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Jul 15, 2014

Germany defeated Argentina to win the coveted FIFA Trophy last weekend, and one of the most tumultuous World Cups in recent history finally came to a close.

According to analysts it was also the most expensive World Cup in history, with the largest purse ever offered to the finalists, totaling over $350 million.

All 16 semifinalist countries will walk away with a cash prize — the Germans will return home $35 million richer, and the Argentinians will face the sting of defeat on a bed of $24 million. Even Brazil, who lost to the Germans in record-breaking fashion in the quarterfinals, will take home $18 million for fourth place.

The prize money goes to each country’s respective soccer federation, where it is distributed however they see fit. FIFA also drops $70 million on a player salary pool, which pays each player about $2,800 per day just for participating in the tournament.

Yes, it seems like the World Cup is overflowing with incentives these days.

Money pit

Most professional sports follow this sort of tiered incentive structure for the post-season, but the rewards always pale in comparison to other sources of revenue such as lucrative player contracts, endorsements, and the club’s general day-to-day income.

Yahoo Sports calculated that the FIFA organization itself would reap $4.5 billion in profits alone from broadcast revenue and other sources, dwarfing the prize payouts and player salaries.

This all begs the question: If you’re already a wealthy footballer with a guarantee of an $8 million prize for 16th place and a salary of $2,800 per day, is the cash really a motivator to win?

Intrinsic motivation

Nowhere but in professional sports do we see the power of intrinsic motivation, and how it can drive people to succeed much further than extrinsic rewards like cash incentives could ever dream of.

With so much money changing hands at the World Cup this year and in professional sports in general, cash incentives become rather meaningless, and players must search elsewhere for their drive to succeed. Just listen to what some famous footballers have to say on the topic:

  • Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.”Pele
  • Failure happens all the time. It happens every day in practice. What makes you better is how you react to it.” – Mia Hamm
  • A lot of football success is in the mind. You must believe that you are the best and then make sure that you are.” – Bill Shankly


We’re not saying extrinsic rewards never motivated anyone. In fact, we thought it was pretty cool that a Dutch Aerospace firm offered to send the Netherlands team on a free trip to space if they won.

However, intangible rewards like respect from peers, honorable status, and the thrill of victory are what truly drive us to succeed, and external rewards are merely icing on the cake.

This was originally published on the Michael C. Fina blog.