The beau­ti­ful game - South Africa

Seaway News - - SPORTS - Thom Racine

The only good part about the end of the hockey sea­son ev­ery four years is the start of foot­ball’s World Cup. I have been watch­ing the World Cup with awe this time around and ku­dos to the South Africans for putting on a great show thus far. Now, I know that many of you are won­der­ing what the fuss is all about. Soc­cer, re­ally, how do you get ex­cited about a game that gen­er­ates fleet­ing mo­ments of ex­cite­ment and very few goals. The his­tory of soc­cer in Europe, South Amer­ica, Asia, Scan­di­navia and the Bri­tish Com­mon­wealth is as rich as the his­tory of hockey and that is where the fun starts.

I don’t pro­fess to know it all and could only tell you lit­tle bits of re­cent his­tory. I have never been a hard core soc­cer, I mean, foot­ball fan, but how can you not be when this tour­na­ment steals the sport­ing spot­light for a month ev­ery four years. When­ever the world gets to­gether, ex­pect a heart pour­ing of emo­tion and since this is the most watched sport­ing event in the world there has been lots of that. Our own Van­cou­ver Olympic ex­pe­ri­ence showed us that. Even the small coun­tries bring thou­sands of faith­ful fol­low­ers who wear au­then­tic cloth­ing and cos­tumes and paint their faces and bod­ies with na­tional pride. Not to get too po­lit­i­cal, but the world should take no­tice that some­thing as sim­ple as a game can at times unite us all. An es­ti­mated 35 bil­lion (month long to­tal) peo­ple will watch the World Cup games. If you don’t be­lieve the pop­u­lar­ity of the game has grown, even since the Ger­mans held the games in 2006, just wan­der around town and see how many kids are wear­ing the replica jersey’s of their fa­vorite nation or play­ers. Play­ers, by the way, who make as much and, in a few cases, much more than our favourite hockey stars. The pop­u­lar Toronto FC and Mon­treal Im­pact have great fol­low­ers and both teams have slowed op­er­a­tions while the World Cup takes place.

The cov­er­age of the game in high def­i­ni­tion is also mak­ing the game a spec­ta­cle. Ev­ery gri­mace, ev­ery blade of grass, ev­ery bulging net and ev­ery fan re­ac­tion cap­tured splen­didly. It seems so much bet­ter than the hockey cov­er­age and I think the su­per slow mo­tion and out­door venue has to do with it.

Aside from the loyal le­gions of fans that set the at­mos­phere be­fore, dur­ing and af­ter each game, the English broad­cast­ers and their col­or­ful ad­jec­tives make watch­ing ev­ery game a vo­cab­u­lary smor­gas­bord. They have a com­mand for the English lan­guage and im­pec­ca­ble tim­ing that has to make you chuckle. In fact, they are as much fun to lis­ten to as watch­ing the games. Set your brain to your best English ac­cent as you pre­pare to read on. "That was a mas­sive tan­gle of limbs," de­scrib­ing a col­li­sion and tackle. "It ap­pears that Ar­gentina is play­ing to­day as if they have been fed only a few ta­ble scraps," mean­ing they are hun­gry for the ball. Eng­land’s keeper Robert Green looked good in green, but likely turned green af­ter the goal he al­lowed, prompt­ing, "I’m sure you have to feel sorry for him, then again per­haps not." "That left footed drive ham­mered the up­right," mean­ing of course that a hard kick went square into the post. "The Sons of Sam will look to for­get the try­ing fort night of four years ago," mean­ing the USA will try to make the sec­ond round af­ter a dis­mal open­ing round dis­play in Ger­many. And this ap­pro­pri­ate fin­ish, "The Ger­man Ma­chine have made short work or Aus­tralia’s Soc­ceroos." My all time fa­vorite from the World Cup in 2006 was the call af­ter Switzer­land scored an in­surance goal in the 87th minute to reach the sec­ond round. "And it’s per­fect Swiss tim­ing."

One thing of note is the pro­duc­ing of yel­low cards for div­ing. Once the sta­ple of the game, div­ing is be­ing scru­ti­nized and pe­nal­ized with the dreaded yel­low cards. This surely must have been dif­fi­cult on the kings of div­ing, the Black Stars of Ghana who were quite the show­men in ev­ery at­tempt to fool the ref­eree. We have our stars in this coun­try and we know them as Gretz, Stevy Y, Sid the Kid, Cammi and Bobby Loo. Foot­ball has a host of one named stars as well and Brazil­ians Robinho, Kaka, Lu­cio and the keeper Ce­sar are im­pact play­ers. Just be­cause I’m fifty now does not mean check­ing out the pretty girls is off my list, Brazil and Ar­gentina rank one two af­ter three days of ac­tion. I also can­vassed a few ladies and most en­joyed watch­ing the games be­cause of the great plays and per­fect crosses. Nice try girls, but you don't fool me. No mat­ter how you slice it, the World Cup has an ap­peal and even if you don’t like the game, tune in for a lit­tle of the show, the an­noy­ing din of horns and con­stant sing­ing is sure to find you glued to the screen.

So there you have it, a quick ob­ser­va­tion of the beau­ti­ful game. Racine has left the pitch, or field as we call it over here.

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