Once again, another day of soccer that is more noteworthy for its unrelated-to-the-game moments of ugliness. Sure, New Zealand surprised Italy with a 1-1 tie (which was more than a moral victory!), and Paraguay put the equivalent of a beatdown on Slovakia, but the brutality of the beautiful game marred the results.
Off of the field, French players, coaches, and personnel continued to snipe at each other, and Nicolas Anelka was sent home for his reportedly disparaging comments against Coach Raymond Domenech. Team director Jean-Louis Valentin resigned in disgust, and fitness coach Robert Duverne threw his nametag down and stalked off the practice field. And then the French players refused to practice! In a sad twist, these antiheroes of everything the World Cup is supposed to mean can actually ADVANCE with a win over lowly South Africa as long as Mexico and Uruguay’s final doesn’t end in a draw. Seriously? This is like a daytime soap out of control with the snowballing effects of poor play, a loss of teamwork, unchecked tempers, lack of respect, and a failed sense of camraderie. And nothing against the French, but the attitude they’re portraying doesn’t lend itself to sportsmanship, teamwork, or patriotism. Somehow, they’ve lost the spirit of why they wanted to play in the World Cup to begin with…
While on the pitch, Brazil drilled the Ivory Coast between the eyes 3-1. While the Ivory Coast looked overmatched throughout, there were also an insane number of fouls handed out. Kaka, one of the(if not THE) star of the Brazilian team, had received a yellow card but the coach left him on the pitch and three minutes later, he received his second (resulting in a red card, an ejection, and blockage from playing in the third and final game in group play). The second was a complete flop, absolute play-acting by the Ivory Coast player, and better yet, it occurred while the ref appears to be looking in the opposite direction. Kater Keita literally runs into Kaka on purpose, Kaka extends his arm (to defend himself?), Kaka’s elbow contacts Keita’s chest, and Keita flops down holding his JAW! While Brazil is one of my favorite teams all time to watch play, their behavior in poor response to guerrilla tactics by the Ivory Coast wasn’t acceptable, proving today that even on the pitch the sport wasn’t represented well. But Brazil will move on thanks to the strength of its six points to lead the group, and still might beat Portugal without Kaka in their final game.
All in all, these unassociated events are enough to show what’s NOT to like about sports, why we need to teach our kids how to play the game and be humanitarian, and why sometimes we forget who we are in the midst of competition. Hopefully, someone will give these guys the Hanley Ramirez treatment (a benching and a good talking to) and they’ll come back with renewed vigor and a real vision for how to play the game correctly. Is that wishful thinking? I hope not.