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Australia v Serbia: a bloody history

So, here’s a question.

Which member of the OECD “rich countries club” allowed slavery until 1969?

Here’ s another. In which genocide in the last 200 years was an entire ethnicity wiped out?

Here’s one you might just know. In which country did it used to be common to go hunting for people – and there’s evidence that this carried on until these people were finally given the legal status “human” in 1967?

OK, here’s an easier one – this country had a “whites only” policy until 1973…

Got it?

The answer to these harrowing questions is, of course, Australia. When white Europeans landed on it’s shores, the continent had hundreds of thousands of inhabitants, yet was declared “terra nullius ” – land without people. The arriving Europeans spend the next couple of centuries persecuting and killing these Aborigines  – and succeeded in wiping out all of the population of Tasmania by 1879. The ensuing “lost generation”,  and “White Australia” policy saw continued systematic oppression until the late 1960s and early 1970s, and the marginalization of the community continues to this day.

While no one has ever gone to court for these crimes in Australia – that doesn’t happen to Anglophones – and while there is still much segregation and oppression of Aborigonal communities, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has at least apologized for their treatment. This does seem to have begun to open up some national discussion of the history.

In Serbia, Australia’s opponents today, the use of the International Criminal Court after is now famed, with more than 1000 staff employed by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. And while Europeans seem strangely unaware of much of what happened to Aborigonies in Australia, Serbia is known for it’s ethnic cleansing more than for anything else. What is perhaps remarkable is the speed with which Serbia has, with the help of a legal process, transformed from a state suffering brutal civil war, to one which is likely to join the EU within 5 years – having formally applied for membership in late 2009.

The history of the Balkans is, though, famously, a bloody one, and peace can’t be taken for granted. The most recent war in Serbia is a part of a long string of violence. And while it’s causes are complex, it is hard not to point some of the blame at the Ottoman empire – who ruled the region for centuries – for, as both stories tell us, death and imperialism march side by side – and death often carries on long after it’s comrade has retired.

So what we see on the pitch are two countries struggling to come to terms with the bloody consequences of our species’ colonial history – with what happens when one group of people tries to impose it’s will on another. And while the ethnic violence has played out differently in each of these examples, both countries may, just, be beginning to come to terms with their histories.

Posted in: Australia, Australia-Serbia, Serbia

Adam Ramsay works for student campaigning network People & Planet, is co-editor of www.brightgreenscotland.org, recently ran the Facebook campaign No Shock Doctrine for Haiti, and is now campaigning against UK government cuts.

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

Celebrating with Ghanaians

Ghanaian supporters hung out of windows, waving flags, cheering, singing, blowing whistles. Roads were jammed as fans partied in the street. Anyone would have thought Ghana had won the world cup, yet this was the scene in South London in 2006 after Brazil knocked Ghana out of the tournament. As one passer by apparently commented – ‘If this happens when they lose, what on earth would they be like if they won?’

This year I wanted a taste of Ghanaian football. I headed to the Gold Coast Ghanaian Bar, South Norwood, for the Ghana v Serbia match (ranked No1 and No17 in the Who Should I Cheer For ratings). The atmosphere was fantastic. Everyone was in party mood. Cheering and whistle blowing was the backdrop to intermittent roars of triumph as Ghana’s Black Stars approached the goal mouth.

Suddenly the screen went blank. The patrons, who’d been tightly packed into their viewing area didn’t moan, they just scrambled their way over chairs in the rush to watch the screen outside. Cheers and whistle blowing resumed and we continued to enjoy the match. A guy closest to the screen, decided to get up and dance. There were no shouts of ‘sit down – I can’t see the screen’, everyone seemed happy in his happiness! Dance over, he sat down and everyone could see the screen again.

Until that screen went blank too. Surely this time surely people would get agitated.

But they didn’t. They danced! All I had to compare this scenario to was what I thought it would have been like had it been England playing – tutting, shouting, demands for a refund and maybe objects thrown at the screen in frustration. But the Ghanaians danced!

Their patience was rewarded. Within a couple of minutes of the screen flickering back on Ghana’s Gyan scored what was to be the winning goal. If a screen going off in the middle of a match can generate dancing and signing, imagine the reaction to Ghana’s first goal of World Cup 2010! It was electric.

I began to wonder how life would be if Ghanaians were running things. For years Ghana has been fighting privatisation of its water supply. Fighting water companies from rich countries from taking over the Ghanaian water supply because the companies would be focusing on profit not on supplying water to those who need it most. Ghana, along with other countries in the south want their own communities to manage their water. How would it be if Ghana was doing its own thing?

