ars:
I wouldn't describe soccer as a "largely European distraction". I'd say it's primarily a South American and European obsession. But it's still quite popular, during the World Cup, in Asian and African countries -- despite the fact that many of those countries have mediocre soccer teams and are obsessed with other sports such as cricket.

I'm still not sure why the blog poster thinks that South Asians aren't really following the game. Just google it. For example::

"NEW DELHI - The World Cup has sent cricket-crazed Indians into a soccer frenzy. The game has never been bigger in the country, with a legion of fans spurred into hyperdrive by the tournament in Germany.

Even though India has never had a national team in the World Cup finals, and the population has been obsessed with cricket for decades, the next month is going to be very different (at homes, pubs, remote corners of soccer-afflicted West Bengal, Kerala, Goa, and the northeast region) thanks to the massive reach of live television.

[...]

ESPN is expecting the total Indian viewership for this World Cup to be in excess of 150 million, a fivefold increase over the audience for the 2002 event. On a global scale, the 2006 Cup is tipped to become the world's most followed event, sporting or otherwise. World Cup 1998 in France currently holds that record, with a cumulative viewership of 37 billion over the month-long period. A total of 29 billion watched the last edition.

[...]"
6.18.2006 3:17pm
ars:
BTW, the 37 billion and 29 billion figures in the quoted article above must obviously be wrong. I'd say they meant "million" but I don't know how to square that with the 150 million expected in India this year.
6.18.2006 3:21pm
Larry Abraham (mail):

And how did Asia get .5 of a team? Its gotta be tough to win that way.



You get .5 of a team because not every region is guaranteed a spot or a particular number of spots. The Australians, for example, faced a play-in, just like the 64th and 65th teams in the NCAA basketball tournament. The play-in teams play home-and-away to determine the winner. In this case, the Australia/New Zealand/etc. winner plays the number 5 team in South America. There's also a game between the last qualifier in North America (including Central America and the Caribbean) and the one in Asia. Trinidad and Tobago beat Bahrain to get in. It is tough to win that way, even if not necessarily in the way that you meant it.
6.18.2006 7:20pm
Visitor Again:
ESPN is expecting the total Indian viewership for this World Cup to be in excess of 150 million, a fivefold increase over the audience for the 2002 event. On a global scale, the 2006 Cup is tipped to become the world's most followed event, sporting or otherwise. World Cup 1998 in France currently holds that record, with a cumulative viewership of 37 billion over the month-long period. A total of 29 billion watched the last edition.

BTW, the 37 billion and 29 billion figures in the quoted article above must obviously be wrong. I'd say they meant "million" but I don't know how to square that with the 150 million expected in India this year.

These viewership numbers are cumulative. There are 64 games played in the World Cup final tournament. The final match alone will draw between 1 and 2 billion viewers. The other 63 draw the rest. If I watch all 64 matches, I will be counted as a viewer 64 times.
6.18.2006 8:01pm
Shangui (mail):
Oddly enough, I played cricket (or some version of it) at a camp in northern MI when I was a kid. Loved it.
6.18.2006 11:36pm
Rajagopal (mail):
There is quite a bit of interest in watching the games here in India. We suck at football, but city folks love watching the English premiership which is shown live on ESPN here. But sports in India will struggle to achieve international success as long as politicians are in charge of the federations - a minister is in charge of football, another in charge of cricket, same with athletics, the olympics association etc. There is little professional/expert management of these sports federations and hence little development takes place. Bloody socialists and power hungry politicians, the bunch of them.
6.19.2006 7:28am
Adam (mail):
Added note: it's not just soccer. Think about the Olympics in general, and other than badminton, you don't see a lot of South Asian competitors or interest.
6.19.2006 3:46pm
Football-crazed Bengali:
Football is pretty popular in India. I remember my days in college staying up late at night to catch European league action especially the UEFA champions league knockout rounds. Football is an established religion in parts of India most notably Kerala, Goa, West Bengal and the North-East (google for Salgaocar, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal). It is not as popular in the rural parts of the country but rest assured that the people in the urban centres are following it pretty closely.

BTW another sport with a fanatical fan following in the urban centres in India is formula 1.
6.20.2006 1:19am
australian:
india r hopeless at soccer so r pakistan its tradition but sri lanka there worse then my under 13 team i mean they really suk
6.20.2006 7:57am
A soccer fan:
Hi Bloogers

You can post your articles and comments on world cup soccer in www.merinews.com as well.
6.27.2006 2:46am