THE beautiful and entertaining 2014 FIFA World Cup final between Germany and Argentina leading to an almost scoreless draw highlighted the strategy of each country.
Each team tried to creatively out-manoeuvre its counterpart. It takes mental strength and quick-thinking to score goals. This year’s World Cup will be remembered for these traits.
Both teams seemed to be on equal footing when it came to unleashing their creative talent during the final, yet the differences between them could not be more diverse.
For example, one team treated football with cultural reverence; the other, a religion, almost. One found comfort in the familiar South American milieu, the other had to contend with playing thousands of kilometres away from home.
In fact there are others who “used” the pope to differentiate between the two teams — one from Argentina, the other, Germany. One is a developing country, the other a highly industrialised one.
Most of the controversies tend to be focused on the economies of the countries. A greater amount of resources is a necessary, though not sufficient, condition to make a difference between winning and losing.
In this regard, the CNN creative interjection seems to be an ingenious way of re-establishing the standing of each football team participating in the World Cup. Indeed, all other championships for matter.
Rather than pitting the teams against one another based on a one-size-fits-all measure (not unlike the criteria devised for university league tables — forcing an even closer analogy with football leagues), CNN is sensitive enough to recognise the diverse context of the origin of each team. Taking these into consideration makes the assessment fairer.
One factor is the country’s population, another is the range of salaries of the coaches. It is reasoned that the more populous a country, the larger pool of talent to draw players from, giving it an unfair advantage compared to lesser populated nations.
United States, reportedly, was the biggest country to qualify, followed by Brazil, Nigeria, Russia and Japan, while Bosnia-Herzegovina and Uruguay were the smallest, with populations under four million each. It is important to reflect the difference in the ultimate assessment.
Similarly, let us assume that there is a correlation between annual salary of coaches and performance.
Based on this, except for Brazil, the top 10 best paid coaches are from developed countries, with Russia coach Fabio Capello earning the highest (more than £6.5 million/RM35 million per year), followed by England and Italy. Yet all three teams fared very badly. The US coach is the lowest paid (about £1.5 million) from among the 10, but better that the rest (less than £1 million).
On the contrary, the 10 worst paid coaches are from developing countries with the exception of South Korea (at £0.5 million, slightly less than that for Argentina). The Mexican coach is the lowest paid (£0.25 million — close to half that of Costa Rica).
Recomputing these two factors into the FIFA “stereotyped” ranking numbers is enough to change the results quite dramatically, namely while Brazil was expected to be numero uno (they managed only the fourth position); Germany was slated to be second (but became champion); Spain, the former champion was predicted at number three (ended at 23rd placing); and Costa Rica was at 27th overall (finished at 8th place). Unlike Brazil which conceded 10 goals in their last two matches, Costa Rica conceded the fewest goals in the entire championship.
If the nationality of coaches is also taken into consideration, Russia, Japan and some African countries lose out even more since they hired non-nationals for their teams. Curiously, this is yet another reason why "ranking" exercises must be taken with scepticism as long as they ignore the need to account for “differentiated” factors in assessing institutions ranging from those involved in football to education.
As illustrated by CNN, ranking fails to present a realistic and constructive picture for a particular institution when context is sacrificed.
It invariably dismisses the importance of diversity in education, or even football, if framed in a run-of-the-mill way.(The picture on the cover in relation to this article is courtesy of registrarism.wordpress.com) Dzulkifli Abdul Razak NST Learning Curve 20 JULY 2014 @ 8:04 AM