As football fever sweeps the globe, the EU is hoping to achieve some of its own goals. When the European Commission (“the Commission) met the Commission of the African Union last week , just before the start of the World Cup, President Barroso shared his hopes for an entertaining tournament with “free flowing football and fair play”. He also expressed his belief that “football is more than a sport: it is a universal language that helps people from different cultures and backgrounds to unite”.
The Lisbon Treaty gives the Commission a soft mandate to promote sports and so Androulla Vassiliou, the commissioner for culture and sports, stepped up to the plate and sent the president of FIFA a letter describing her hopes for the tournament. Her aim is to celebrate “not only sporting excellence, but also the common values that unite us: fair play, respect and solidarity” and that “violence, racism and discrimination have no place in football and no place in today’s world”.
The Commission and FIFA have been in close collaboration since 2006, when they signed a Memorandum of Understanding to promote football as a factor for development in Africa, in the Caribbean and in the Pacific countries. The scope of the memorandum is broad, including areas like development cooperation, humanitarian aid, racism, post-conflict reconstruction, nation-building, health and education. The Commission grants 10 million euros in funding to a project in South Africa to empower disadvantaged youth through culture, arts and sports activities.
There are also more playful activities going on at the Commission. Two football fans working at the EU executive have put together their EU dream team. They looked at the 11 EU teams which qualified for the tournament and picked out an ideal EU lineup.
It hasn’t all been fun and games, though. Controversy has been stirring in various member states. France’s junior sports minister cried foul because the French footballers are staying at a luxury hotel when “Jacques Six-Pack”, has to tighten his belt. In Spain, a Catalán political party criticized the 14 million euro bonus promised to Spanish players if they win the trophy because it is equivalent to the combined average annual income of 1,000 Spaniards. FIFA or the national governments should blow the vuvuzela on these out-of-bounds expenditures.