Differences Between Catholic and Protestant Cultures: What We Can Learn From a World Cup Feud.

By Aleksey Bashtavenko

Academic Composition

The World Cup has always been a stage for thrilling football matches, but it is also a platform where cultural differences and national pride collide. The feud that erupted between the teams of Argentina and the Netherlands during the tournament is a prime example of how cultural perspectives can influence reactions and communication styles.

The coach of the Netherlands, Louis Van Gaal, ignited the flames by vowing to claim revenge against their fierce rivals, the Argentines. He even went on to express his belief that the Dutch would have been the favorites to win in a penalty shootout. Van Gaal justified his claim by highlighting the height of their goalkeeper and the team’s composure under pressure, both crucial factors in shootouts.

However, these comments didn’t sit well with the Argentines, particularly their captain, Lionel Messi, who considered Van Gaal’s remarks openly disrespectful. Messi responded by celebrating a goal with a famous “Riquelme gesture,” a move associated with an Argentine player whom Van Gaal strongly disliked. Ultimately, Argentina emerged victorious in the penalty shootout, seemingly refuting Van Gaal’s claim.

This clash of cultural perspectives sheds light on the fundamental traits of social engagement, as discussed by Erin Meyer in her book. One of these traits is the style of handling disagreement, which varies across cultures. The Dutch, deeply influenced by their Protestant heritage and Calvinist thought, tend to value honesty, simplicity, clarity, and straightforwardness in communication. These attributes are also shared by other Calvinist countries like the UK and the US. As a result, they have a tradition of supporting freedom of expression, tolerance, and individual rights.

On the other hand, Argentina, a predominantly Catholic country, is known for being less renowned for such traits. Catholic cultures often emphasize unity under a prescribed belief system, leaving less room for cultural splintering or highly individualistic acts of self-expression. Meyer explains that in Latin America, including Argentina, a culture that discourages disagreement and frequently avoids conflict prevails.

In this context, Van Gaal’s commentary, although controversial and speculative, can be seen as a product of the Dutch culture’s frankness and passion for open debate. From a Dutch perspective, expressing controversial and less-than-entirely-accurate views is not only acceptable but highly desirable for fostering a free exchange of ideas. Van Gaal’s commentary may have been brutally honest, but it was respectful, keeping with the Dutch communication style.

It’s important to recognize that cultural differences can greatly shape perceptions and reactions. What may seem outrageous or flippant to one culture may be seen as straightforward and acceptable to another. The clash between Van Gaal’s commentary and the Argentine response serves as a reminder that cultural perspectives should be considered when interpreting and responding to statements made in an international context.

In the end, the feud between the teams of Argentina and the Netherlands during the World Cup not only highlighted the intensity of competition on the football pitch but also provided a glimpse into the intricate interplay of cultural differences and communication styles. Understanding and respecting these differences is crucial for fostering mutual understanding and appreciation among nations in the diverse world of sports and beyond.

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