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England v Algeria: anyone but England?

Like many people from Northern Ireland, I support two international football teams: Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

This isn’t being greedy – constitutionally speaking, anyway. One of the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement power sharing peace deal of 1998 was the recognition of “the birthright of all the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British, or both, as they may so choose”.

But while some more hardline Catholics / nationalists would choose not to support Northern Ireland and some Protestants / unionists would choose not to support the Republic, I would say with confidence that they’re both as likely, give or take, not to support England. Myself included. Something that living in England for the last ten years has done little if anything to change.

Tonight the Three Lions line up against a country with colonial baggage who play in white and green, Algeria. Hmmm, tough one.

But let’s set aside unwavering partisan bias for just a few moments, and instead look at cold hard social justice data, which Who Should I Cheer For has so kindly assembled in one handy place. Who should I be mindlessly honking my vuvuzela for tonight?

Well, with a national income per person of less than a quarter of the size of the UK’s (£21,604), Algeria (£4,490) are clearly underdogs in development terms, as well as on the football field. Their (pretty charitable) FIFA ranking is 30, 22 below England’s.

In the inequality stakes, the North African country perform better. For every £1 the poorest 10 per cent earn, the richest 10 per cent get £9.6, compared to £13.8 in England – a big tick in Algeria’s favour.

It’s far from cut and dried, though. While Algeria’s carbon emissions per person, 5.5 tonnes, are around half that of England’s, they’re still pretty sizeable. Only 1 in 10 of those in government in Algeria are women, much lower than the UK, even with the current regime’s pitiful lack of women at the top cabinet table.

Even worse, the former French colony’s military spending is actually marginally larger than England’s (2.9% of GDP compared to 2.7%). In fact, if you discount South Africa, who are let down by massive, Apartheid fuelled inequalities and large carbon emissions, Algeria are the least supportable African team according to WSICF stats, at 22 out of the 32 teams.

However, before I unfurl my miniature St George’s cross, a couple of mitigating factors should be taken into account. Firstly, Algeria’s high military spend can partly be explained by the fact that the country only came out of its decade long civil war against Islamic extremists in 2002. Secondly, the fossil fuels sector accounts for over 95% of Algeria’s export earnings, which have helped the government improve infrastructure, industry and agriculture since the end of the civil war.

So I’m sorry Fabio. Even on ethical grounds I can’t support you.

Posted in: Algeria, England, England-Algeria

Hugh Reilly is a web editor at UNICEF UK. During the World Cup he’ll be willing things to the the French team, especially Thierry Henry, that we can't mention here, and shouting vamos for Spain. He’ll also be looking at how different competing countries are doing at the Millennium Development Goals on the UNICEF UK blog.

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the World Development Movement.

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