Saturday, June 19, 2010

Rogue Referees, English Delusions and Argentine Flair

Overnight, Koman Coulibaly has become a household name. The inscrutable Malian referee disallowed a perfectly legitimate goal and robbed the U.S. team of making history. Only one team had ever come back from a 2-0 deficit to win a game in the World Cup, and that was Ivory Coast against Serbia 3-2 in 2006. The mother of all comebacks, however, belongs to Portugal. Down 3-0, the great Eusebio rallied his team and beat North Korea 5-3 almost single-handedly in 1966.

All the talk about the subjective beauty of soccer, that we have to live with the idiosyncrasies and the incompetence of referees to preserve the fluid beauty of the game, is a lot o fhot air. Instant replays should settle the score, literally, just like in other sports. FIFA has got to make the transition to the 21st century, instead of dwelling in the 19th. This is one area where technology can enhance the ethereal magic of soccer played at the highest level. Otherwise the Coulibalys - and already we have seen quite a few of his kindred in the first round - will ruin the game. Wake up, FIFA!

As for English soccer, the less said, the better. This is an over-hyped group that cannot function as a team and suffers from delusions of greatness. Rooney and company will probably beat Slovenia in a last-ditch effort to salvage some pride - the grim Churchillian determination in action - and make it to the next round along with the U.S., but that's about it. English fans have been spoilt by their star players shining in the reflected lights of foreign players but when it comes to the rough and tumble of World Cup, they need to realize that mediocrity can go only so far. Besides, you can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time but ...

The most impressive match so far has been Argentina's 4-1 victory over South Korea. Lionel Messi made the game a showcase for his genius. The team has found its rhythm and is executing with flair and imagination. Also, Argentina is playing with a 12th player without drawing any penalty. Diego Maradona's antics and unpredictability are actually helping the team perform better on the pitch. Call it the X factor but it is working. To paraphrase Francis Bacon, "There is no excellent soccer that hath not some strangeness in the proportion."

No comments: