So, can a soccer player's on-field behavior be linked to civil unrest at home? Three professor's think there may be and the results of their study has been accepted for publication in an upcoming edition of the academic journal Economics and Politics.
“We find that the extent of a player’s home country’s recent record of civil conflict is strongly associated with violent behavior on the soccer pitch, as captured in yellow and red cards, but not other dimensions of play, such as goals scored … We believe that our results are strongly suggestive of a causal link between exposure to civil conflict and subsequent violent behavior far away from the original conflict setting.”
Sebastian Saiegh, an assistant professor of political science at UC San Diego and his two partners collected yellow and red card statistics from six European leagues from the 2004-2005 and 2005-2006 seasons involving more than 5,000 players from 70 countries. They took this data and bounced it against internationally accepted data for civil wars and other similar armed conflict from 1980-2005.
What they found was a noticeable uptick in yellow and red cards in players from countries with a history of strife and civil wars.
“With the direct exposure of growing up in civil war, certain patterns of behavior seem to be acceptable,” Saiegh says. “For somebody who grew up somewhere else, it’s unacceptable. But for some people, maybe trying to chase someone from behind and tackling them (in a soccer game) doesn’t seem to be that bad because, well, (they’ve) seen worse.”
With that being said expect a spirited but sporting match today in the first semi-final as Uruguay takes on Netherlands. The opposite semi-final match will be tomorrow when Spain plays Germany.