Annan points to parallels between the UN and World Cup soccer

“As the pinnacle of the only truly global game, played in every country by every race and religion, it is one of the few phenomena as universal as the United Nations,” he wrote in an opinion article published in several newspapers this week.“You could even say it’s more universal,” he added, noting that the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) has 207 members while the UN has 191.In the World Cup series, everyone knows where his team stands and how it got there, he said, adding: “I wish we had more of that sort of competition in the family of nations. Countries openly vying for the best standing in the table of respect for human rights, and trying to outdo one another in child survival rates or enrolment in secondary education. States parading their performance for all the world to see. Governments being held accountable for what actions led them to that result.”In cafés from Beijing to Buenos Aires, Mr. Annan said, everyone debates the finer points of their team’s game, not to mention the other side’s play, expressing themselves on the subject with as much clarity as passion. “I wish we had we had more of that sort of conversation in the world at large. Citizens consumed by the topic of how their country could do better on the Human Development Index, or in reducing the number of carbon emissions or new HIV infections,” he wrote.Meanwhile, he said, the migration of coaches and players between countries brings new ways of thinking and playing, benefiting both host and home countries.“I wish it were equally plain for all to see that human migration in general can create triple wins – for migrants, for their countries of origin, and for the societies that receive them; that migrants not only build better lives for themselves and their families, but are also agents of development – economic, social, and cultural – in the countries they go and work in, and in the homelands they inspire through new-won ideas and know-how when they return,” said Mr. Annan, who will tomorrow present a major report on migration and development to the General Assembly.Participation in the World Cup ranges from being a badge of honour for first-t time qualifiers, like his own country, Ghana, to giving a sense of national renewal to countries like postwar Angola, to inspiring the hope of national rebirth in countries still in conflict, such as Côte d’Ivoire.Perhaps the most enviable World Cup quality to the United Nations is that it stages events in which goals are reached, he noted. “I’m not talking only about the goals a country scores; I also mean the most important goal of all – being there, part of the family of nations and peoples, celebrating our common humanity,” Mr. Annan said. “I’ll try to remember that when Ghana plays Italy in Hanover on 12 June. Of course, I can’t promise I’ll succeed.” read more