more on: rules

Rules: Running vs. Football

+ Kari Kohn

World Bank economist Wolfgang Fengler offers some interesting hypotheses as to why Kenya excels at running but struggles with football (soccer). Rules—ideas about how to structure interactions among people—appear to be essential to several of his assertions, particularly the notion that national success in football requires the administration of a more complex system of rules than national success in running. Fengler suggests that countries with good governance also tend to be capable of the sort of complex coordination necessary for success on the pitch.

Team sports demand a more complex organization and the governance environment matters more…For instance, coaches may have some discretion and influence over the composition of running teams, but they just can’t impose a blatantly slow runner. In football, we’ve seen players go as far as paying the coach or federation to be allowed on the team. You can imagine what this does to team morale and performance. In addition, successful football nations invest heavily in intensive coaching for their young players, relying on football associations to effectively coordinate the training of several thousand coaches. This sort of complex coordination requires good governance. It is no coincidence that Africa’s best performing team at the last World Cup was Ghana, a country which has some of the highest scores in Africa on world governance indicators.

Fengler ends on a positive note for Kenyan football fans—noting that, if sustained, recent improvements in Kenya’s governance indicators may help its footballers to one day match the competitiveness of its runners.

Tile image by . SantiMB .

Back to top
see comments ()