Archives for posts with tag: nations

I came across a great website the other day. It was referenced in a BBC article on the best countries to live in. It’s called The Good Country.

Want to know how your country ranks globally across a range of different criteria? Maybe you’re thinking of relocating or going on an extended break somewhere and want to check out your new host nation? The Good Country is just what you need.

The Good Country measures each country’s global contribution along a bunch of general axes:

  • Science & Technology
  • Culture
  • International Peace & Security
  • World Order
  • Planet & Climate
  • Prosperity & Equality
  • Health & Wellbeing

Within each axis it then subdivides into sub-criteria. For example, under Planet & Climate they score you according your performance in these areas:

  • Ecological footprint
  • Environmental agreements compliance
  • Hazardous pesticides exports
  • Renewable energy share
  • Ozone

Each country is ranked on each axis, which rolls up to an overall rank. Spoiler alert – Finland is top.

The Good Country is a fascinating resource if you like those macro indicators and trends.

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People have a tendency to put themselves first before others, their company or club before others, and their country before other countries, which is to be expected. I always felt, somewhat idealistically, that when you were a professional soccer player you should be thinking country first, club second, self third. In reality, and especially the English Premier League, it’s the exact reverse of that.

When you have major events like referenda on participation in Europe, you would think that a tight federation would prioritise the continent or ‘mega state’ for the greater good. But, of course, there are degrees of tightness within the huge area and it’s almost always undermined by national self-interest. In fact, local self-interest gets ahead of both national and regional self-interest, so it’s pretty much business as usual.

The 64-thousand dollar question that many people wrestle with is this: is a large multi-country body like the EU right to want to govern us all at the risk of themselves becoming power hungry?

I don’t have a fixed view on this, but I would like to see more people and nations put the greater good ahead of their local fiefdom and themselves, and not be quite such ‘me feiners‘. This doesn’t look like happening any time soon, if this is anything to go by. Maybe that’s the point of nationhood in the first place.

I always find it amazing when a small nation overturns a large nation at a major sporting event.  Sometimes you get the odd upset – of course – but for me the big nations should always win at big sporting events.

I was reminded of this fact recently when England lost a key football/soccer match against Uruguay, a country of some 3 million people. There have been some fantastic books which have debunked this theory, such as the superb ‘Brilliant Orange‘, but for me it boils down to a combination of three important factors:

– the sheer population numbers with access to the game

– the number and quality of facilities to be able to play

– the number of qualified coaches

With decent facilities and great coaches you can go a long way, but you also need people playing the sport in their masses so that the numbers of exceptional players percolate through from an immense group. Take a look at English footie and you see an enormous amount of players, plentiful decent facilities, but in the main very poor coaching. It’s ‘hoof it up to the big guy’ or ‘give it to the dribbler’ on pitches that are far too big, from a very early age. Kids grow up thinking that all you need to do is dribble past half a dozen players or shoot from 30 yards. They don’t know the basics and they are not adequately taught the technical fundamentals of the game.

I’m not sure of the actual numbers, but I have heard a statistic that there are 17,000 qualified coaches in Germany, and 900 in England. Here’s an article which suggests England has nearly 3,000, but Spain has nearly 24,000, Italy nearly 30,000 and Germany nearly 35,000. People blame the English premiership and the influx of foreign players, but that’s nonsense. Why would spend the earth for an overseas star if you were spoilt for choice domestically?

In 50 years’ time, China will probably be the nation that tops all the sports it chooses to compete seriously in. Fifty years ago it wasn’t playing table tennis, now they are comfortably the best nation, and the Chinese diaspora declare for many other countries, making up a huge proportion of the world’s top 100 players, men and women. They have some serious numbers, and a totalitarian government with the will and resources to capitalise on the immense political kudos of being the world’s best at something.

You might think there are exceptions to this, like New Zealand rugby’s All Blacks. It’s a population of nearly 4.5 million. But, rugby is the national sport, they invest heavily in coaches – their coaches hold great jobs across the rugby world – and they have decent facilities. They also have their pick of some of the best giants in the islands like Samoa, Fiji and Tonga to bolster their numbers. My celtic chums will hate me for it, but that’s why England are always there or thereabouts in rugby world cups. The largest playing population in the world and lots of dosh are a pretty powerful cocktail.

It always seems a shame that some true geniuses of sport happen to be from small nations. In football terms, think of Northern Ireland’s George Best, Wales’ Ryan Giggs and of course Liberia’s George Weah, a former world footballer of the year. They never experienced the playing on the global stage that their talent warranted. They never got to win the big global sporting event and be included in the pantheon of world’s greats in the way that Messrs Pele and Maradonna are.