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World Cup Foul


I don’t want to ruin everyone’s relief that the quadrennial footie-fest is at long last over, but isn’t there something deeply sad about this ‘beautiful game’?

This is not about the usual suspects – overt racism, massive corruption, infantilised players or predatory WAGs. I was thinking of the role of foul play in what is, after all, the globally dominant sport.

What does it say about the human condition that the principal supporting role of players – apart from the goalkeepers, as far as I can see – is either to commit fouls or to get their opposite number booked or, even better, sent-off?

What sort of message are we giving to our children? Are we saying “If you can’t win fairly, it is fine to cheat in order to win?” I rather think we are.

More time in these games seemed to be taken up playing for the foul, complete with yelps of pain and histrionic clutching at limbs – than in dazzling us with ball control. Usually, after contortions of feigned agony, the supposedly injured player gets up and runs off smiling – with not the slightest after-effect from his grievous wounds.

It must be high time that they changed the rules. Shouldn’t we see sending-off reserved only for the play acting luvvies? After all, if they are so badly hurt, they presumably need to be off the pitch for a good long rest, poor dears.

Or, maybe, in the spirit of modern policing, on-the-spot fines could be introduced? Minimum fines could be set at one week’s pay. Given average footballer incomes and the number of free-kicks and bookings, yesterday’s World Cup Final could have fed, re-housed and educated South Africa’s poor for generations to come.

In a close match the team with more players will usually win… So, if you can’t win by speed and skill, you use theatrical techniques to gain an advantage. So much effort is now goes into showing that the opposition are nasty, bad boys who shouldn’t be allowed to stay on the pitch, that dynamic and dashing play – which I am told is the point of it all – is seldom seen.

But, what do I know? I never did understand the game…

By way of an afterthought, I don’t want to make light of their talents, but isn’t there something quite suspect about grown men playing these games? Haven’t they got more, well, grown-up things they ought to be doing?

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  1. Couldn’t agree more!

    The saddest part, I thought, was that the Germans did not volunteer to call the first goal a goal. All waited for the umpire – who did not see the goal, it seems.

    What a breeze of fresh air it would have been, if someone would have said: “The ball was in”.

    Not that I understand a thing about that game…

    Alexa Fleckenstein M.D., physician, author. German.

    • A feeling shared by many, i think… but scarcely mentioned in the press here, the defeat was so convincing! I actually think the Germans were overall the best team in the competition, and they should have played Spain in the final, but that wasn’t the way it worked-out!

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