In England and the west we have been taught, consciously or subconsciously, that individuals have top priority and this sometimes manifests itself as having a right to be happy even at the expense of others. So it follows that a western company will see nothing wrong in going in to a country and maximising profit even at the expense of the individuals who live there. But in Ghana there seems to more of a community spirit thing going on – what is important is doing things together as a community and being happy together. In terms of supplying clean water, this wouldn’t mean maximum profit for a few – this would mean ensuring fairness for all.

This year I asked a Ghanaian supporter what on earth would have happened if Ghana had beaten Brazil instead of being knocked out by them in 2006. You know what he told me – that the crazy, exuberant, happy celebrations would have been the same – because what they were rejoicing in was even bigger than world cup football.

They were celebrating their community.

Posted in: Ghana, Serbia, Serbia-Ghana

Sharon Jordan is campaigns assistant at WDM. Generally football indifferent, her football passion ignites about this time once every 4 years as the ups and downs of life are played out by global players in 90 minutes on a patch of green grass.

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

Serbia v Ghana: European pariah vs top dog of the under dogs

I am a soft touch when it comes to underdogs: I wear a badge that says: ‘I heart migrants‘; I buy the Big Issue; and I work for the World Development Movement to combat the injustice that is rife through out the world. And now I am faced with a choice between Ghana – the top dog of the underdogs according to Who Should I Cheer For?; and Serbia – the country that shot to fame in the 1990s as an international pariah. So for most people, the choice of which team to cheer for based on ‘underdog’ criteria would be simple. For me, not so simple.

But life, politics and war is never simple. Let me announce my bias: my father’s family is from Serbia, from a city called Kragujevac, which is known for a massacre of up to 5000 people in 1941 at the hands of the Nazis. My grandfather fled the country and walked across Europe with nothing but the clothes on his back.

Massacres and deeply held resentments have been prominent in the former Yugoslavia’s turbulent history for centuries and the war crimes that took place at the hands of the Serbs in the 1990s are clear to everyone. And now to the Serbs themselves, who because of the propaganda pedalled by Milosevic and the closure of independent media, did not know of the true extent of the genocidal war that was being waged in their name.

But what they did know is that they were under attack from sanctions, from NATO bombing and economic collapse. By the year 2000, Serbia was the poorest country in Europe. It was the year that I went to visit my family in Kragujevac and saw the embarrassment and anger in my cousin’s face when admitted that she had been ‘paid’ in eggs that week.

This was also the year that Milosevic was finally forced from power.  The Milosevic regime’s tactics to stay in power were violent and omnipotent, including hundreds of thousands of fake ballot papers, the arrest, detention and ‘diasppearances’ of journalists, opposition activists and judges who sympathised with the opposition. One judge was murdered when he refused to issue an arrest warrant for two opposition leaders. And the disappearance and death of Ivan Stambolic, the former Prime Minister, who turned against Milosevic and gave support to the leader of the opposition party, Vojislav Kostunica.

Kostunica was leading a shakey coalition of 18 opposition parties, and despite Milosevic’s repression, they organised election monitors, mobililsed people, and collaborated with the powerful student movement, Otpor.  After the contested election of September 2000, a month of mass strikes and one million people descended on Belgrade from across the country, including elderly  farmers on tractors and bulldozers. They broke through police lines and faced tear gas and stormed parliament forcing Milosevic’s resgination on October 5th.

The last decade has not been easy for Serbs. The chasm between the rich and the poor has widened. Although, there’s no data available in government numbers for the clever people behind whoshouldicheerfor.com to crunch, inequality has increased after the IMF imposed its usual draconian economic conditions, like privatisation of electricty, education and health care, in return for loans.

The poorest people in Serbia (and Eastern Europe) who have suffered greatly are the Roma population. Roma people are widely discriminated against, are the target of racist attacks and fail to access public services. Currently, in Serbia the situation of Roma people is particularly worrying with 30 per cent of the population living on less than $2 a day; entire communities unable to access health care, education and live in shanty towns. It’s my bet that data for the Roma population is not included in official government stats, because Roma people tend not to have birth certificates, ID or permanent addresses. If the stats for Roma people were available to us the maternal mortality, hunger and life expectancy results would be a lot worse.

