Oui must play on
THOSE South Africans wondering what this World Cup thing is all about will at least have an idea today about the passions it elicits. In Ireland, for example, French Captain Thierry Henry has become that country’s least favourite human being after he cheated during a Cup qualifier on Wednesday evening.
Henry used his hand to control a ball before setting up the goal which secured France’s place, but dumped the Irish out of the finals.
And closer to home, a diplomatic crisis has broken out between Algeria and Egypt after the former secured its place in the showpiece in South Africa next June. The defeated Egyptians have withdrawn their envoy to Algiers in protest against thuggery after the match.
Students of the game will not be particularly surprised. Football’s anti-social side has often been on display over the years and even the interna- tional administration of the sport labours under a cloud.
The fact that Henry’s cheating has been shrugged off by so many in the game is testimony to the fact that the sport has a dark aspect.
That said, the final line-up for next year’s competition includes many of the world’s most gifted foot-
ballers. Kaka, Messi, Ronaldo, Rooney, Drogba and Eto’o are all on their way to our shores.
Tomorrow marks 200 days until the kick-off of the first match of the finals, air tickets are sold out and the excitement is mounting.
Incidents such as the Henry handball suggest that Fifa has work to do to ensure the game is played in the right spirit.
But off the field, it will be up to us to ensure that we show off our best side: this is an opportunity for the country and the continent to serve as an exam-
ple to the rest of the world.