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A Eulogy to the Beautiful Game

— Filed under: People & Culture

Bafana-BafanaBafana-BafanaOver the next four weeks I will forget about going grey or my expanding waistline, worrying about paying bills, getting a pension, credit cards, shopping lists, licence renewals, healthy eating, sensible bedtimes or any of the other drudgeries that make up everyday life, because this week starts the biggest celebration of humanity in the world: The Football (or Soccer if you must) World Cup.

In South Africa, teams from the four corners of the world will arrive for a tournament that will be the talk of pubs, coffee shops and dinner tables from Addis Ababa to Zagreb. Every scope of human emotion will be displayed: joy, tragedy, hope, fear, bravery, stoicism, disappointment. Heroes and villains will arise, Davids will fight Goliaths and previously unheralded players from North Korea or Ivory Coast or Paraguay will capture the world's attention.

I've always loved football, but there is something special when it is transcribed into national teams. For just a while it doesn't matter if you are rich or poor, how big your GDP or armies are, what your religion, language or the colour of your skin is, or whether your country is the size of the Vatican or Russia. It just comes down to 11 people vs. 11 people. The pitch and the goal and ball are the same size for everyone.

In the World Cup 1998 (I think), the U.S. played Iran. Before the match the players shook hands and exchanged pennants; after it they embraced and walked off the pitch together. The captains of either side talked about the skill, dedication and the respect they had for their opponents. The World Cup is humanity as it should be.

So over the next four weeks, marvel at the variety of us. The Brazilians with their swivel-hipped brilliance, the Italians with their emotion and exaggerated hand gestures, the pace and power of the African teams and the fact that the Germans never, ever ever, lose a penalty shootout.

Is it the greatest game ever?

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Kuncen's picture

Football and the World Cup

Excellent article, thanks for the contribution.

Even if you're not a sports fan, it's hard not to be captivated by the humanity on display, as timedesign mentioned. And I like the idea of football as the great equalizer.

What a spectacle it will be! I'm excited, to say the least.


Anonymous's picture

If competitive sports can

If competitive sports can substitute for war, then I'm all for them. Otherwise it's just a bunch of alpha-male testosterone release...

Winston Smith's picture

Ultimate expression of physical excellence

Anonymous wrote:
If competitive sports can substitute for war, then I'm all for them. Otherwise it's just a bunch of alpha-male testosterone release...

I remember when I was in high school, I swore off all sports (both participating and watching) as just a bunch of testosterone-fueled posturing. A bunch of jocks trying to impress each other, and most of the jocks in my high school were jerks. Then when I got a little older, I realized (like many things in life) that it's just not as simple as that.

Yes, in certain settings it can be a lot of alpha-male testosterone. But pro sports are exciting to watch because they're the ultimate expression of human excellence and competition. These athletes are possibly the best in the world at what they do. They have honed their minds as well as their bodies, and everything counts. It's a test of wills as well as a test of bodies.

In professional sports, you're seeing the penultimate of human physical ability and skill, and the drama of the competition is exciting to watch. If you're only seeing it on an "alpha-male" level, then you're missing the humanity.

Winston Smith's picture

The U.S. and the World Cup

Interesting article about the U.S. and the World Cup:

MrShaw's picture

World Cup Team (MrShaw Analysis)

