The Situationist

Posts Tagged ‘World Cup’

Why Goalies Often Dive To The Right

Posted by The Situationist Staff on July 31, 2011

APS Press Release:

In the quarterfinal of the 2006 Soccer World Cup, England and Portugal played for 90 tense minutes and 30 minutes extra time without a single goal being scored. This led them to a penalty shoot-out; as one by one, players went against the opposing team’s goalie. After four shots by each team, Portugal was ahead 2-1. Portugal’s star Cristiano Ronaldo shot to English goalkeeper Paul Robinson’s left, but Robinson dove right. Portugal scored, won the game, and went on to the semifinal.

When Robinson dove to his right, he was making a common choice for our right-oriented brains, according to a new study which will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. The researchers found that, in World Cup penalty shoot-outs, goalies tend to dive right when their team is behind and they have a chance to save the game for their country.

Many studies have found that people and animals that want something tend to go to the right. When dogs see their owners, they wag their tails more to the right; toads strike to the right when they’re going for prey; and humans are more likely to turn their heads to the right to smooch their sweeties.

Marieke Roskes, who cowrote the study with Daniel Sligte, Shaul Shalvi, and Carsten K.W. De Dreu of the University of Amsterdam, thought of looking at this phenomenon in another arena: the soccer field. “I was sitting with my coauthors in the bar and we were talking about soccer and about research, which we often do on Friday afternoons,” she says. They thought of looking at how goalkeepers move in penalty shootouts, when they’re going after a big win.

In a penalty shootout, there are very different assumptions for the shooter and the goalkeeper. it’s extremely difficult for the keeper to defend the whole goal against one man, so nobody really blames him if the ball goes in. But he can win glory if he saves a ball. “The goalkeeper is the only person who can regain the chance to win the game,” Roskes says. “So he has the chance to become the big hero.”

The researchers examined every penalty shoot-out in every World Cup from 1982 to 2010 and found that most of the time, goalies are equally like to dive right and left. But when the goalkeeper’s team was behind, he was more likely to dive right than left. In an experiment, the team found that people who are told to divide a line in half tend to aim a bit to the right when they are both thinking about a positive goal and under time pressure—just like the goalies.

“It’s quite impressive. Even in this really important situation, people are still influenced by biological factors,” Roskes says. She says this suggests that in many situations where people are focused on a positive outcome and have to react quickly, they may go right. And, of course, there’s another goal for her and her collaborators: “We’re very hopeful this will help the Dutch national team to win the next World Cup.”

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For more information about this study, please contact: Marieke Roskes at

Related Situationist posts:

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The Situation of Choosing a World Cup Site

Posted by Adam Benforado on December 5, 2010

Qatar has been awarded the 2022 World Cup.

Given the mysteries of FIFA (soccer’s world governing body) decision making, I was less sure than most that the United States had this one “in the bag,” despite what the New York Times described as “an apparently superior technical bid.”

Still, I was surprised that the pea-sized (okay, Connecticut-sized) Middle Eastern nation got the nod . . . and more than a little disappointed given the human rights record of the country.

FIFA was apparently drawn to the idea of the transformative power of football and the notion that a World Cup in Qatar could alter opinions of the Arab world.  According to the head of Qatar’s winning bid, Sheik Mohammed bin Hamad al-Thani, the 2022 World Cup will “present a new image of the Middle East — far away from clichés and closer to reality.”

But the present reality of Qatar is not so pretty.

As Amnesty International reported back in June of this year, Qatari laws “prescribe imprisonment for criticizing the Emir, for writing about the armed forces without permission and for offending divine religions, as well as . . . punish[ing] blasphemy and consensual ‘illicit sexual relations.'”  In another report, it was noted that “discrimination against women [in the country] remains rife” and “[d]eprivation of nationality has been used by the government against a number of individuals and tribes to target political opponents.”  According to the UN Refugee Agency, homosexual behavior is illegal in Qatar and, as recently as 1996, an American citizen was sentenced to six months imprisonment and 90 lashes for homosexual activity.

I am hopeful that winning the bid for the World Cup could prompt Qatar to think seriously about its commitment to human rights.  There are twelve long years to improve the treatment of women, gays, dissidents, migrant workers, and others before the tournament begins.  A lot of progress could be made.

But I remain skeptical.  It appears that most of the Qatari 2022 proposal is focused on building glittering new soccer stadiums and ways to get to them (see the stunning video below).  FIFA officials were clearly wowed by the $4 billion dollars allocated for soccer arenas and $50 billion allocated for transportation and other infrastructure improvements.  What they should have been pushing for, however, was a commitment to fixing the abuses and injustice built into the Qatari legal and social systems.

