How Soccer-Crazed Is the World?

Football iu 1996

As “everyone knows”, soccer is hugely popular everywhere except the United States, because we’re free people and as Marc Thiessen observes soccer is socialistic:

The world is crazy for soccer, but most Americans don’t give a hoot about the sport. Why? Many years ago, my former White House colleague Bill McGurn pointed out to me the real reason soccer hasn’t caught on in the good old U.S.A. It’s simple, really: Soccer is a socialist sport.

Many have commented on the soccer/socialism linkage, but I do think it’s worth pausing for a moment to note that the USA isn’t really that much of an outlier in terms of its relative lack of enthusiasm for soccer. For example in China the most popular team sport is basketball and there’s tremendous passion for table tennis. The most popular sports in India (and Pakistan and Bangladesh) are cricket and field hockey. I’m told that in Indonesia badminton and tennis are the most popular. In Russia and Canada it’s ice hockey. Which isn’t to deny that many people in those countries may enjoy soccer as well—many Americans like soccer. But “the world” is not the same as “Europe and Latin America.” Indeed, I believe the countries I’ve just been naming account for about half the world’s people. And I don’t think there’s any particularly clear sense in which China is less socialistic than, say, Chile.

It’s of course true that Europe and Latin America are the regions of the world with which the United States has the most historical ties so they loom large. Even here, though, there are problems. Cuba and Venezuela aren’t exactly bastions of free market capitalism, but the most popular sport in those countries in baseball. Meanwhile, since we’re living in a global economy against Michele Bachmann’s will it’s worth trying to take a global perspective on global issues.