Algeria - Being in the same group as England and prediction, spanking boys of Group C
Australia - They may possibly make it past the first group round, if they manage to contend with Germany and Serbia.
Argentina - I am betting no problems in the group stages. Contenders for the Title for sure.
Brazil - The Favourites. Possibly not as nice to watch this year, but Final spot minimum.
Cameroon - I am hoping they get past the first round. They are rubbish in defence but fun to watch.
Chile - May get past the first round, its between The Chileans and The Swiss. Out in the second round.
Denmark - Should get through the First round, and have a talented team. Possibly Quarters at the very most.
England - Crap defensively, loads of pressure from English press, Quarter finals at best. Likely to buckle.
France - Favourites in group. Talented squad that have underperformed and are losing their Manager. Quarter Final
Ghana - Perhaps qualify from Group C. I hope they beat the Germans. Can't see them going any further than last 16.
Greece - Boring German defensive play, probably pass the first group stage, then get whipped. Hopefully 10-0.
Germany - Kings of the boring, minimum Quarter Finals. Will be interesting against Argentina if they match up..
Honduras - Nowhere. Home, rather quickly.
Italy - Favourites in Group. Great team. Final contenders, anything less and they will be disappointed.
Ivory Coast - Final 16, best African Team...the less I see of Drogba and Sven on the TV, the better though.
Japan - Interesting to see if they get past the First group, tricky for them. Home James, don't spare the horses.
North Korea - Whipping boys, hope they enjoy the taste of freedom, because it won't last long. Possible defectors?
Mexico - Not honestly sure, think they may have a chance to get past their group. Not very far. last 16.
The Netherlands - Ego's abound, probably not as far as they should do, given their talent. Semi's if no tantrums.
New Zealand - I would hope they already have there return flights booked. Whipping boys.
Nigeria - I want them to beat South Korea and Greece, but it will be a struggle for them. Go Obafemi!
Paraguay - they will want to get through the first round, and I would guess they will sneak it, just ahead of Slovakia
Portugal - May fall at the first hurdle, Ivory Coast will be hoping so. Quarter finals at best.
South Africa - Out in the qualifiers, think the Host nation and unbeaten run will have them overconfident.
South Korea - they have history in the World Cup, and will probably scrape through the first round.
Spain - Semi final contenders, they have always had a strong team and will be interesting to watch.
Serbia - Defensively strong, I think they will easily take 2nd spot in the first round. might get to Quarter finals.
Switzerland - Interesting to see what Hitzfeld can achieve, if they get past the 1st round could go to Quarters.
Slovakia - Have a chance to get through the first round, if they manage to stay above Paraguay. Out 1st round
Slovenia - Not likely to progress past the first round, due to the US and UK, they want to play "attractive football"
Uruguay - Possible Quarter finalists. Goals will be scored, and have a much better team than either Mexico or SA.
USA - Will get through the 1st round easily, and may even get to the Quarters. Whipped by one of the top 6 teams.

timedesign's picture

Good analysis, but a question

Good analysis, but a question about the US comment.
Who are the tip six teams? Spain and Brazil for sure. Argentina are great but had a terrible time qualifying with Chile and Paraguay finishing above them. France and Italy are classy, but fading fast and the U.S team will definately, definately not get whipped by England.

MrShaw's picture

Top Teams

1. Bazil
2. Spain
3. Italy
4. Argentina
5. Germany
6. Netherlands/France

Brazil and Spain are no brainers, and it would be a fantastic final if they are both in it. I can't ever discount the Italians, and think they will have a much stronger performance than France, but the thing about the French is they like being underdogs...they seem to thrive on it.
Argentina have a very good team, although having just watched their 1st match, Veron seemed like he was trying to set a record for the most amount of piss poor passes in a game, and Jonas is going to miss a lot of matches if keeps on tackling like Jonah Lomu. Messi had more chances to score than a millionaire in a brothel, and I expect more of him. I think this goes without saying. The Nigerians flattened him a fair few times, and he made sure it looled like they did a couple of times too. Ah fair play in the bueatiful game ;)
You just can't rule out the Germans. I reckon they could field 11 geriatrics and still manage to get to the Semi's. That's the Germans for you
The French have bigger egos than the Dutch, but they are better at it, practise I suppose. How many times have you looked at the team list for The Netherlands in the past and realised they have 5 of the top 20 players in the world? A few I would bet. Doesn't stop them be bundled out by lesser teams though

So there you go..what's your thoughts?

timedesign's picture

Yeah, that looks good to me.

Yeah, that looks good to me. I thought the Argies were great to watch yesterday. Inventive going forward but the Nigerians managed to spring the defence a couple of times, which will give heart to anyone playing them.
Also, about France, everybody's writing them off but you look at the team sheet and it's packed with quality (which can't be said for England). If they all started pulling in the same direction, they would be formidable.
I don't know about Italy, man. I think they might get found out at this World Cup.
i agree with you about The Netherlands. I quite fancy them this time round, but them I always do, and as you said they get bundled out by lesser teams.
The real shame for me is the African teams. I really want to see them do well (when England go out, I'll support Ghana or Ivory Coast) but it's a shame they are missing so many crucial players. Drogba, Essien and Obi Mikel. I'd have loved to have seen those guys against an ageing Italian defence.
And weirdly, the best team performance I have seen yet was South Korea (against an admittedly awful Greece). I thought they were great; organised, coherent and inventive. Good stuff.

