Horrible World Cup in South Africa
The latest edition of the FIFA World Cup ended last Sunday just as it started, with a very tame and highly controversial game that did little for the FIFA and host organisers.
Perhaps this year’s edition of the World Cup would go down in history among the dullest of all time, with no real reason for connoisseurs of the sport all aghast at the level to which this once most prized possession has sunk.
In many respects the World Cup 2010 will be remembered more for its shortcomings than for the glory that was eventually claimed by Spain’s fortunate players. First there was controversy over the new ball delivered by Adidas. Injury featured prominently even before the teams got to South Africa. Poor officiating marred the competition. There is now global support for the introduction of technology to aid the on-field technical officials.
Before the World Cup began it was clear that there were significant problems on the horizon. Several of the top teams in the world recorded injuries of varying degrees to players who were expected to significantly impact their fortunes in the competition. There were players who never made it to the competition in South Africa. There were others, like Rio Ferdinand, who got injured on the very first day of training of the English team in South Africa and had to return home before the competition started.
There was also the extremely disgusting charge on Didier Drogba in a practice game that suggested a complete lack of understanding of and appreciation for the actual competition. The charge was totally uncalled for and unintelligible except the perpetrator deliberately wanted Drogba out of the game for life.
Throughout the competition one got the impression that many of the so-called stars were not going to shine. They looked decidedly jaded and for the most part failed to impress even their fans far less their coaches.
This is not the first time that we have had a World Cup that witnessed so many of the game’s leading players failing to really impact the competition. This has been happening for the past two editions of the competition in particular.
There is perhaps reason enough to suggest to FIFA that there be a considerable distance between the end of club competitions and the World Cup itself. This is necessary for nations to be able to really put competitive teams together. Many of the countries came to the competition in South Africa without the coaches really getting the opportunity to clinically assess their players, who were playing all over the world, and then mould them into the required fighting machines that the World Cup requires of them.
Many analysts of the game have come to the realisation that many teams were not at their best because they did not have the very best players with them.
Clearly the many club competitions have grown in importance to FIFA’s global status and this is good. However it may well prove to be the undoing of the World Cup as that organisation’s flagship event. It makes absolutely no sense to have competitions ending so close to the World Cup that the participating nations suffer from the absence of their very best players at the world’s premier single sporting event.
One understands that money makes the world go round but it also makes many things go wrong and this year’s FIFA World Cup may yet stand as one of the best examples of this. Many fans were disappointed after having bought their stock of tickets to find that their country’s players were too tired from international duty to respond in the World Cup in a manner that suggests that playing for one’s country is paramount.
FIFA must therefore pay attention to the timing of its own World Cup viz-a-viz the other many competitions held across the globe under its auspices. It must determine just what it wants out of the World Cup. If the current trend is allowed to continue FIFA will certainly fund that its premier quadrennial event becomes secondary to international competitions at the professional club level.
Poor officiating significantly marred this year’s World Cup. This is another of FIFA’s problems.
For an organisation that expends so much of its resources on the training of technical officials the World Cup was a particularly poor reflection of its achievements in this regard.
From the very start of the competition it was clear that the referees were not of the very best. As the competition wore on it became all the more evident and embarrassing to FIFA. The presence of better television coverage given the advances in modern technology ever mistake made on the field of play by the technical officials was readily picked up, relayed across the globe and became a sore talking point on the game of Football.
FIFA’s initial response to the appeal by the international media and later by disappointed team managers and coaches as well as enthusiastic supporters was predictably obnoxious. It was understandable because as an international federation (IF) FIFA wanted to ensure absolute control over developments in its own sport. In this regard the legitimate authorities for the sport failed to keep pace with global developments in technology and seemed fossilised, at least for the moment. However, it was not long before the errors of the technical officials on the field during the World Cup became something of a chronic illness that threatened the very future of the sport. The USA was indeed hard done by the assistant referee’s decision to disallow what was a clear goal. There were several other critical decisions by officials that left the world watching their conduct in utter dismay. One match after another fell prey to the poor officiating that emerged as one of the characteristic features if the tournament in South Africa. The final match for top honours in the competition was not spared. In light of this FIFA soon found its back against the wall and the leadership had little choice but to capitulate to save face in light of the immense embarrassment that emerged during the competition.
At the conclusion of the World Cup one is still not certain that FIFA has yet come to an understanding of the devastating impact that poor officiating has had on the overall competition. Fans across the world have lost faith in the officials to do their best. Many cam away believing that some of the officials were deliberately prejudicial, something that is not in the best interest of the game.
Spain’s historic moment
The World Cup 2010 was won by Spain. This is the same team that won the European Cup some time ago. In the case of the latter victory many thought that there was some sort of manifest destiny in so far as the team was concerned. Everything went right for the players and the team gave a display that left many holding the view that their time had come.
At the start of this year’s World Cup it was thought by some that Span should receive much consideration. However, with its opening defeat many threw the team out of the competition without appreciating a number of other significant factors.
England had the oldest average team in the competition with Brazil second in this regard. Both of these teams should have learnt their lessons from the past. Brazil has been this way before when the likes of Socrates, Junior and Zico were just too old for the young turks around at the time that they lost to France on penalties.
Germany was perhaps fortunate that five of the ‘better’ players were out for one reason or another and they were forced to use younger and inexperienced players. The latter rose to the occasion and made their mark on the World Cup as well as on German Football. In the game against England the young Germans literally outplayed their older, more experienced counterparts. Throwing caution to the wind they outran the English defence with great frequency leaving the latter’s fans wondering what had gone wrong.
The final witnessed two teams that had never won the World Cup intertwined in an encounter that had history written all over it. In the end, good fortune was with Spain.
The Spaniards had done what was required of them and the entire nation poured out in their honour. It was a victory that impacted the nation that needed something to distract the people from the horrors of the global economic crisis and the ongoing battle with the Basque Separatists.
The country that boasts Barcelona and Real Madrid finally produced enough nationals to take the sport’s top prize.
No one should envy Spain for their success just as no one would envy the advances of the Netherlands through to the final.
Impact on South Africa
Much has been said in advance of the World Cup and throughout the competition about the impact that the event was likely to have on South Africa.
It is unfortunate that every time that we have these major global events there is a certain anxiety that befalls the organisers and some journalists in respect of their expectations.
While it is almost always the case that the people of a host country rally themselves together once the event is finally being realised, it is not always true that the country becomes in any way united.
They can speak of the Rainbow nation till the cow comes home the reality would remain very different for decades to come. The one World Cup did not bring South Africa together. What may have happened is that for the international image of the country the appearance was given of a united nation. The truth is a very different thing and we will see this in the very near future.
The same is true of the economic impact. Many people have spoken of the economic impact of the Olympic Games on different host nations. However we are yet to see a country, in the recent past, being able to boast of an economically successful Summer Olympics. It is only recently that Barcelona cleared its indebtedness for the Olympics of 1992. Atlanta and Sydney are still examining their respective realities and Athen’s current turmoil may well have had its roots in the hosting of the Olympics of 2004.
It is like the WICB and CWC2007. The jury is still out. Barbadians who borrowed money for Bed and Breakfast are still trying to pay the banks for the success that never materialised.
Here in St Vincent and the Grenadines ‘the dance still cannot pay for the dance’ in terms of the millions expended for ‘goat cook’ matches in the CWC2007.
The South African reality may well show that while FIFA may have significantly increased its revenues South Africa may well have been left as disunited and economically distraught at was the case before the country bid to host the World Cup.
Still enjoying the euphoria of the ratings of the international media the South Africans have decided to join the list of countries whose cities are bidding for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games.