The go­ing is get­ting too weird for words

Los Angeles Times - - Soccer - GRA­HAME L. JONES gra­

Just what in the name of Joseph “Sepp” Blat­ter is go­ing on?

Has the soc­cer world gone com­pletely stark rav­ing mad? Has the sport lost not only its bear­ings but its mar­bles? Has there ever been a more weird time to be fol­low­ing the bounc­ing ball?

It’s doubt­ful. Just con­sider this hand­ful of strange events from the last cou­ple of weeks or so:

We go first to Brazil, where a spoiled teenager by the name of Ney­mar, all of 18, let fly with a curse-filled tirade at his Santos coach, Dori­val Ju­nior, sim­ply be­cause he was not se­lected to take a penalty kick in a vic­tory over Atletico Goian­iense.

The lan­guage and the at­ti­tude, all re­ports in­di­cate, was some­thing to be­hold — or to be-hear.

Atletico’s coach, Rene Si­moes, the for­mer na­tional coach of Ja­maica, Trinidad and Tobago, Costa Rica and of Brazil’s women’s team, said that he, for one, had never heard any­thing like it.

“Very few times I’ve seen some­one be­hav­ing like this in sports,” Si­moes said. “It’s time some­one tries to ed­u­cate this kid. We are cre­at­ing a mon­ster in Brazil­ian soc­cer.”

Strong words, but de­served. Ney­mar, who made his na­tional team de­but for the Se­le­cao in a 2-0 vic­tory over the U.S. in Au­gust, is pro­jected to be a star by the time Brazil stages the 2014 World Cup.

But for now, Chelsea must be thank­ing what­ever lucky stars hang over Stam­ford Bridge that it failed in its bid to sign to the trou­bled teen for $46 mil­lion this sum­mer. Mean­while, Brazil Coach Mano Menezes has left Ney­mar off his ros­ter for up­com­ing games, say­ing, “We are go­ing to leave these prob­lems out­side of the Se­le­cao at this moment.”

Good for Menezes. Ney­mar ob­vi­ously still has some grow­ing up to do.

Now on to, well, Los An­ge­les, where the Galaxy made a few un­wel­come head­lines of its own in the last week cour­tesy of David Beck­ham’s law­suit against the pub­lish­ers of an Amer­i­can gos­sip mag­a­zine for al­leg­ing that he had a romp with a cou­ple of high-priced pros­ti­tutes in 2007.

Beck­ham strongly de­nies the al­le­ga­tion and there is no need to re­hash it all here just days af­ter the news first broke.

It does, how­ever, make for a tidy tran­si­tion to an­other story in­volv­ing what were once known as “ladies of the night.”.

It seems that in Mex­ico, what hap­pens in Mon­ter­rey does not nec­es­sar­ily stay in Mon­ter­rey. Some­times it be­comes front-page news the world over.

Af­ter a re­cent 1-0 friendly vic­tory over Colom­bia in Mon­ter­rey, Mex­ico’s na­tional team play­ers en­joyed a bit of a wild party that went on un­til dawn at the team ho­tel. Ac­cord­ing to news­pa­per ac­counts, the “guests” in­cluded 15 pros­ti­tutes, one of them a trans­ves­tite.

Pho­to­graphs were taken. Pho­to­graphs were pub­lished. Mex­ico’s soc­cer fed­er­a­tion was less than amused. Prob­a­bly the of­fi­cials weren’t in­vited.

The up­shot was that the fed­er­a­tion last week sus­pended for­ward Car­los Vela, 21, of Arse­nal and mid­fielder Efrain Juarez, 22, of Celtic in Scot­land for six months. The pair ap­par­ently had or­ga­nized the bash. Eleven other na­tional team play­ers were fined.

“It is said they are young, but that doesn’t ex­empt them from re­spon­si­bil­ity,” sniffed Nestor de la Torre, Mex­ico’s na­tional team di­rec­tor. “The space for recre­ation should ex­ist, but there are mo­ments and places for it.”

Tele­vi­sion com­men­ta­tor Car­los Al­bert went fur­ther in his de­nun­ci­a­tion.

“This whole sorry episode has been an em­bar­rass­ment,” Al­bert said. “There are still play­ers in Mex­ico who re­gard play­ing for their coun­try as an honor and who love their coun­try.

“Ob­vi­ously, those play­ers who were banned do not.”

All of which is non­sense, of course. Love of coun­try has noth­ing what­so­ever to do with love of a good time, no mat­ter how mis­guided. Ob­vi­ously, Al­bert was not in­vited ei­ther.

And so on to Zine­dine Zi­dane, he of the in­fa­mous head butt dur­ing France’s 2006 World Cup fi­nal loss to Italy.

The for­mer French World Cup win­ner and three-time FIFA world player of the year has taken um­brage at a book writ­ten by for­mer France na­tional team doc­tor Jean-Pierre Pa­clet in which Pa­clet claimed that “blood sam­ple tests on sev­eral French play­ers just be­fore the 1998 World Cup re­vealed anom­alies” and that there was “room for sus­pi­cion.”

France, with Zi­dane in rare form, won the World Cup in 1998, and the Al­ge­rian-born mid­fielder blasted Pa­clet in a tele­vi­sion in­ter­view last week.

“Peo­ple like that are just look­ing to boost their book sales by adding some shock­ing con­tent,” he said. “It’s not new.”

All of which brings us to the best of the bizarre sto­ries of re­cent days — the ar­rest on Mon­day at New York’s John F. Kennedy Air­port of one By­ron Alde­mar Moreno Ruales, who al­legedly was try­ing to smug­gle more than 10 pounds of heroin into the U.S.

The sus­pect is bet­ter known to soc­cer fans sim­ply as By­ron Moreno, the clue­less World Cup ref­eree from Ecuador who at the 2002 tour­na­ment made a se­ries of mind-numb­ingly in­cor­rect de­ci­sions that caused Italy to be elim­i­nated, not coin­ci­den­tally, by co-host South Korea.

To­day, “Moreno the mule” is be­hind bars, which is where Az­zurri fans thought he should have been all along.

“He was a dis­as­ter then and he has proved it now,” re­tired Italy de­fender Chris­tian Panucci told Sky Sport Italia.

Things could not get any weirder, could they?


Mauri­cio Lima

Ney­mar, 18, was left off Brazil’s ros­ter af­ter his foul-mouthed tirade made head­lines.

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