World Cup players: clubs vs. countries

The World Cup is now safely behind us, and life is returning to normal. For most Americans, the World Cup is a non-event, but more and more people here at least realize something important and globally disruptive is going on. You get some sense of this when you look at graphics about things like the insane texting volume that goes on during big games. Here is the US vs. England match. See if you can guess when the goals were scored.

There are plenty of genuine soccer fans here too, and you might be surprised to know that 19 US soccer players now play for leagues in other countries (a.k.a. “Hitting the Big Time”). I know this because of a great interactive graphic I came across on the Flowing Data blog. It depicts the relationship between where players are from (citizenship) and where they work (club team). The original graphic is from Brazil. Go there to try out the interactive aspects.

I wasn’t surprised to see that England has the most voracious appetite for foreign talent (117), but I was very surprised to see that, conversely, not a single Englishman plays for a non-English club. The same cannot be said of North Korea: three North Koreans plays for clubs other countries. Can that really be true? Brazil exports most of their fabulous talent to richer markets. Finally, in keeping with the notion of ever-increasing globalization, it really is impressive how much this intermingling of nationalities has increased since 1994. At that time, the majority of players worked in their country of origin.

Which reminds me: when I see players yelling at their opponents on the field, or arguing with the referee, I always wonder, what language are they speaking? Do they have any idea what the other guy is saying? But on reflection I recall that, as with most sports, it’s not hard to guess.