Blogging for the sake of blogging (3)

The Age of the Crying Sportsman

 

Its over, the soccer world cup has reached its conclusion. This will no doubt be today’s hot topic all around the world. Well done Germany and well played Argentina!

I will not go on a rant about the diving, poor refereeing or crying. I will, however throw in my two cents about what we consider to be the “greatest game” in the world.

Yes, we call soccer the “greatest game” in the world and I would agree. I have always believed that one cannot argue with numbers and judging by the billion viewers that a competition like the English Premier League has every weekend, one would be silly to believe otherwise.

I am, however, a bit worried about what the “greatest game” has become. A player rolling around in the fetal position holding his ankle or shin riving in pain only to jump back up once the referee has awarded a free kick has become an all too common occurrence. In any other sport when a player is carried off on a stretcher, you can be sure that you won’t see him again for the rest of the season, let alone the rest of the match. I have lost count of how many times, in this World Cup alone, a player has been stretchered off only to merrily run back onto to the field a few minutes later.

What has happened to sportsmanship and fair play? Do the salaries of some of these players have anything to do with it? One could argue that if your legs earned £100 000 a week, you might be a bit sensitive to the merest protruding toe or lingering leg as well.

It wasn’t always like this. I have been an avid Man United supporter growing up and when it came to World Cups, I have only supported my country and Brazil. Now, however, I struggle to follow the game at all, generally because of the all too common unsportsmanlike behaviour.

I can’t remember ever seeing former Man United captain Roy Keane dive when tackled; in fact, if a player did manage to get him down you could be sure that he would at some point in the match return the favour. I could not imagine him crying at the fact that his team has missed out on a title and not just because his team hardly ever missed out on titles, but because he had the ability to deal with the losses as well as he did the wins.

Back then, a good tackle was followed by a loss of possession and a possible counter-attack. Today a good tackle is generally followed by an exuberant dive by the tackled player, the referee blowing his whistle, awarding a free kick and yellow card and finally being surrounded by the players from both sides screaming at him to either reverse the decision or intensify it – neither of which ever happens.

The age of great soccer and soccer players, it seems, has been replaced by the age of the crying sportsman. I have never seen as many footballers crying at a World Cup as I have at this one. Normally the crying would start later in the competition around about the quarter-finals, but this year every single losing team had a few crying players on the ground when the referee blew the final whistle.

I get that the competition is tough and that players are invested emotionally, but when did the sportsman become incapable of handling the pressure without bursting into tears? And of course all the tears make good TV so the cameras are glued to the player jerking back and forth with his head in his jersey trying to conceal his emotions.

Nevertheless, I feel as though I am painting everyone with the same brush – not fair. I had a debate with my nephew not too long ago. Just to give you some background, he is 17 and an avid soccer fan. He knows every soccer superstar form the English Premier League to the German Bundesliga. When he asked me who I thought is better, Christiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi, I promptly replied with the latter – Messi. This had him running out of the room in disbelief. “Messi doesn’t come close to Ronaldo’s speed and skill!” he shouted as he ran back in.

I couldn’t argue with that; Ronaldo was faster and more skilful, but this only strengthened my belief that Messi was the better player. He certainly proved it in this World Cup – the impact he had on his team and the game in general is what got Argentina into the final. But what truly made Messi the better player for me was that diving theatrics and appealing for free kicks and penalties is not part of his game. The same cannot be said of Ronaldo.

 

Additionally, whenever I hear the name Ronaldo my mind drifts back to the one from Brazil. Now that was skill, speed and memorable hairstyles. My view sounds rather ominous, but I assure you I am not bitter about the game – it is entertaining. The Soccer World Cup had me glued to the screen and when Facebook statuses were plastered with hateful words about the beautiful game, I came to its defence. This was a friend’s status from a few days ago:

“Soccer is 90 minutes of pretending you’re hurt and rugby is 80 minutes of pretending you’re not,”

I responded with a “You cannot compare the two sports… and then I posted his status as my own – you have to admit that it was quite funny and in some cases true.

Finally, I would like to send my condolences to the Brazilians and their team. You did rather well considering the nation who hosted before you were knocked out in the first round – you made it to fourth place. To all the soccer players out there stop the crying and leave the diving to the swimmers. End the age of the crying sportsman and bring the beautiful game back to its former glory!

Here is a poem a felt the urge to write after I could not fall asleep after the final last night. It just sums up my experience of the World Cup. It’s called “90 minutes”.

 

 90 minutes©

By Torieq Arendse

 

 Tweeeet tweeeet tweeeet! the final whistle blown

Hang up the flag that you have proudly flown

My country might not have qualified

But what entertainment the beautiful game did provide.

 

I managed to watch every single game

Witnessing unknown players rise to fame

Watching Nemar as Brazil’s talisman anointed

Hearing the boos of the crowd when bitterly disappointed.

 

The group stages were filled with many a surprise

It saw world champions Spain meet their demise

England and Portugal favourites of the crowd

By unexpected teams the next round disallowed.

 

In my country the games came on quite late

Starting at 6 and ending at 8

And starting at 10 and ending well past midnight

Watching every minute, every team’s plight.

 

 Eyes were burning but never giving in to sleep

Watching Miroslav Closer and his monumental leap

Admiring Messi, with his skill almost primal

Steering his team to an epic final.

 

We saw Brazilian hopes disappear down a crack

When Colombia’s Juan Zuniga kneed Nemar in the back

And the referee gave Thiago Silver a yellow card

Which meant that for the next game he’d be barred.

 

The referees decisions were fair overall

It must be said there were very few a bad call

Except when Robyn went down against Mexico in the box

That time the referee was sneakily outfoxed.

 

The 13th of July saw the final game

Argentina versus Germany, their cup to claim

90 minutes to separate the great from the rest

90 minutes to see which team is best.

 

 It says a lot then that at 90 minutes the teams were tied

Extra-time would then the match decide

At the end of the night one team would triumphantly stand

That team was Germany, the team in white with the World Cup in hand.

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