A 30-year study released today by the World Health Organization links soccer to poverty, famine and disease. the results of the study show that the game is very popular in countries with poor and unhealthy populaces and thrives in third-world countries.
"The results of this study are shocking, but the culprit was pretty much staring us in the face for all these years," said Dr. Gro Brundtland, director-general of the WHO. "Soccer is the clear cause of many of the world's ills."
The study showed that countries where soccer is the dominant sport almost exclusively have the greatest economic and public health problems.
"The only thing that has saved much of Europe is that there are other popular sports there that dilute the effect of soccer," said Brundtland. "But in many African countries, the destructive effects of soccer have been able to spread unchecked."
The WHO's presentation of its study results was accompanied by a slide show, including pictures of starving children clutching soccer balls on their deathbeds, and groups of malnourished children playing games with balls made out of rags and string.
The organization's report repeatedly focuses on soccer's most unique characteristic that competitors may not use their hands, relegating the ball to the ground at all times as the primary cause of disease in third-world nations. Soccer balls roll through dirt, standing water and animal feces. When picked up by the goalie or the owner of the ball after the match, that person becomes a carrier of disease and anything they touch is infected.
"It is horribly sad what the game has done to these people," said Brundtland. "They have put soccer above everything else, and it has destroyed their lives."
Brundtland asked the United Nations to take immediate action to free third-world countries from soccer's grasp.
"The World Health Organization's findings are very troubling," said UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon. "The UN will begin working immediately with worldwide aid organizations to give these poor nations much-needed basketballs, American footballs and baseball equipment. In the most dire situations, we will even distribute lacrosse sticks."