Thursday, 17 June 2010

World Cup: Time for that reality check

Finally! The real World Cup has started, no more tender moments where teams get to play nice and careful. No more let's be nice to the host nation and also rans. Today we started separating the men from the boys. In what had to be the upset result so far, Switzerland held and then defeated perennial World Cup darlings 1-0. In a clash of flash versus efficiency, the Swiss kept their heads while Spain tried again and again to break down a stubborn defence and midfield. Some of us thought, ok and for your next trick? Nil Nil is hardly going to get you out of the group stages is it? That's when they did that most Un-Swiss thing, having found a moment to break out and catch the other guys napping, Fernandes ( I know how Swiss is that?) finished a scoring opportunity. In a match where getting a goal was going to be tough , the team that scored first was most likely to win. Now I'm sure Spain will somehow bounce back, but the fact that perhaps the greatest collection of egos south of Paris could not break down a team from a country better known for banks and watches than it's football, means it is a fool who assumes you can get by on good looks and good will alone. Switzerland stuck to a plan and waited for the moment to strike. Add one more check in the Teutonic column of teams you need to worry about now.

One of the most important element in the day's events was the very real decision on the part of most refs to apply the rules of the game and not tolerate any mind games. Very clearly the officials are not reading the FIFA script that says we need to keep Sepp Blatter and the sponsors happy by protecting the Cinderella teams. If you play good football and convert you chances, no official will stand in your way. A case in point was today's South Africa Uruguay match. If the Hollywood types had had their way Uruguay would have rolled over and died. Problem is that Uruguay  had a good qualifying run in, they were not about to step aside and forget 2 years of preparation so the host nation could look good and stay in for a bit longer. From the first , the Uruguayans made it plain they meant to win. Diego Forlan , recognized club footballer, imposed himself on the match and by the 24th minute we were at 1-0. Despite the best efforts of the ref to not see the incident, several fouls were given and except for one very obviously political decision to not hand out a yellow and give a free kick, South Africa was shaken out of it's fantasy land  reverie.  Even the local supporters had to finally put down the ear destroying vuvuzelas and start paying attention to the game. Somewhere along the way between  the first Forlan goal and the spot on sending off of the South African keeper, reality set in for the crowd. By the time the new keeper finally sauntered over to the net  and awaited his fate, most of the SA supporters were beginning to realize the ride was about to come to an end. Diego Forlan kicks, GOAL. And in that instant even the tourist casual footie fans knew it was time to give up the ghost. An injury time goal by Pereira sealed  South Africa's doom. What really sickened me was the spectacle of fickle newbie SA supporters heading for the door with 15 minutes to go. As a Newcastle supporter, I have to tell you I'm not impressed. I've sat through some real gut wrenching defeats and never once gave up before the final whistle. It begs the question  of why FIFA sees fit to grant the World Cup to countries that are for all intents and purposes, never going to qualify for the tournament without special exemptions. Not withstanding ability to build and maintain infrastructure, there are at least three other African countries that were more deserving of the Cup and vastly superior. Don't get me wrong .SA deserves every chance it can get, but it would have been better off hosting Cricket or Rugby, both sports it excels at. It's this kind of short sighted policy that creates wafer thin delusional supporters who walk out on their team with enough time remaining to at least equalize. You have to feel for the players who had to witness a steady stream of cowardly so called fans sneaking out. Little wonder they had the look of walking dead by the end of the match. 

Loyalty is something following Newcastle United ,West Ham or insert name of your team, teaches you.We have become used  the misery of constant defeat and disappointment. A small thing like being behind 1-0 or even 2-0 has never dampened our spirits. Some would even say, initial optimism then ending in disappointment sounds very Newcastle. Pretty much sums up England every World Cup and the Wales qualifying campaigns. The world Cup should be reserved for countries and fans who have the intestinal fortitude to support their team without folding up in the first minute after the Disney portion of the match is over. Every team that had to qualify knows just how much it means to the other guys and their supporters. We want to sing our support, we want to chant our feelings and we want to stick out like sore thumbs. We want our lads to know we're there.
This is something that FIFA in an attempt to sell a game that has conquered most of the globe, to the last few hold outs, is sacrificing, for corporate greed, good PR and a trip to somewhere new. I despair that England will ever again host a World Cup. We only invented the bloody game. But if we are to never see another tournament, I'd much rather Australia or some other emerging footie mad place with nice hotels gets it. At least their team won't need the help of referees, at the expense of deserving teams, to stay in. While I'm having a go at FIFA, 30 Dutch women were arrested for wearing identical orange outfits. It's Holland for Christ's sake, they do that sort of thing. Come to think of it, they seem to get nicked every World Cup, any road, WC organizers have gone out of their way to clear the road for mega multi national corps over the interests of local merchants and ordinary supporters. Much like at the Winter games, Local merchants are being frozen out of the big money, If South Africa was being given the WC to help, I don't see many poor South Africans benefiting from "official" souvenir sales or the fascinating local craft movement getting much exposure. There are enough fixtures left for FIFA to get a sense of humour and let US have a bit of fun. It' not too late, They can start by putting on the orange dresses themselves. I bet Sepp Blatter looks geet canny in a skimpy frock. Only his closest circle of friends will ever know though, sigh,..

Speaking of funny things... Mick McCarthy was voted more annoying than a vuvuzela for his droning on and on. His reaction could not be made out over the noise of the horns.  Bet you haven't heard this one yet?

What's the difference between Katie Price and a vuvuzela horn?

One is a cheap plastic piece of trash that is there making it's annoying
whining noise, every time you turn on the T.V.

The other is a musical instrument.

Tomorrow another three matches, and I'm pumped for all three. The race is well and truly on.

1 comment:

Vicki said...

Fantastic post. I'll thank the person on the Facebook page who linked it!