Winston Smith's picture

Ghana wins on penalty

Here's Ghana's moment! You gotta feel good about that!

timedesign's picture

the New York Post

A very amusing article from the new York Post about the England-U.S. game. Followed by a lot of British comments by people who didn't get the joke.

MrShaw's picture

Ze Germans are looking very very good.

Cahill has just been sent off,
which pleases me since I have been calling him "Hack Happy"
for years. I thought the convicts would be a pretty organised
team...they do have some good players. The Germans are showing what they can do. 4
4-0 with 20 mins to go. 2 in the last 5 minutes.....spanked..I am hoping for 6 goals!

timedesign's picture

England vs. the U.S.

If you didn't see the England U.S. game the other night, catch a recreation of it...... played by LEGO men!

Liam's picture

haha haha ha classic! Lego

haha haha ha classic! Lego football is cool

MrShaw's picture

First games over and the mind and blame games have started

A few goalkeepers had complained about the ball, and it's flight before the initial games. Capello, Heskey and Terry has decided to join this camp. Wayne Rooney has been quoted as saying its not a problem and the ball gives advantage to the strikers. Fifa and Adidas are saying its not their fault, as they would, And Sven has called for a summit with regards to the football, I suggest get on with it.

Beckenbauer has decided to start mind games with the English Team, suggesting there play has regressed to kick and rush. Rooney has reacted verbally stating he wants to play Germany next, because it would be good to beat them. Hmmmm. Capello has already responded via the Media angrily. So Beckenbauer won that little exchange. Perhaps Fergie could have a chat with Fabio about mind games, since he is unofficial king in England.

Robert Green is being lambasted in all media forms...poor guy. It was inevitable. I am surprised that an effigy of him has not been erected in Trafalgar Square for burning. How fickle we are. Capello is also being questioned about his style and tactics...already.

Brazil are being mocked for not bringing the World Cup to life, Italy have been written off, Argentina have been labelled disappointing by some, despite a win and Spain have already had the "No Team has won the World cup after an opening game" statistic waved in their face, along side their coach stating "It's not a good sign". This is in direct contradiction to Dunga who was obviously pleased with Brazil's win. The Ppower of thinking anyone? We will see. In reality Spain were the much better team, and were unlucky to be victims of what was a really really crap goal.

Finally the referee in the South African vs Uruguay game is getting the blame for the South African's losing, for the manager. Funny that. everybodyelse seems to think that South Africa were totally outclassed, and in doing so started to play the "kick lumps out of the opposition" game, one they must learn at Kindergarten as this seems to be there philosophy in all sports I have watched them in.

So according to anyone who feels they have the right to spout, the World Cup is already a surprise, a disappointment, a fix and waste of time.

Bring on the next set of games I say, perhaps it will be the face-lift people are suggesting the competition needs. My opinion is no matter what happens I will still be watching as many games I can fit in, without annoying the missus! :)

Ethan's picture

world cup

I was really dissapointed by the socceroos loss of 4-0 to Germany, not even one goal :(

timedesign's picture

Algeria vs England

Absolute shocker. No invention up front, they didn't test a dodgy goalkeeper or a brittle back four and bearly had a shot on target.
If they can't beat that clueless shower of shite, then Algeria don't deserve to go to the next round.

Winston Smith's picture

Oh the humanity!

As I type this, South Africa is beating France 2-1 with about twenty minutes remaining. Not sure what the final score will be, but if SA can hold on for the win, it would be a huge upset and a chance for them to claim some measure of pride from an otherwise disappointing campaign. Of course France has had their own drama and were "understaffed" for this match, to put it diplomatically. But still, it's always nice to see a developing country beat a "first-world" country.

MrShaw's picture

Well thats my predictions utterly up the spout.

Just read that Anelka got sent home for abusing the French, never Anelka, he was such a happy child according to his mum. Then the South African's sent the French home, but a source could not be found to give a reason why? Perhaps for stealing The Cape of Good Hope?

