Of course, you have to be paying attention tofootball to even care about winning the World Cup.

Although it has spread to every nation on the planet, it has encountered obstacles here and there.

In these nations, other sports dug in.

The history shows a story.

If you look at why football faced those obstacles, you'll see the story.

Anglophobia was a factor in football'swilderness years in Ireland.

Ireland had a long history of football.

Playing internationally even as far back in the 1870's.

But national issues got in the way.

The Irish football association was the only major Irish sporting body based in Belfast, the British foothold on the island.

The other two big sports came under auspices of the Irish nationalists Gaelic Athletic Association – the GAA.

Not only the GAA do sport, they also promote Irish language, Irish culture and war against the British.

From early on, the GAA forbade footballers from joining.

Association football was denounced as “un-Irish”.

Gaelic facilities were closed off to them.

Instead, Gaelic fields were used for drilling Republican militias, between the odd all-Ireland final of GAA sport.

Irish nationalists got their wish.

Or at least 26/32ths of it.

The Irish Football Association remained in the north, where it couldn't really represent the south.

Dublin soon set up its own People's Front of Judea.

Then decades of clusterfudge ensued as both organisations claimed to represent all of Ireland.

It took intervention by FIFA to settle the matter to where they are today.

Both ending up with less than they started with.

A small labour pool, less resources and worst domestic leagues as a result of splitting.


Its fantastic appetite for sport, its almost unrivalled history of football and two national teams took 60 years to qualify for their first World Cup.

And then 25 years after that to be able to use GAA stadia, but some still weren't happy about it.




Gaelic football.

Like hockey and cricket, British soldiers and officers brought football to the Bay of Bengal.

Representative teams of militaries and merchants and even club sides from England & Scotland often toured, all the way up to independence.

The all India Football Federation had close ties with its British brothers.

In the fields of the Indian football heartland of West Bengal, they learned to play the game to a standard at which they could occasionally beat European teams.

This peaked in the 40s and 50s witha semi-final place at the Olympics, becoming a founding memberof the Asian Football Confederation, and India's qualification for the World Cup.

Although money troubles hit.

They couldn't in the end afford to go to Brazil, India was expelled from the World Cup TWICE, and football divided itself continentally.

South Asia split itself from the empire, so it didn't have the connection to keep the many British teams touring.

The best competition for international football came only from teams that were either terrible, distance or Australia.

National friendlies became rarer while the domestic club game died on the vine.

Meanwhile, decent cricket teams had never stopped visiting from the former empire.

Cricket teams remained top class opposition for South Asians, and India graduated to ICC member and Test-Status team.

One-day internationals and 2020 brought international cricket to tens of millions of people who couldn't sit around for a 5 day test series.





Football in the States had a somewhat more complex relationship.

To explain more, please welcome Nick from “Two Star Players”.

Basketball, American Football, Baseball.

A handful of sports that captured the USA in ways football hasn't.

The land is at a premium in many U.



Big cities in the States come with big problems of public access of green spaces.

That's not a problem for the more well-off – who live suburbanly.

But the traditional pool of football players in other countries usually come from the urban working class.

This is where the YMCA came in useful.

Basketball was developed in gymnasiums, but it can be played almost anywhere: Indoors, outdoor or in the waste ground between buildings.

Like football, it's flexible.

It fits almost anywhere in the city and a game can be played with just a hoop, and a ball and any amount of players.

The perfect, flexible urban sport.

American Football, a field sport, was always in the hands of schools from the beginning.

Schools do have fields.

Unlike the code that eventually surfaced in England, the American game is still incredibly, bloody violent and not ashamed of it.

And since there's nothing like “going into work on Monday morning” with dementia and an ankle through your face, without professionalisation, this code could never filter beyond the schools who implement amateurism.

Unlike in most of Europe, a socialist political party never brought wide swathes of working class rights to Americans.

The American working class, are some of the weakest in the developed world.

That extends to sport too! Where markets, more than workers' rights, determine the direction of sport.

Colleges, with their stranglehold over the sport, held back professionalism in American football for decades after Association Football.

By the time the behemoth billionaire leagues came around, the incestuous, closed, symbiotic system held all the power over the labour market in the sport.

One could make a convincing case that this sport isn't for participation.

With only 32 two pro teams, no minor leagues, and virtually zero activity overseas, it's a bloody miracle that this sport isn't completely dead.

The systems that close off access to any new teams, have stunted its development beyond the college system and the oligarchic NFL.

All of this is how this sport became a spectator endeavour in the USA; because the working-class were never able to take it for themselves.

This is a spectacular deviation from football in Europe where fans feel ownership of the teams, where protests against ownership are a regular part of the fan experience – even as faras the laws of the German Bundesliga where fans are mandated a controllingstake of their team.