So I will be cheering for Serbia: for the Roma people – the underdogs of Europe; for the Serbs who bravely and peacefully overthrew a genocidal dictator; and for my family, and all families, who are still struggling to get by.

p.s. Amnesty International is running a campaign to stop forced evictions of Roma communities in Serbia, please do get involved.

The symbol of Otpor's resistance against the Milosevic regime, it appeared in badges, stickers, posters, banners, graffiti, t-shirts and as a tattoo on my colleague, James' arm!

Posted in: Ghana, Global injustice, Serbia, Serbia-Ghana, Teams, Who am I cheering for?

Kate is WDM's press officer and is currently trying to get journalists to love whoshouldicheerfor.com as much as we do! This project has made her realise that her penchant for revolution and the use of tractors in demonstrations is in her genes. She is cheering for Serbia.

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

Team-by-team: Groups C & D

Group C

Algeria

An overdue return for the Desert Foxes, whose best-known World Cup moment was as victims of the notorious Austro-West German stitch-up in 1982. Armchair psychologists looking for wider significance in this campaign see them as the Arab world’s only representatives – and drawn against the USA. But Algerians consider their greatest rivalries with neighbours Egypt (whom they defeated in a spectacularly ill-tempered qualifying showdown) and former colonial masters France (who are potential quarter-final opponents). We rank Algeria 22nd, a distant fifth of six African countries, not least due to high military spending.

England

The Three Lions have perhaps their weakest squad since failing to qualify in 1994. But in that time they have had nine managers and Fabio Capello has won more honours than the rest put together. Much depends on the pragmatic Italian, who is on record as an admirer of Francisco Franco and Silvio Berlusconi. Certainly he will envy their media control if his men bow out early and the tabloids go rabid. England is as low as 27th in our rankings thanks to high carbon emissions, military spending and inequality.

Slovenia

Slovenia are at their third major tournament in eight years, a remarkable achievement for a nation of just two million, after defeating Russia in a David-and-Goliath play-off. Among the most prosperous and stable of all post-Soviet states, there is marked inequality across such a small country from the wealthy north west, which borders Austria and Italy, to the poor south east, next to Croatia and Hungary.

USA

One of only seven teams at their sixth successive World Cup, the US are overdue to make serious progress. To this end they may benefit from familiarity with altitude after regular trips to Mexico and last year’s Confederations Cup. The Obama effect may be enough for the Nobel committee but it has no effect on the Who Should I Cheer For? rankings, which rates the US as the least supportable of all 32 nations due to their combination of wealth, high military spending and rampant inequality.

Group D

Australia

A second successive World Cup appearance for the Socceroos but without the guidance of former coach Guus Hiddink they are expected to struggle. Australia’s famously sport-centric culture extends to immigration policy, where the citizenship test asks ‘Who was the greatest cricketer of the 1930s?’. In 2008 the new left-centre government reasoned that the question was biased against many new immigrants and moved to scratch it – only for a populist outcry to force a climb-down. (It’s Donald Bradman, FYI)

Ghana

‘They are good, these Africans!’ hollered a startled John Motson in 2006 as the Black Stars progressed at the expense of more fancied Czech Republic and USA. Runners-up in January’s Africa Cup of Nations, they look likely to invite more European condescension although the magnificent Michael Essien has withdrawn injured. Ghana tops our rankings as the most supportable team. It’s a poor country with a lot of hunger, and across all factors only scores badly on maternal mortality.

Germany

‘This is not a great German team’ is the pundit’s biennial refrain and that has probably been true back to their last World Cup win at Italia ’90 (or, to a certain anti-German mindset, their first in 1954). But in the noughties ungreat German teams have managed two major finals and a further semi-. That other ubiquitous cliché – ‘Never write off the Germans’ – is probably more apt even without their captain Michael Ballack. Our rankings place them 9th overall, reflecting their commitment to equality both in income distribution and opportunities for women.

Serbia

Serbia qualified comfortably ahead of France under veteran coach Raddy Antic, formerly of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Luton Town. This is their first World Cup as an independent nation after regular appearances within Yugoslavia before 2002 and as Serbia & Montenegro in 2006. Battling high unemployment in the wake of the global recession and overcoming turbulent internal politics, 6% of the Serbian population is chronically hungry despite its upper-middle global income and advantageous trading position between Europe and Russia.

Posted in: Algeria, Australia, England, Germany, Ghana, Group previews, Serbia, Slovenia, USA

Peter May is the author of The Rebel Tours: Cricket's Crisis of Conscience, the 2009 book that achieved critical praise and commercial indifference.

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

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