The 2010 World Cup is here! Okay, so Americans couldn't care less about soccer, but the rest of the world is excited: Brits are ditching work, South Africa has cleaned up, and Somalis are watching their necks, literally.
According to a study by the Chartered Management Institute, an estimated 40% of people in the UK "could take unauthorized time off work to watch matches," and 54% of employees in Britain could slack off on the job because of a barrage of World Cup updates online. The incessant conversations about soccer (né football) in the workplace are going to kill productivity. And we all know that British businesses are taking whatever they can get these days.
The host nation of the 2010 World Cup, South Africa, has been anticipating this moment for a long time. And why not? It's exciting! Just think of all the money that's going to flow in. And the image boost for the former apartheid state? Can't put a price tag on that. They've been busy with all kinds of new construction, upgrading tourist infrastructure, and generally sprucing the place up a bit. For instance in Cape Town, authorities have been clearing the way for an influx of photo snapping visitors by arresting filthy homeless people and shipping them off to "Tin Can City" — a sprawling shanty town about 45 minutes outside of town. One official in Johannesburg told NPR, "You have to clean your house before you have guests." So true!
But being homeless in South Africa or employing a bunch of lazy bums in Britain sure beats the hell out of being a soccer fan in Somalia. There, militants from al Shabaab are known to behead people for just watching soccer. They see the World Cup as a distraction for people who should be joining them in their jihad against the government in Mogadishu. The Wall Street Journal spoke to a handful of Somalis, who can only watch the World Cup in the few areas still controlled by the government (if you can really call it a government):
Some young men say militants have deprived them of one of their only means of entertainment. "We can't play football, we have no cinemas to watch the World Cup and we don't have jobs," said Mohamed Nur, a 24-year-old World Cup fan. "We wake up, and go to sleep, alone."
See, America? There's more to sports than the NFL Super Boring, or NASCAR, or Tiger Woods' thing for strippers and sexting. World Cup 2010... dig it.
[Image via Getty]