New Internationalist

Who should I cheer for?

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Brazil has high levels of poverty and inequality... © World Development Movement

Mexico or Cameroon? Switzerland or Ecuador? Who should I cheer for as the knock-out stages of the World Cup loom? When watching a football game that you have little invested in, you normally side with one team or another. But who you cheer for is often a fairly arbitrary decision, perhaps informed by some sentimental connection, a natural favouritism for the underdog, or maybe a sweepstake.

For those games where your allocation of support may as well be based on the colours of the teams’ kit, the website whoshouldIcheerfor.com, which ranks countries based on five global justice issues, can help inform that decision.

So for the Mexico-Cameroon game, I cheered for Mexico, which gets more points for female representation in parliament, spends less on its military (as percentage of GDP) and has a more equal distribution of wealth than its opponent.

However, environmentalists might have supported Cameroon, which has significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions per capita. The US, unsurprisingly, has the highest carbon emissions of all the countries competing in the tournament.

Throughout the World Cup, the World Development Movement (WDM) and friends are blogging on whoshouldIcheerfor.com to highlight and explore some of the global justice issues surrounding the participating countries.

As well as the social justice indicators, we are honing in on more specific issues relating to the World Cup countries, such as the cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris trying to sue the Australian and Uruguayan governments for introducing, respectively, blank packaging and health warnings on tobacco products.

Games between the US and European countries might focus on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a trade deal being negotiated between the EU and the US that would hand unprecedented powers to corporations.

We hear from activists in the global south, like those from Food Sovereignty Ghana who are campaigning to protect local and customary rights in the agricultural sector, and standing up for smallholders and peasant farmers.

And we highlight resistance to a series of initiatives the British government is supporting which are helping corporations take over Africa’s food, land, seeds and markets at the expense of small farmers.

Who Should I Cheer For is also a platform for activists in the West to share what they are doing. The London Mining Network, for example, has been visiting communities affected by the massive Cerrejón opencast coal mine in Colombia, where people have been forcibly displaced to make way for this partly British-funded mine. Jubilee Debt Campaign are cheering on Argentina, in the face of the US Supreme Court’s refusal to hear its appeal against paying a crippling debt, inherited from the military junta, to unscrupulous vulture funds.

And of course there are those who question whether a country with such high levels of poverty as Brazil should even be hosting the World Cup in the first place…

Effie Jordan is a campaigner at the World Development Movement.

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