The beautiful game - South Africa
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.