The going is getting too weird for words
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?
YOUNG CUSSER:Mauricio Lima
Neymar, 18, was left off Brazil’s roster after his foul-mouthed tirade made headlines.