Italy have Slovakia next and will be confident of a win, which probably means they will lose, then spend the 50 years diving whenever a Paraguay player comes near them, as it is OBVIOUSLY their fault.

Argentina have sailed through, so that's one of my predictions right. OK, so sailed is a little generous. Perhaps they did an impersonation of a boat made up of Maradonna and Robert Maxwell tied together?

England play Slovenia tonight, and its make or break time. Break I would say, like David Busst's leg...and career. Bye Bye Capello.

The Germans will get through I would say, and it doesn't matter where they come, they have an easy Quarter Final's, meaning they will reach the Semi's quite easily. Pity Beckenbauer doesn't take a long walk off a short pier with lead filled Lederhosen though.

The Dutch are through just about, meaning there banana skill might just be Paraguay, lets hope so ay, I would love another prediction to be right.

Brazil play Portugal next , which could be a cracker of a game, if you watch Olympic diving. Sure to be a lot of pansy pushing, diving, and possibly even another "Rivaldo" situation, poor boy though, no wonder he thought the ball hit him in the head, there's be two dangling there for years. Might even be a goal. Who knows!

Spain have Chile next who are currently top of the group, lets hope the "former favourites" pull out all the stops, they actually deserve to still be in it, there is just one problem...getting the ball in the back of the net. I scored more goals during my school years than they have, despite being the 2nd most reluctant footballer my school has ever known (Sting aka Gordon Sumner was the 1st). I scored all three of my goals by being in the right place at the right time, although I obviously was cursing my luck as "ball smashed in face by accident and then pathetically role over the goal-line while trying to wedgy the goal keeper" was not what I had referred to as "luck".

timedesign's picture

Slovakia vs. Italy

Bloody hell. Five minutes to go and it's 3-1 to Slovakia. The World Champs are going out. Absolute cracker of match, the best so far.

Actually, scratch that, Italy have just scored. Blimey! This game has everything!

Germany on Sunday. They bombed our chip shops.

MrShaw's picture


That last comment about Chip shops certainly tickled me. Were you smirking into your beer as you watched the river of tears that was the Italian Team last night? I was, I will admit. I love be right,then wrong, then right then wrong again.....

MrShaw's picture

Haweh the Lads....oops...wrong team.

So Dunga has been fired, no surprise then..the Brazilian Job must be more volatile than the English or you are out. I would think that Capello will get one more chance then be sacked...still nice little earner for him for the next four years.

Capello has stated that he will be bringing in new move since Lamapard, Terry and Gerrard will be 33 the next time the World Cup comes around. Rubber lips Ferdinand will be 35. I wonder who Capello will be looking at...A couple of German players after some hastily arranged weddings perhaps?

Maradona is humming and hooray henrying about whether he could go, which possibly means he is about to get sacked...According to Pele the only reason he took the job was for money, which is a bit of a pity, since every goal that Argentina scored looked like they could cause Diego's underwear a severe scrubbing. He looked liked a true fan (and back on those "pain-killers".

I was right about the German/Argentian match-up for all the wrong reasons. Ze Germans look a class apart and despite being a very good team, I can't see Spain managing to keep up with them, perhaps a goal will nick it for Loew's team. I hope not but now we are at the business end, I need to be realistic.

The Germans have it, but hope I am proved wrong. Probable fourth title, and they seem to be playing the best football, loath as I am to admit it.

MrShaw's picture

Germany are ......

out, and I crow with delight. As far as I can tell from reading, Spain were a much better team. i have read that Germany were rather poor last night. Slow play and looking rather weak. Spain were dominant. So it is an all European Final, will this be third time lucky for Holland, or will Spain be the first team to win it after losing their opening game? I hope Spain wins it now, not that I have anything against Holland, just that Spain were one of my favourites at the beginning. Bring on Monday Sunday evening/Monday morning...depending on where you are watching.

timedesign's picture

Ayo Belanda!!

aku mau Belanda membunuh spain! wanna put a pint on it?

MrShaw's picture


Hell yes, with frothy topping and all! Repayable at next quiz (also know as Beer Evening Pass for MrShaw)

MrShaw's picture

Pint Part 2

You know there is only one thing nicer that a lovely cold pint? A free pint off the back of a bet you had no clue about and still managed to win. Here's looking at you kid :)