Cultural understanding is considered by many to be a crucial part of conducting business on an international scale, which many students do as they pursue internships and study abroad.
A session was held on campus to explore the globalization of business in the last century from the perspective of one of the most popular sports in the world: soccer.
The “Seeing the World through Soccer” event was presented by Global Atlanta in conjunction with the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs. It focused specifically on the history of the sport in Brazil, kicking off a series of events that will introduce local people who are currently engaged or interested in conducting business overseas to international leagues.
Ambassador Hermano Ribeiro, the Brazilian Consul General to Atlanta and the Southeast, spoke at the event and shared his first-hand perspective of the importance of soccer in his homeland.
With the World Cup taking place in Brazil next year, the country will be receiving a good deal of attention on the world stage in the both the realms of soccer and business. It’s now easier than ever before to stay connected with the world of soccer, allowing people to maintain different levels of interest and reflecting the way that soccer has become an important part of personal and national identity.
“We’re in a new digital era of globalization, which means that you can be a fan of soccer clubs and teams anywhere in the world and follow all of their games because every match is streamed online to be accessed with ease from your computer. That sense of globalization has also led to a cosmopolitanism of soccer where you can be a fan but not quite as fanatical,” said Dr. Kirk Bowman, associate professor in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs.
Though the event was aimed at people who are interested in doing business in Latin America, where soccer plays a particularly important social and cultural role, it was also targeted more broadly at soccer enthusiasts—members of Atlanta’s active soccer community and anyone who wanted to connect with fellow fans.
During his introduction to the session, Dr. Bowman emphasized that adopting a team can create a shared kinship among complete strangers. Because soccer is a global sport, fans are connected both by their mutual enthusiasm for their favorite teams and by the love of soccer in general on a global scale.
He also highlighted the idea that having even a general understanding of soccer can give people who travel to Latin America and countries around the world a means of integrating into a foreign society. This can involve immediately connecting with others on a deeper level, making friends and opening doors to networking in a way that is unique to the fans of this sport.
The Brazilian Consul General spoke in his keynote speech about the significance of the World Cup in Brazil and the way that worldviews come together in the competitive arenas of business and soccer.
Ribeiro grew up playing soccer in Rio de Janeiro, where he first worked to become a professional player. He went on to join the Rio de Janeiro State University team and, when serving in Brazil’s foreign service, played on embassy teams around the world.
As he traced the landmark events that involved the country’s participation in soccer on a global scale throughout the years, he discussed the revolutionizing effect that the sport had on the players and the nation as a whole.
The expertise that they acquired as soccer began to transform them on the field and in society harkens to the same skill set that is required to develop successful business acumen in the modern world.
“Much of soccer is about improvisation…which means doing the unexpected, changing your tactics, being creative and translating that innate creativity into innovation. These attributes also launched [Brazil] as a nation to become an important country politically,” the Consul General said.
The “Seeing the World through Soccer” series was created to provide a networking environment for people with business interests, for soccer enthusiasts and those who represent a combination of the two. The global sport brings people together and helps them to make strong connections everywhere.
“You can find big groups of Liverpool FC fans in China or even Barcelona fans in Madagascar—and if you follow the big teams like Manchester United, simply knowing those teams and knowing soccer can give you a [gateway] if you go to any country in the world. Knowing soccer can help you do business anywhere, because globalization has given us broader access to these clubs and their fans’ cultural identities,” Dr. Bowman said.