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Slovenia v England: Compensation for past wrongs

Following the inability of their ‘star’ players to practise the simple skill of passing and controlling a football on Friday, I said I would not support England anymore. But like any good addict I will be back on Wednesday for another excruciating performance from England on the world stage.

One measure England do beat Slovenia on is the amount of aid they give. In 1970 the countries of western Europe all agreed to spend 70p out of every £100 they earn on overseas aid. England has never done this; it is currently spending 47p. But according to official figures, Slovenia isn’t giving any.

Slovenia isn’t as rich as England, but it is still well-off in world terms. The eastern European country has an income higher than Portugal.

‘Aid’ is a term which can mean lots of different things. During the Cold War, the western and eastern blocks used ‘aid’ to advance their military aims across the world. The people of Slovenia, then part of Yugoslavia, stood aside from this competition. Whilst Yugoslavia was communist, it was one of the founder-members of the neutral non-aligned movement.

‘Aid’ is also used to win valuable contracts for a country’s companies. In 1994, the World Development Movement won a landmark court case when it proved that UK ‘aid’ for building the Pergau dam in Malaysia had been given to win contracts for British companies, including arms deals, rather than for tackling poverty.

Throughout the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s ‘aid’ has been used to force developing countries to deregulate their economies for the benefit of multinational companies. The Conservative party prior to the 2010 UK election said that aid should be used to privatise public services in developing countries.

Despite all the problems of ‘aid’ the whoshouldicheerfor rankings still list it as positive. Aid seems like it should be a good thing; those with a lot give a little bit away to those with a lot less.

An alternative view of aid is to see it as compensation for past wrongs. From its central role in the transatlantic slave trade to its central and continuing role in causing the climate to change in catastrophic ways, England has a lot to compensate for. Slovenia would have a reasonable case that its compensation payments should be a lot less.

Central to compensation is not to keep on committing wrong. Any benefit from UK aid dwarfs in comparison to the way our unregulated banks increase hunger and the effects of our climate changing greenhouse gas emissions.

This is why I am proud to be part of the World Development Movement which campaigns to abolish the wrongs of the UK which cause poverty, rather than just giving the sticking plaster of aid.

Posted in: England, England-Slovenia, Slovenia

Tim Jones is policy officer at the World Development Movement. He became hooked on football as a boy when England got to the World Cup semi-final in 1990, and Leeds United won the league in 1992. All else has been disappointment.

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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