Diplomacy & Delusion
A random assortment of thoughts on the World Cup:
In his post concerning England's defeat last night, Avi went out of his way to criticize myself and others for our take on the World Cup Quarter-Final between England & Portugal. Apparently, those of us who felt that Wayne Rooney was unjustly banished from the pitch are making excuses for the poor lad. Yet, while I understand Avi's devastation, I feel that it has clouded his normally lucid judgment. Avi has indeed given some excellent examples of Rooney's previous mistakes, but the problem is that he does not counter them with an in-depth look at the Portuguese side, and their previous behaviour. Nor does he look at the events which occurred during the match. Let's recap:
a) In their previous match against the Netherlands, Portugal had engaged in some of the worst forms of simulation and unsportsmanlike play that the world has ever seen. 16 yellow cards, and 4 red cards were given out during the match. That red card number should have in fact been 5, as Greg Louganis wannabe Luis Figo got away with a intentional head butt to the face of a Dutch player. Both sides played hard, but from my viewpoint it was the Portuguese who should have carried the majority of blame. They had already won a game against Iran in the qualifying round by diving in the penalty box and receiving a penalty kick, and they carried on their antics against the Dutch. Furthermore, whenever the referee made a call against them, they would swarm around him and make stereotypical gesticulations that would even make an Italian soccer player cringe in shame.
b) As a result of their shenanigans against the Dutch, two Portuguese players did not play against England. It should have been three, but Luis Figo--through the existence of the most arcane rule known to man--was allowed to play, despite his outlandish head butt on the Dutch player.
c) Before the crotch-stepping, pushing or any of that mess, Rooney had been fighting off two aggressive Portugese attackers, and had remained on his feet. I agree with him 100% when he says, "If anything I feel we should have had a free kick for the fouls committed on me during the same incident." I also agree 100% with his statement that, "From what I've seen in the World Cup, most players would have gone to ground at the slightest contact but my only thought then was to keep possession for England."
d) Yes, Rooney did put his foot down on Ricardo Carvalho's groin. But I fail to see how it could have been avoided, as Carvalho was tucked on the ground underneath Rooney. It is clear that Rooney was merely attempting to hold his balance. It is the same thing any of us would have done. As Rooney says, ""I want to say absolutely categorically I did not intentionally put my foot down on Ricardo Carvalho. He slid in from behind me and unfortunately ended up in a position where my foot was inevitably going to end up as I kept my balance. That's all there was to it."
e) After the step on Carvalho, Cristiano Ronaldo, in typical Portuguese fashion, went over and started complaining to the referee. He had no business even interacting with the ref, as the play was not on him, and he is not the team captain. Annoyed by all of this, Rooney gave Ronaldo a slight "get away" push. It was so harmless that even the normally tottering Ronaldo did not fall to the ground.
f) The red card was given after the push, although the referee now claims that it was given as a result of Rooney stepping on the Carvalho's groin. Since one play was an accident, and the other was provoked and completely harmless, the red card never should have been given.
g) Walking away from the scene, Ronaldo gave a wink over to his bench-boss Luiz Felipe Scolari, who apparently used to be sent off from games in Brazil for his excessive complaining to the referees. Shocker. The wink indicates, at least to me, that Ronaldo was intentionally attempting to provoke the English. More likely, since he plays on Man U and would know of his temper, he was attempting to provocate Rooney. Now granted, this supports Avi's ideas about Rooney. But I never meant to discard his idea so much as balance it by looking at how the Portuguese play.
My problem isn't so much that Rooney got thrown out, although I do think it was unjust. My greater problem lies with the fact that the Portuguese engage in terribly unsportsmanlike play that places a black eye on the "beautiful game" of soccer. They should be punished way more often than they are. Their actions are intentional, and egregious. For Avi and others to place the blame solely on Rooney is irresponsible, as it will only allow immature and unsportsmanlike exhibited so gleefully by the Portuguese to flourish.
I wonder if Ronaldo will be welcome back to Manchester United next year. Ronaldo had talked of moving to Real Madrid, which has apparently since fallen through. I can't imagine him being welcome back anywhere in England, however. He'll end up getting the Figo treatment, or worse. Check out this quote:
The Sun reports an English racehorse owner has had a colt gelded because its name is Ronaldo.
"It would have given me much more satisfaction if I could have had the real Ronaldo's nuts cut off. But this is the best I could do," said Gary Martin, 55, of Windmill Hill, East Sussex.
If Portugal and Italy advance to the Finals, here is my prediction: the game actually won't be played, as every single player will be carried off on a stretcher before the match even begins. In all seriousness, FIFA should be terrified of having those two play in the Finals. It will be a carnival of absurdity.
Does anyone else find the two World Cup mascots creepy? Maybe you haven't seen GOLEO VI and PILLE before? If not, take a look below. Then YOU tell me what I'm to think of a lion giving a soccer ball with big red lips a rose.
I was going to do a lengthy post on my favorite soccer player of all-time, Robbie Fowler, but there is already a fantastic Wikipedia entry on it. So here it is. Enjoy. My only problem with Fowler is that I now realize he looks alot like Rod Brind'Amour.
I normally hate the French side, but Zidane has converted me into an almost fan. He has been simply outstanding this World Cup, carrying his club forth to the semis.
If Germany and France advance to the Finals, here is my prediction: the game actually won't be played, as France will have capitulated mere hours after hearing the announcement of their opponent. In all seriousness, that is the match I would like to see. It will be like Victory all over again.
And lastly, some words on soccer from Chuck Klosterman. I post them only to enrage people. What can I say? That's how I roll.
Soccer fanatics love to tell you that soccer is the most popular game on earth and that it’s played by 500 million people every day, as if that somehow proves its value. Actually, the opposite is true. Why should I care that every single citizen of Chile and Iran and Gibraltar thoughtlessly adores “football”? Do the people making this argument also assume Coca-Cola is ambrosia? Real sports aren’t for everyone. And don’t accuse me of being the Ugly American for degrading soccer. That has nothing to do with it. It’s not xenophobic to hate soccer; it’s socially reprehensible to support it. To say you love soccer is to say you believe in enforced equality more than you believe in the value of competition and the capacity of the human spirit. It should surprise no one that Benito Mussolini loved being photographed with Italian soccer stars during the 1930s; they were undoubtedly kindred spirits. I would sooner have my kid deal crystal meth than play soccer. Every time I pull up behind a Ford Aerostar with a “#1 Soccer Mom” bumper sticker, I feel like I’m marching in the wake of the Khmer Rouge.
That said, I don’t feel my thoughts on soccer are radical. If push came to shove, I would be more than willing to compromise: It’s not necessary to wholly outlaw soccer as a living entity. I concede that it has a right to exist. All I ask is that I never have to see it on television, that it’s never played in public (or supported with public funding), and that nobody — and I mean nobody — ever utters the phrase “Soccer is the sport of the future” for the next forty thousand years.
P.S. If you love soccer, go buy this book.