In America, this is a rare, rare thing.

50, 000 working-class people with a free Saturday afternoon in 1900 might play football in London butin Boston they watched baseball.

As for why baseball becamepopular – well, that was just first.

It took the sections of the calendar, and the wallet, andchildhood and heart of the public that football occupied in Europe, long before it had made its way to the industrial heartland of America.

Smartly, baseballprofessionalised early and attracted the best talent, while providing the bestentertainment that another sport in the same area would not be able to compete with.

And although different leagues have risen and fallen, a healthy minor-league system has developed and sustained.

The USA's “soccer” leagues didn't have access to the same talent pool nor an empowered working class comparable to thatEuropean teams could draw from.

The college system adopted football only in the 50s.

Being unable to support domestic football leagues, as club teams were displaced from fields occupied by other sports, crowds for football wereoutstripped by the long-rooted America's game.

Club football fractured between twoorganisations in the 1920s and when the Great Depression hit, neither league washealthy enough to survive.

Basketball survived, being the participation sport of the city.

American football survived, through the invulnerable backing of colleges.

Baseball survived, as the spectator sport that got there first.

Football Leagues died again, and again, and again.

The International game remained mostly amateur and suffered from the same problems as India: Isolation, lack of good international opposition, and competition for audiencefrom other sports which each matured earlier in the States and created largehealthy domestic markets for their professional game.




Basketball, American Football and Baseball.


Canada's just cold, innit? So.



Ice Hockey.

Civil dictatorships are very good at telling people what to do.

The countries from behind the Iron Curtain dominated the mono minded sports of the Olympic movement.

The strongest, fastest and most agile.

Sports with objective measures that bend to the will of the determined.

China and the Soviet Unionwith their vast populations not only could choose from the most physicallyable specimens to front their Olympic teams, but also the most mentally able – those who could withstand eight hours a day of relentless drilling.

The strongest weightlifter always wins.

The fastest runner always wins.

But football teams win through an elegant dance of creating and restricting space.

Great leaps in the sport are developed by great minds.

The individuals who think ahead of their opponent will win more easily than one with bigger, faster, stronger players.

For obvious reasons, dictatorships rarelyfoster great creative individual thinking.

And when they do, thatbrilliance is quick to leave.

Club football in dictatorships is used as aprestige tool for the ruling class.

Either the favourite club or more usually, teams from the nation's capital are given unfair advantages – either throughallocation of resources or just plain corruption.

The legacies of this run deepand remain after the fall of regimes.

In democracies with diversified economies, we see industrial towns and second cities dominating.

In dictatorships, capital cities, China has not only been part of the Olympic movement in which dictatorly drilling is the blunt instrument of sporting instruction, but it remains part of the world in which sport is still treated differently.

Like most of its region, China was a desperately poor country when theyadopted football, and since then the sport has never really been high on theagenda, but they have recently changed tactics, declaring the intent to win theWorld Cup by 2050 and encouraging the growth of the world's game within its borders.

It's still a prestige tool just in a different way to the Soviets; internationally not domestic.

And sport still plays second fiddle in East Asia, where work and education are the fields in which governments mandate andencourage the population to spend the majority of their waking hours.

This has contributed to the incredible economic development of East Asia in the last century, but not its development in sport.

In East Asia, leisure time is often seen more as an opportunity cost.

For every year not spent in dictatorship or abject poverty, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and China have spent in the classroom, the office and the factory floor.




gymnastics and maths.

Australia is a great cocktail of all the previous nations for why football failed here.

They have the Indian isolation infootball, and the connection with the British Empire through other sports, the American healthy domesticmarket to support competing sports, the Irish nationalist support of their own code of football over the British one, and the Chinese attention to opportunity cost.




Aussie Rules, cricket, both rugbies, sailing, surfing, climbing, kangaroo boxing and bartending.

Basically anything, except football.

Despite the drawbacks, football is nevertheless making itself known in each of these countries.

As the world grows ever more connected, the game spreads to more people.

Even the most fervent, isolationist nationalists can't help but cheer when their own team scores.

It might not be the future of the game, but that certainly was why football failed in some places.

You may have noticed, this video was made in collaboration with two very talented friends of mine.

I'll let them introduce themselves.




Thanks for letting us collaborate onthis video.

I'm Anna.

— I'm Nick — and we're: Two Star Players.

We have a gaming channelwhere you can see things like: We do full playthroughs of games, with commentary on a rolling schedule with a new upload every day.

If thatsounds fun, come give our channel a visit.

We alsohave twitch channels where we stream both video games and Polandball comicdrawing, with links in the description below.

This has been super fun, so thanksagain for having us.


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