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How do the victories of soccer squads help create a common identity and reduce violence?

How do the victories of soccer squads help create a common identity and reduce violence?

A study involving Ruben Durante, professor with the Department of Economics and Business, analyses the impact of the victories of the national teams in sub-Saharan Africa and concludes that they help to reduce conflicts in the area and increase trust in people of other ethnic groups.

23.07.2018

Many countries in the world have strong ethnic, linguistic or regional divisions that may give rise to tension and even violence, with harmful consequences on the economy and development. Overcoming these gaps has for a long time been a crucial challenge in the consolidation of modern states.

This has led many countries to adopt the so-called policies of “nation-building”, aimed at forging a common identity, making the citizens see themselves as part of a nation as a whole, and of their specific group at the same time, and that they may share common interests and goals.

A survey entitled “Building Nations through Shared Experiences: Evidence from African Football”, published in May 2018 in the Working Paper Series of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), shows that the victories of the national teams in sub-Saharan Africa not only affect people’s attitudes, but can also reduce violence.

Ruben Durante, who in addition to the Department of Economics and Business at UPF is also linked to the Barcelona GSE and the Sciences Po University in Paris, is one of the authors of this paper, together with professors Emilio Depetris-Chauvin (Pontifical Catholic University of Chile) and Filipe R.  Campante (Harvard Kennedy School).

“Policies that encourage emotional involvement can be highly effective at forging a shared feeling of unity”

The researchers analysed the impact of the victories of the national football teams in sub-Saharan Africa and reached the conclusion that, even though ethnic divisions are deeply rooted in this area, shared experiences can help overcome them and have a tangible effect on violence.

“Our results suggest a number of important implications for politics, which go far beyond the field of sport. Policies that promote emotional participation, which could, for example, be triggered by religious or civic events, can be highly effective at forging a shared feeling of unity and establishing the foundations for more durable cultural and political changes”, say the authors.

Different results before and after the victories of national teams

The researchers collected data from a set of individual surveys taken from the Afrobarometer, as well as official information on the football matches of the African Cup of Nations (ACN) and the FIFA World Cup tournaments played between 2000 and 2015.

By combining these data, the results showed that the individuals interviewed in the days following the victory of their country’s national team identified less with their ethnic group (20% less) and more with the country in general, and they were more likely to trust people of other ethnicities than people interviewed before the matches.

The countries that classified suffered fewer conflicts during the six months following the sports event than the countries that did not classify

“These effects seem to be driven by a real increase in national pride rather than general post-victory euphoria. In fact, we saw how the victories of the national team had no significant impact on other aspects such as support for the government of the country or optimism about current and future economic conditions”, state the researchers.

The authors found that the countries that classified suffered fewer conflicts during the six months following the sports event than the countries that did not classify The research indicates, therefore, that sharing experiences can be most useful as an effective tool to reaffirm national identity and can have tangible effects on violence.

Reference work: Emilio Depetris-Chauvin, Ruben Durante, Filipe R. Campante. “Building Nations Through Shared Experiences: Evidence from African Football” (May 2018). NBER Working Paper no. 24666, (DOI): 10.3386/w24666

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