Tuesday, March 28, 2006

South American News

Two stories caught the eye this morning. The BBC reports that Argentina is debating whether or not to allow school kids to watch the World Cup games involving the national side during school hours, and in Brazil, the finance minister has resigned in the wake of corruption claims.

South America has always retained a special place in its heart for football. Strong leagues, and very strong international sides have offered a way out for impoverished people, and hold aloft a dream of a better life. Maradona was spotted kicking a ball of rags around, and instantly recruited (or so the story goes). This author used on occasion play football in the garden wondering if the kind old lady walking past the garden wall was in fact a talent scout on a seaside holiday in the south of Ireland. The dream of it all coming together, the dream of being picked in the most unlikely of circumstances, offered a chance of fame, fortune and global adulation.

Aspiration is an important thing. It gives a child sustenance, it fosters the imagination, and every kid will tell you that it is all about the chance that it might happen, not necessarily that it will. Kids should enjoy their childhood, they should have fun, they should dream, and shout and imagine what it might be like one day. Almost all of them will never make it, but they retain that shared consciousness of ambition that will one day translate itself into a national consciousness defined by the kids that watched those players. There is no disappointment in being one of millions that didn't make it. But there is disappointment in not being allowed to participate in the zeitgeist. Let them watch football, let them cheer and cry and laugh and play together for a few hours a few days during the month of June. And then let them delve into their studies once more, in a better established and more cohesive union than had been the case a few short weeks before.

Brazil has more pressing difficulties in the news. Lula's government has been under pressure for a considerable period of time now, and rumblings of corruption have plagued his tenure. However, he appears to be strengthening his hand of late. A working class hero, his role in dragging his nation from penury to prosperity not been insignificant, and while there is a long way to go, much of his time will have been spent drawing preconceived notions of acceptable behaviour from the minds of his contemporaries, such that they can set an example for the next generation to follow. This is the lot of those that would drive corruption from government, and it is often a lonely road. It is wonderful to see that the hum of corruption is now difficult to shake off, and the finance minister's resignation comes in the midst of furious denials. This one hopes means that corruption is finally and totally unacceptable, even by implication. There may be innocent political victims along this rocky road to integrity, but it seems that in one of the most populous nations on earth, they're on the road at last!

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