Economics & Football (On professional amateurship)
Football has made the planet crazy, becoming today a veritable secular religion of the globalized world; or, metaphorizing it economically, a “medium of exchange” in the settlement of acts equally qualified as being of the communion type or of the competition type between us: it is both cooperative fun and quasi-blunt dispute. Then the football team is also an organization that optimizes itself by chasing the ball. It is part of a larger structure (club), in which other characters are inserted, usually opportunely, that, although they do not directly run the balloon, lubricate it logistically. These machines then come together to compete for customers, money and, ultimately, for happiness.
Economists could not remain uninvited in this industry: micro, it remains a spider’s web of enterprises; macro, it needs the investigation and interpretations of the game/games and assorted laws/legislation. The Market for Ideas maintains its interest in this phenomenon which keeps on verifying the words of Pope John Paul II: “Amongst all unimportant subjects, football is by far the most important”. Please find bellow, at a definitely smaller scale, a brief interview with the founder of this magazine in his dual position as Professor of Economics and profane in sports affairs, in the ambient of the Bucharest University of Economic Studies’ “Economist’s League” football competition.
“Positive-Sum (Football) Game Theory”
We are delighted to have Octavian-Dragomir Jora with us today for the Pepsi (N.B.: the sponsor of the championship) Interview. He was named the “man of the match” in the REI - BT game (N.B.: the Romanian acronyms of the Faculty of International Business and Economics – REI – and Business and Tourism – BT – respectively): 9 - 3. When questioned earlier about his position on the field, Professor Jora replied enigmatically: “I play a sort of ‘false 10’ (the number on my back has more to do with school grades than with the devilish talent of D10S Maradona), combined with the role of a ‘geopolitical pivot’ (better explained by Geosciences Magister Silviu Neguț and his apprentice wizard, Marius Cristian Neacșu) and that of a ‘universal constant’ (I’ve been on the team since the creation of the world... well, the league, that is, and I haven’t physically tired myself out as much as I have mentally exhausted my teammates – but we’ll cut that out in the editing ☺).”
Liga Economistului (The Economist’s League): Good day, Professor Jora! We are pleased to have you here today for the Pepsi Interview. We invite you to cool down with a few questions.
Octavian-Dragomir Jora: Thank you, I’m very happy to be here with you. Yes, after a victory, I do believe so...
LE: Today, you were the “man of the match”. For the fans, it was a spectacular game; how did you experience the confrontation on the field?
ODJ: I’m sure the fans are watching us with bated breath from the... library (since a too small “stadium” and exams coming up made a combination that doesn’t allow for a large audience in the stands). But we feel their presence, especially us, the professors, when we find ourselves hiccupping on the field after a move (or, rather, a phrase) with a… bibliographic feint...
LE: You scored 3 goals and provided as many assists. Did you practice these moves during training? And were you aware of the opponent’s difficulties in the midfield or defence?
ODJ: Unlike exams, where “we” only study during the session and just a night before (God forbid, did I say that?!), in football, we are training ourselves on a weekly basis (both students and professors, as the faculty teams are mixed). OK, students much closer to the turf, professors closer to the… TV remote, but with “readings” ranging from FCSB (formerly known as Steaua Bucharest) and up. I would be deceitful if I spoke about schemes and playing styles, but I wouldn’t be lying if I said that the most important victory is not so much in reading the opponent as it is in deciphering ourselves, within our team understood as some sort of a micro-society/organization. We are just beginning to discover our value (as much as it has been bestowed upon us and as much as we can care for it), in order to mutually showcase our worth (a crucial aspect in any sports team), and thus, to add value to our performance. You see, the economists within us have found another area of applicability for the theory of value!
LE: Where is there a better understanding of the phenomenon: on the sports field or in the scholarly disciplines at the university?
ODJ: See how beautifully we linked a one-two pass with the idea above! I told the students that I will never be in Guardiola’s or Mourinho’s shoes, as I’m not a coach. I’m just their elder teammate. However, I found some elementary principles of social relation in economics books that can bring order even to the football game: mutually advantageous exchange (including passing!), division (attention, cooperative!) of labour, accumulation of capital (even if only human!). And many other ideas. It’s pure economic logic, the version with the ball at the foot (or head). In fact, always “in the head”...
LE: Thank you for the chat, and we wish you continuous success in the Economist’s League! We also thank the sponsor, Pepsi, for facilitating this interview and we offer you a bottle of juice to cool down!
ODJ: We are cooling down precisely when I get fired up, talking about something I cherish so much and try to subtly comprehend: economics and football! Anyway, I’m the one who thanks you for today’s premiere. And it’s not related to the “man of the match” title, a nice accolade that I, the idealist, receive with realism. What’s even funnier is that after a quarter of a century of practicing journalism, this is the first interview I give, not take! Best wishes, and until next time – Forza, REI!
For the Romanian version, click here.
Photo source (main illustration): Wikipedia (Ted Eytan - 2018.06.17 Over the Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA USA 0040).