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Can Sports Save the World? (& what must be done beforehand) – Part I & Part 2,” and “Manufactured Hype: Can ESPN’s Agenda-Setting Behaviour save Major League Soccer?.”

Posted in Politics, Public Relations, Situationist Sports, System Legitimacy | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Can Sports Save the World? (& what must be done beforehand) – Part II

Posted by Jason Chung on August 15, 2008

In Part I of this multi-part Situationist series, I assessed the oft-repeated assertion that sport can help reconcile groups after a period of intra-state or inter-state conflict. In this section, I will discuss the scholarly literature in favor of this assertion.

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Current Theoretical Background on Sport Participation as Reconciliation

The idea of employing sport as a means of addressing group conflict has been gaining traction in academia. U.K. education scholar Richard Bailey of Roehampton University, for instance, points to the fact that student participation in sports may mitigate the risk of student social alienation and enhance a sense of social inclusion (Bailey, 2002).

Sociologist Fred Coalter of the University of Stirling similarly observes that participation in sport has increasingly been used by the state to promote societal integration and social cohesion. As Coalter observes, the British government has poured considerable resources into related sport participation programs, including grassroots campaigns and sporting facilities used by the British public (pp. 538-539).

University of Amsterdam communications researchers Floris Muller, Liesbiet van Zoonen and Laurens de Roode argue that those views are taking root in academic, civic, and political circles: “Countless soccer leagues, matches and tournaments have been organized around the world with the explicit goal of challenging violence, racism, social exclusion and even environmental issues.” (2008)

Such sporting initiatives can be found in seemingly dissimilar countries, such as the Netherlands and Ghana.  In the Netherlands, the City of Amsterdam organizes the WK Amsterdam in which immigrants from various ethnic communities compete in a mock “World Cup.” This exercise is intended to promote inter-group unity and communication in Amsterdam.  Likewise, in Ghana, the non-governmental organization Right to Play is working with Ghanaian officials in order to improve the “[p]romotion of healthy development of communities through a coaching-based approach . . . ” (Right to Play, 2001).

The Netherlands and Ghana are obviously two very different countries. A quick look at the Human Development Index shows that the Netherlands is considered a top 10 highly developed country while Ghana lags well behind at #139. The fact that both use sport and sport participation suggests that sport participation can be an effective tool of local and intra-state social development and bridge-building.

UN for Sport and Development and Peace

UN for Sport and Development and Peace

“Sports as panacea” can also be detected in an international context. In a recent paper, Ingrid Beutler of the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace states that the international community draws lessons from humanitarians working at local and intra-state levels. Beutler posits that sports have the capacity to increase inter-state interaction.  She evidences the point by noting that the United Nations has established the post of Special-Adviser to the Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace in Geneva and New York. The Special-Adviser is entrusted with fostering international cooperation through sport (Beutler, 2008, 11:4).

This model has also gained traction in the United States. A perusal of the U.S. Department of State’s website uncovers the SportsUnited program. The program is designed to aid youth, ages 7-17, in discovering how success in athletics can be translated into the development of life and educational skills. The program provides Americans the opportunity to learn about foreign cultures and the challenges facing young people from overseas (U.S. Department of State, 2006).

Modern scholarship appears to recognize the value of sport and sport participation in creating peaceable inter-group relations both within and between states. In addition, many governments have accepted the theoretical benefits offered by sport and resorted to using sport and sport participation as a method to build positive inter-group relations. Thus, from an educational, sociological, political science and communications perspective, sport as a tool for inter-group reconciliation seems to be alive and well.

Part III of this series will pick up there.

Works Cited

Bailey, R. (2002, August 31). Challenging Disaffection: Best Practice & the Management of Disaffection. Retrieved May 18, 2008, from ESRC Society Today.

Bailey, R. (2005). Evaluating the relationship between physical education, sport and social inclusion. Educational Review, Volume 57, Number 1 , 71-90.

Beutler, I. (2008, 11:4). Sport serving development and peace: Achieving the goals of the United Nations through sport. Sport in Society , 359-269.

Coalter, F. (2007). Sports Clubs, Social Capital and Social Regeneration: ‘ill-defined interventions with hard to follow outcomes’? Sport in Society, 10:4 , 537 — 559.

Muller, F., van Zoonen, L., & de Roode, L. (2008). The social integrative powers of sport: An analysis of the imagined and real effects of sport events for multicultural integration. Sociology of Sport Journal , (Forthcoming).

Right to Play. (2001, November). Ghana SportHealth. Retrieved April 23, 2008, from Right to Play.

U.S. Department of State. (2006, November 9). Remarks With Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Karen Hughes and Public Diplomacy Envoy Michelle Kwan. Retrieved March 6, 2008, from U.S. Department of State.

Posted in Politics, Public Policy, Situationist Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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