Bill Taylor, pictured on a visit to St Tropez, has probably watched as much World Cup football as most. From out west in Toronto, he’s enthused, criticised and slumbered – whichever response has seemed appropriate – his way through the competition. But some of the downright dishonesty he’s seen has left a nasty taste in the mouth. You can take it as read that this is not the last, but the first, Salut! Sunderand piece that will examine the cheating side of football …
If this World Cup has proved anything, it’s how rotten football has become at international level.
Calling it “sport” is little more than a joke in poor taste.
One of the abiding images from the 19th Fifa tournament will be Luis Suarez carried off the field on his Uruguayan teammates’ shoulders after he robbed Ghana of the victory and a historic place in the semi-finals that they deserved.
Suarez’ double-handed deflection of Dominic Adiyiah’s last-second goalbound header would have done credit to a volleyball player.
It did no credit to the footballer, his team or the game,
Did he show any remorse or even humility? Anything but. The Daily Telegraph quoted Suarez as gloating over “the best save of the tournament. The Hand of God now belongs to me. Mine is the real Hand of God. Sometimes in training I play as a goalkeeper so it was worth it.”
What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole World Cup and lose his own soul?
Silly question. Suarez was clearly happy with his choice as he continued, “I thought, ‘It is a miracle and we are alive in the tournament’. ”
Not a miracle. A professional foul. Perhaps the ultimate professional foul. That Suarez was immediately sent off pales into nothingness next to the shoulder-high manner of his leaving:
“Hey, look at me. I’m a bigger cheat than Maradona.”
The Telegraph ran a picture of Suarez, at the height of the post-game frenzy, next to one of Pele being fêted after he’d inspired Brazil to victory in the 1970 World Cup. A stranger to the game wouldn’t be able to tell one from the other.
Three decades has changed international football almost beyond recognition. A win-at-all-costs ethos has taken over. If you can’t play the ball, play the man. And if you can’t play the man, play the martyr.
Yes, this sort of thing has existed for decades but now it threatens to swamp the game.
It can only be a matter of time before no coaching staff is complete without a tutor in the dramatic arts. If you’re going to take a dive, make it a convincing one. Even the so-called “superstars” (and where have they been of late?) show about as much acting talent as a has-been all-in wrestler working the provincial town-hall circuit. Less is more, guys. Try to remember that when you’re flapping around like a half-stunned mullet.
And perhaps the referees should be given some hints by newspaper theatre critics, so they’re less likely to swallow overdone ham.
As it is, the default decision is to blow the whistle and keep one hand on the yellow card so you can produce it like a conjurer. Any hard tackle is enough to bring the game to a halt – it’s been a rare official who has had the moral fibre to wave play on.
Consider Kader Keita, the Côte d’Ivoire striker, who was hit in the chest by Brazil’s Kaká and then rolled about on the ground clutching his face. He didn’t even have the wit to tug on the hairs in his nostrils to make tears flow. He paused once or twice to see if his charade was working.
And it was! Kaká was sent off. Time magazine opined that Keita’s performance was worthy of an Oscar. Not even close. It was worthy of the red card that the other man got.
In the Spain-Portugal match, Ricardo Costa, the Portuguese defender, was given his marching orders after a phantom elbowing incident that had Joan Capdevila appearing to have taken a right cross from Mike Tyson.
Couldn’t the ref see that there wasn’t even a mark on his face?
One episode in the Slovakian defeat of Italy that would have been funny if it hadn’t been so pathetic: Fabio Quagliarella and the Slovak goalie Jan Mucha rolling about in the back of the net, each hoping to have the other sent off.
Credit the ref, for once, with a bit of commonsense and two yellow cards.
It’s seemed to me that the higher-rated the team, the more egregious the offences have been. The tournament has become progressively less and less entertaining. It’s hard to muster enthusiasm for the semi-finals.
Except, perhaps, for Uruguay-Netherlands. I didn’t think much at first of Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk’s vow that his team was going to South Africa to play football as ugly as they needed to succeed.
Not in keeping with the spirit of the game? ENTIRELY in keeping with the spirit of the game as we’ve come to know it. And I’m unworthily looking forward to the Oranje giving La Celeste their ugly come-uppance.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. has done a first-rate job of covering this World Cup. One of their sponsors is the CIBC bank, under the motto: “Cheering for what matters.”
Ultimately, I suppose, we all have to decide for ourselves what that is. But it seems to have precious little to do with good football any more. “Good” being a word that covers a broad spectrum.