Conventional sporting wisdom has it that a team of champions will usually come off second best to a champion team. But our World Mayors XI is both of these things. Unlike most managers taking a team to the World Cup, we had the whole world to choose from – but that, of course, also made the task more difficult.
The quality that unites all 11 is their attitude, a certain insouciant flair. These are people who take the job seriously but don’t take themselves seriously. They accept defeats as pointers on how they can win next time, rather than blaming the officials, and in their more frequent victories they’re gracious. The best mayors, like the best footballers, are fun to watch.
A safe pair of hands who does what Gianluigi Buffon did for Italy: provides reassurance. Like any good shot-stopper, Goff has prioritised getting the basics right: environment, transport, housing.
Democratic mayor of the Californian city since 2015, Shaaf has taken a stand against Donald Trump and earned his umbrage by issuing warnings to the local community of imminent raids by immigration-enforcement officers.
Somers is accustomed to fending off assaults upon his realm with a commitment to refugees’ integration. And while Belgium was the leading per-capita contributor to Isis’s foreign legion, none came from Mechelen. He is our Franz Beckenbauer.
A bulwark of non-partisan common sense, Goodman identifies as neither Republican nor Democrat. She has been big on public transport in a car-crazed city and responded robustly to last year’s shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival.
Any role in the government of New Orleans is self-evidently defensive: the city’s eternal task is keeping Lake Pontchartrain out of its streets. Landrieu earns a spot in front of the back three for taking on the Big Easy’s menagerie of Confederate monuments.
Taipei’s mayor is the freewheeling maverick playmaker who might confuse his teammates as much as the opposition. But he’s worth the risk.
The sensible yet creative distributor at the centre of everything – the Luka Modric of our team. He has the requisite collaborative instincts, having been elected with the slogan “the citizens are the mayor”.
An energetic newcomer and obvious inclusion on the left wing, Plante is a believer in swift movement, promising to furnish Montréal’s streets with 300 new buses and build another Metro line.
On taking office Durkan said she wanted Seattle to be “fierce and gentle” – not a bad creed for a striker in the Lionel Messi mould.
An old-school centre-forward; Kamil understands that the result is what matters. In five years as mayor of Bandung, the former superstar architect has orchestrated a brisk clean-up of the streets.
Veliaj’s efforts to get cars off the streets and bicycles onto them have made Tirana more efficient. His background as an activist gives him something of the iconoclastic passion of a former fanzine editor.
Toyama mayor Masashi Mori has won deserved plaudits for his ambitions of getting every important city amenity within walking distance of each other – the city-planning equivalent of the Total Football of Dutch maestro Johan Cruyff.
Lisa Helps’ commitment to modernising – heedless of the harrumphing of stuffy traditionalists – makes the Victoria, British Columbia mayor something of an Arsene Wenger figure.
monocle’s team has a bias towards attacking flair: getting things done at a municipal level often requires (and indeed rewards) a willingness to take chances, which is why we’ve opted for a swashbuckling, if admittedly unorthodox, 3-1-3-3 formation.
Defence and attack:
Our defence may be reliable and pragmatic but it understands that it is also the first line of attack. The midfield is methodical in the centre yet dashing on the wings. The forwards, meanwhile, are creative, prolific and sure to make match-winning chances.
The British embassy in Paris boasts the city’s only grass tennis court in central Paris. During the summer its diplomats host a tournament and offer their contacts in the Élysée Palace a chance to don their whites and compete. A rally on a square of manicured turf is a strangely effective metaphor for the business of today’s Franco-British relations.
A cricket team also practices on summer evenings on the same patch. “A well-hit six could probably land in the Élysée garden,” says first secretary Mungo Woodifield.
Woodifield misses the rough-and-tumble of the United Nations five-a-side football team he played with during his time in New York. “Playing with a view of Manhattan was incredible,” he says. “We played against Caribbean teams, Serbian teams and (very good and aggressive) Italians and Brazilians.”
The UN league serves a cathartic purpose for the diplomats whose working life is spent in long negotiations. “Despite the UN’s lofty purpose, the UN league was incredibly dirty,” says Woodifield. “The referees sent people off all the time. Our UKembassy team seldom won anything except the Fair Play award.”
Champagne receptions are the stuff of modern diplomacy but the pitch and the court are where relationships are formed.