Is there more to life than football? “Transformar o Jogo Bonito em Vida Bonita”

BLIToday’s post is from Anthony Gooch, Director of the OECD Public affairs and Communications Directorate and joint project leader of the OECD Better Life Initiaitive

In a phrase that has become immortal in football mythology, one of the greatest managers in the history of “O Jogo Bonito” (the beautiful game as Brazilians call it), a Scotsman named Bill Shankly of Liverpool FC, encapsulated its importance for football obsessives the world over: “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death… I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.

Few of us would go that far, but hundreds of millions of people will join in the four-yearly global communion about to begin in Brazil, the spiritual home of “O Jogo Bonito” through whatever means of communication at their disposal all the way through to its climax in mid-July. Football, and sport generally, is hugely important to people’s lives from all sorts of perspectives: whether it is those who derive enjoyment through playing or watching, those who are involved in the enormous economic activity that it generates, or society at large that is heavily influenced by it from the way some people dress to how they speak, the music they listen to and the role models they follow.

As the world prepares for its 4-yearly bout of Football Fever, it’s important to spare a thought for what happens when the final whistle blows, the game is over and the crowds go home. At the OECD, we’ve looked at “the day after”, the legacy of organising big sporting events. In 2010, before the London 2012 Olympics, we produced a review of the possible Olympic and Paralympic legacy for London, arguing that big events can make a positive, lasting contribution to their hosts if they build on strengths that are already there, you don’t have to start from scratch. In London’s case, we said that “it will be important to tell the story of east London’s inhabitants very much better. The area has a rich history as a centre for trade, logistics, and production, for hardworking people of exceptional character, for immigration and asylum… and for making lives worth living in ways they would not have been lived otherwise.”

That last part about making lives worth living in ways they would not have been lived otherwise is the core of the argument. Our Brazilian partner, the Fundacao Getulio Vargas have undertaken analysis on the impact of Football for the Socio-Economic Development of Brazil (FGV Projetos Cadernos 6/13 no22). Like the Olympics, staging the World Cup is expensive. Brazil will have spent BRL26 billion ($11 billion) on football stadiums and airport, port and urban mobility upgrades for the competition. But this accounts for only 0.7% of overall planned investment in Brazil in 2010-14 and most of the impact has already been felt, while for host cities and states, official estimates of World Cup-related spending range from just 0.24% to 12.75% of expected 2014 fiscal revenues.

Even so, 11 billion dollars is a huge sum of money, and millions of Brazilians who have emerged from poverty in recent years may think excessive to spend that much on football. With a growing lower middle class that pays taxes, demand for better education, health and transport is only going to increase. According to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, over 60% of the population think hosting the event is a bad thing for the country because it takes money away from schools, health care and other public services. Only 34% think the World Cup will create more jobs and help the economy. A similar number (35%) thought hosting the competition would help Brazil’s international image, compared with 39% who said it will hurt and 23% thought it wouldn’t make any difference one way or the other.

The question of what makes life worth living, how best to balance competing interests, capacities and objectives is one that governments are trying to answer all the time. The OECD’s stated aim is to help develop “Better Policies for Better Lives”, but we know that, like football fans debating the greatest team of all time (Brazil 1970? Real Madrid 1960?) there’s no definitive answer. Therefore it is important to give citizens, voters and taxpayers the information and the voice to empower them to communicate to policymakers and shapers all over the world, their opinion about what counts for them.

To do so, we are launching O Indice para Uma Vida Melhor, the Portuguese version of the OECD’s Better Life Index on 9 June with football legend Pelé, Brazil’s Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo and our partners for O Indice the Fundacao Getulio Vargas. The Index is an online instrument that enables citizens the world over to create their Index of well-being and quality of life according to what is important to them. Users of the Index are asked to attribute relative importance to 11 topics that contribute to well-being to generate their Index. These include not only material aspects such as income, jobs and housing, but also quality of life aspects such as sense of community, education, environment, governance, health, safety, work-life balance and, last but not least, life satisfaction or a sense of happiness. Currently the Index captures data for 36 countries worldwide and this number is set to increase over time. An overall description of the quality of life in each of these countries is also provided, including how it performs across each of the 11 well-being dimensions. Freely-accessible OECD reports and other sources of information are provided to empower users.

Since the launch of the first English version, more than 4 million people in 184 countries have used the OECD Better Life Index, which has been referenced internationally as a model for presenting material on measuring well-being. Portuguese will be the sixth language version enabling over 250 million more people to access the Index in their mother tongue as is currently the case for English, Spanish, French, German and Russian speakers.

A completely new feature we are also unveiling now reveals for the first time what more than 65,000 people around the world believe to be the most important factors for quality of life based on the Indexes they have completed and shared with us in the last 3 years. This living database (, viewable via an interactive map, allows people everywhere to see what matters to users of the Index. For citizens, the Index provides a way to be better informed about policies that that impact their well-being whilst for policymakers and shapers it begins to give a sense of what is most important to the people they work for which should help them improve their performance amd increase citizens’ satisfaction and engagement.

We have chosen the World Cup in Brazil as the ideal moment to launch an online global multilingual campaign “Is there #more2life than football?” to raise awareness not just in Brazil but across the globe on what really matters to people in their daily lives, what constitutes well-being and quality of life in the 21st Century.

For Matias Deodato de Castro e Melo, a character in one of the great Brazilian writer Machado de Assis’ Historias sem data (Stories without a date), “a felicidade é um par de botas” – happiness is a pair of boots. Whatever your team, we hope their boots will bring you some happiness over the coming weeks. Whatever happens to those teams and fans, whether they win or lose, after “O Jogo Bonito” it’s time to build “A Vida Bonita.

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