经济学人官方译文 | 世界杯取胜要诀 How to win the World Cup



How to win the World Cup

Though tainted by corruption, the tournament rewards liberalism, internationalism and open markets

“FOOTBALL is a simple game,” explained Gary Lineker, formerly the captain of England’s team. “Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.” Billions of fans will nonetheless pour their hopes into the World Cup, which begins in Russia on June 14th. Many people will join in even if their countries have not made it to the competition. Bangladeshis follow the World Cup fervently, ignoring killjoy officials who have tried to stop them flying flags. The flags of Argentina and Brazil, that is—Bangladesh’s national team is ranked 197th out of 207 in the world and has never qualified for the World Cup.
“足球是个简单的游戏,”英格兰队前队长加里·莱因克尔(Gary Lineker)解释说,“22名队员追逐一个皮球90分钟,到最后赢的总是德国人。”不过,数十亿球迷依然对今天在俄罗斯揭幕的世界杯满怀希望。即使自己的国家并未入围,许多人仍会观战。孟加拉人狂热追捧世界杯,即使自己国家的官员大煞风景,企图阻止他们悬挂国旗。那是阿根廷和巴西的国旗——孟加拉国国家队在国际足联排名中位列全部207位中的第197位,从未参加过世界杯。

The Economist is looking forward to the competition, too. Not because we think the country that hosts our head office has much of a chance of winning it—we are too rational for that. But because, first, improbable athleticism, drama and heroism can elevate the game to the level of art. And, second, because we see in the World Cup the fulfilment of some of our most cherished values.

Admittedly, much about the tournament is distasteful. Its governing body, FIFA, has a woeful history of cronyism and corruption. This year’s competition will be a fillip for Vladimir Putin’s kleptocratic regime. (In March, after Russia tried to murder an exile and his daughter in the city of Salisbury, England briefly considered withdrawing from the World Cup, but then decided to express its disapproval by—horrors!—instructing Princes William and Harry to boycott the tournament.)

Yet the competition itself, as opposed to the murky process of deciding where it is played, showcases progress. Teams really are better than they used to be. It also rewards good government. Autocratic regimes such as China and Russia can ruthlessly drill track-and-field athletes—indeed, the Olympic games sometimes resemble an authoritarian pageant. But dictatorships are rubbish at football, which requires more creativity and flair. The contrast between the former East and West Germany is striking. The East trained massively muscled shot-putters; the West, sublime shot-makers. Only four countries rated “not free” by Freedom House, a charity, have qualified for this year’s World Cup, and none is likely to get far. The last country with an autocratic government to win the tournament was Argentina in 1978. The women’s contest has only ever been won by democracies (America, Germany, Japan and Norway), though China once made it to the final.
然而,不同于确定世界杯主办国的暗箱操作,比赛本身彰显着进步。球队的确比以前更优秀。比赛也是对良好国家体制的一种嘉奖。中国和俄罗斯等威权国家可以残酷无情地训练田径运动员——奥运会有时简直就像是威权国家的盛会。但在足球这项更讲求创造力和天赋的运动上,威权统治无能为力。前东德与西德之间的对比就很鲜明。东德训练出肌肉发达的铅球选手,而西德则培养出伟大的射门高手。慈善机构自由之家(Freedom House)评定为“不自由”的国家只有四个入围了今年的世界杯,而且都不太可能走得很远。上一次夺得世界杯的威权国家是1978年的阿根廷。至于女足世界杯,尽管中国曾打入决赛,但最后夺冠的都是民主国家(美国、德国、日本和挪威)。

International football punishes inward-looking countries and rewards those with more cosmopolitan attitudes. When picking team managers, wise countries pass over their national heroes and appoint managers of any nationality who have proved themselves in western Europe’s tough football leagues. They also call upon their diasporas. African countries can field half-decent teams largely because so many of their players have refined their skills abroad. Rich-country teams also benefit from the talents of immigrants. Fully half of France’s victorious squad in 1998 were of migrant stock.

Why nations fail

Football can also teach countries how to spot and hone human capital. The best performers not only have systems for finding gifted children, but also ways of spotting late developers who failed to make the first cut. Their academies turn out intelligent, creative players rather than dribbling automatons. Then, if they are clever, they drop their best footballers into a competitive market. A simple model of countries’ aptitude for football, which weighs things like wealth and interest in the game, suggests that America ought to be doing better. One possible reason for the failure of its men’s teams is that America’s professional soccer league is a cartel. Salaries are capped, and the lower-division teams in which domestic players might develop cannot be promoted.

So liberal internationalists should enjoy the World Cup, despite the Putinophile propaganda that will no doubt disfigure it from time to time. Football, like life, is gloriously unpredictable. For what it is worth, our model suggests that one country is best-placed to dominate the beautiful game; indeed, it has performed slightly worse than it should have done over the years. That country is Germany.