Batuhan: The greatest show on Earth

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By Allan S. B. Batuhan

Foreign Exchange

Friday, May 23, 2014

IT is 19 days to go to what is going to be, quite possibly, the greatest show on earth. In the words of the theme song to this extravagant spectacle, Jennifer Lopez belts:

“One night watch the world unite / Two sides, one fight and a million eyes / Full heart’s gonna work so hard / Shoot, fall, the stars / Fists raised up towards the sky / Tonight watch the world unite, world unite, world unite / For the fight, fight, fight, one night / Watch the world unite / Two sides, one fight and a million eyes.”

Yes, the FIFA World Cup is the greatest show on earth, far bigger than the Olympics, the Super Bowl, the World Series and the NBA World Championships combined. It is an event that is, quite literally, watched by people from one end of the earth to another. From the bottom of the world in South Africa, to the roof of the earth in Scandinavia, the globe is soccer-mad. From the well-groomed pitches of Western Europe, to the ramshackle playing fields of Southeast Asia, zealous fans follow their idols in worship, as they strut their stuff in front of a mesmerized world.


Names like Steven Gerrard, Neymar, Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are probably more well-known to more people, than the likes of Barack Obama, David Cameron and Ban Ki-Moon. Such is the popularity of football, and therefore such is the scale
and magnificence of the World Cup.

In the business world, we talk a lot about value creation, and how we believe goods and services appreciate in worth over time. We study interest rates, foreign exchange and inflationary trends. We punt, we hedge, and we diversify. But there is not a theory of investment in the world that quite explains the appreciation of football’s prized assets – its bright and shining stars.

In 2008, Cristiano Ronaldo was a Manchester United player, who starred for his country Portugal, in that year’s World Cup. The following year, he left Manchester United for Real Madrid, in what was then the highest transfer fee in the sport’s history – a staggering 80 Million pounds. This year, world cup or no world cup, Gareth Bale moved from England’s Tottenham Hotspurs, again to Real Madrid; for an even more mind-boggling sum of 85.3 million pounds.

So what do we expect from this year’s edition?

Well, a lot of value creation again, to be sure. And Real Madrid is once more being touted as the likely raider.

Liverpool’s Luis Suarez, the English Football Players’ Association Player of the Year, and the Barclays Premier League’s top scorer in the 2013-2014 season with 31 goals; is being speculated as the number one target. The price: a stratospheric 90 million pounds minimum. Now that is some acquisition.

And yet, exciting as all these sums sound, it is the effect on the rest of us that the tournament is most famous for. Rebel groups and warring armies have been known to lay down a truce once the ball is kicked. And while hostilities may yet resume once the final whistle is blown, at least for a little more than a month, it will be able to provide much-needed peace.

For while the Syrian rebels, the Boko Haram guerrillas and the Thai coup leaders may have different agenda to pursue, in their hearts they share a common passion—their love for the beautiful game.

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Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 24, 2014.


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