Sure, lot's of people in the world do wonderful things, and aren't praised for it, and certainly there are lots & lots of things far more important than football, or any other sport.
Plenty of people lose all sense of perspective when it comes to football. I know this for sure, where I live the two big local teams (Rangers & Celtic) have fanatical supporters, and the rivalry between the teams is based, originally, on the rivalry between religions, Protestantism and Catholicism. When things get too overboard, as they have in the past, with pitch invasions, riots, stabbings, and so on, then it's fairly obvious that people are taking a game too seriously. Even then, it isn't the fault of the game so much as that the teams concerned have become totems for far older prejudices. Still, I'd rather the ricalry between the Catholic and Protestant communities, in this instance, remain confined to the pitch (and they mostly are), rather than spread everywhere and get out of control, as in Northern Ireland. I am not arguing that football has somehow "saved" SW Scotland from sectarian, terrorist violence similar to that of Northern Ireland (it's much more complex than that), but I do think it provides a mostly useful pressure valve, even though very occasionally it fans aound the match will be violent, even now.
There are plenty of other instances of football being very important politically and culturally. Spain, under Franco, had two huge teams, Real Madrid and Barcelona. Real madrid was the "national" side, almost, backed by Franco and an instrument he used to keep the people happy as they stomped to victory again and again (like the games in the Roman colloseum, almost) across all Europe. Barcelona were, and are, the symbol of the Basque community, and were much despised by Franco, and were another great team, on the working men's social club model originally, that defied the fascists again and again and helped the Basques hold their heads high.
Similar has been seen all over the place, football teams being very important politically. A team in East Berlin, in the old days of the Cold War (forget the name, can't be bothered looking it up:\) was a font of anticommunist agitation. The Stasi would visit on match days to note who was in the crowd, heh. Other examples would be Solidarity on Poland, which did a lot of recruiting in the football terraces, Dynamo Kiev in the Ukraine defying the Nazis in a rigged match, called "the match of death", the spread of football in Apartheid South Africa and the unity that it helped foster (no really!), various famous international events with political ramifications, perhaps the most absurd being an actual war that broke out between Honduras and Ecuador after a football match between the two decided by a dodgy penalty decision (but mostly motivated by completely different issues, like, umm, immigration from one country to the other or something, forget).
In point of fact, football in many places has been, and will remain to be, very politically important indeed, for better or worse.
However, in some ways I agree with your post. Yes, international aid workers and terrible events here and there around the world should get more attention. However, if they are to, why single football out as something that should have less attention? There are many, many frivolous and silly activities, and almost all of them are taken too seriously by a few, just like football. It needn't be a zero sum game, you know? People can pay more attention to one, while not paying any less attention to the other. Eh, I'm getting incoherent.
Anyway, I think the aidworkers, scientists, and third world doctors don't want to be disturbed right now. They're watching the World Cup!
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