Thursday, July 13, 2006

he says, he says

Embracing this year’s World Cup as a fan of Argentina’s, England’s and Australia's, I was impartial as to which Blue force should lift the coveted trophy.

Okay, okay, being the sentimental fool that I am, I must admit that my preference was slightly heavier on Les Bleus seeing that it was Zinedine Zidane’s very last competitive match.

In any case, what it was that I truly hoped for was a grand finals clash that would leave a sweet, unforgettable aftertaste lasting for the next four years.

Unforgettable I got, yes, but so far from sweet. Zizou, pedigree and all, had his farewell match rudely truncated when he was red carded off the pitch at Extra Time. Zizou, extremely experienced and all, turned around and gloriously head-butted in the chest—much like a raging bull—the Azzurri’s Materazzi after some words were exchanged at high temperatures.

As soon as I saw that, I turned to my ever-so-loyal WC06 buddy that is my father, and said, “Being Italian, I am so sure that he must’ve said something very crude about either Zidane’s mother, or wife, or God.”

Today, my suspicions became facts. After days of staying silent, the (ex) French skipper has finally spoken.

'If I reacted that way, it is because something bad happened. Do you really believe that 10 minutes before the end of my career I would be able to make such a bad gesture? The provocation was very serious.'

'There was no tension with Materazzi before or during the match,' Zidane said.

'He just put his hand on to my shirt and I told him to stop. I told him that if he wanted it I could give it to him at the end of the match.

'Then he said very harsh words to me and repeated them several times. I left but then I went back towards him and things went very fast.

'The words he said concerned my mother and sister. I heard them once, then twice, and the third time I couldn't control myself. I am a man and some words are harder to hear than actions.

'I would have rather been knocked down than hear that.

'Afterwards I explained to the referee that I had been provoked, but my behaviour is not forgivable,' Zidane said.

The 1998 World Cup winner, who could even be stripped of his Golden Ball award as the player of the 2006 tournament, said: 'The reaction is always punished but if there is no provocation there is no reaction. The guilty person is the one who provokes.

During an interview with French television station Canal Plus, in which Zidane gave his first public comments on the incident, Zidane publicly apologised for being sent off but insisted he did not regret his actions.

'I reacted badly and I would like to apologise for it,' Zidane said.

'I would like to apologise because a lot of children were watching the match. I do apologise but I don't regret my behaviour because regretting it would mean he was right to say what he said.'

Materazzi, of course, denies saying anything of the sort.

'I didn't mention anything about religion, politics or racism,' he said. (earlier reports speculated that the Italian defender called Zidane "a dirty terrorist.")

'I didn't insult his mother. I lost my mother when I was 15 years old and still get emotional when I talk about it.

'Naturally, I didn't know that his mother was in hospital but I wish her all the best.
'Zidane is my hero and I have always admired him a lot.'

If whatever you're claiming is true, Signor, then fine. But if you are guilty of any of the above, then vafangkulo (however you spell it) to you!

Whatever the case, I hope FIFA takes this very, very seriously.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

almost over

Four weeks ago, I would laugh in your face if you said to me that the last four would be Germany, Portugal, France and Italy. Okay, okay, Germany wasn't such a shocker since host nations usually get the luck (by "luck" I also mean much help from the refs) to reach the semis, but Portugal, France and Italy?

Portugal isn't exactly the top five amongst the world's best footballers. France's display was close to pathetic in the opening matches. As for Italy, not only did they gift an own goal to the United States, they needed to fake a fall to win over Australia for crying out loud!

Having said that, they got their act together, started to get serious and taught a young Germany side a lesson they will never forget: that not only confidence but experience will get you through. And most importantly, the Azzurri did it in style.

As for the French, the start of their World Cup'06 campaign looked like they weren't thirsty enough to end their years of goal draught. Each and every match after, however, sucked less and less, and slowly but surely they pushed themselves to the quarters. But not even five-time and defending champs Brazil could stop them. And in the semis, Les Bleus persevered and stopped history from repeating itself when they overcame a vicious Portuguese side.

As much as I hate to admit it, as with many of Chelsea's succesful games, Claude Makalele played a vital part in keeping France's World Cup'06 hopes alive. And especially Zinedine Zidane, who's nothing short of inspiring. Despite the poor start to his final competitive season, the soon-to-be footballing legend rose to the occasion just in time to lead his compatriots to the finals.

I don't know about you, but I'd say our hearts are in for a great workout tonight when the two Big Blues clash.

May the best team win.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

is this for real?

If indeed it is, then shame on the scientists! But nah, it looks more like the experimental procedures only happened in Photoshop, innit...

Monday, July 03, 2006

all hope is lost

I was reduced to tears, for serious.

Argentina--my Argentina--was robbed of all civillised decisions at their quarter-final clash with 2006 hosts, Germany. With all due respect to the latter, whose team has improved tremendously since four years ago, the Slovakian ref made it oh-too-easy for them to clinch the win.

Of course, Argentinean coach Jose Pekerman must also be held partially culpable for the loss. Removing two creative and influential attacking players in Riquelme and Crespo and substituting them for the defensive strenghts of Cruz and Cambiasso was nothing short of stupid, really. I mean, fine, Cambiasso is known for his goal-scoring capabilities, but only sporadically at best. And Julio Cruz? So what if Argentina was leading? Everyone in the world knows that a one-goal cushion doesn't spell comfort these days. And it's not like you're cursed with England's problems--you've still got terrorising weapons in Messi and Saviola, for crying out loud!

Anyways, I digress. What I really wanted to rant about was the ref. Could he have made it even more obvious that he was biased to the hosts? I'm not saying that the Germans didn't deserve to win, but I am saying that Argentina deserved more justice.

In my frustration, my father (who was on neutral ground) shed some light on me. "Do you think the fact that non-Europeans can never do well when the WC is held in Europe is sheer coincidence? The referees have been doing this for decades, my dear."

Take a moment and think about it. It's sick, yes, but it's the truth. Sigh.

That game was the last straw, and now I'm completely disenchanted with the WC2006. I didn't even feel anything when I saw England perish to Portugal, especially upon finding out that the ref appointed for that match was Argentinean. A commandable choice, indeed, given the long hate-hate history behind England and Argentina in the World Cup.

Someone call me when true fair play is back, please?