By most popular accounts, the 2010 tournament was a success: relatively safe streets, beautiful stadiums, decent organization and incredible hospitality on the part of South Africans. FIFA agrees: The South Africans really were wonderful hosts, spending public money freely so that the Swiss-based monolith could rake in a record profit. It won’t take long for FIFA to count their US$3.3 billion in revenues (for the month); it will take South Africa many decades to pay off the party. The tourists have gone; the hotels, stadiums, airports, communications facilities, transportation lines, cultural attractions and debt remain.
In order to make sense of what has happened in South Africa one has to get rid of the idea of the 2010 World Cup as a month-long football tournament. A mega-event is not an “event” but a multi-year process that has residual effects that most people can’t, don’t want to, or refuse to acknowledge. In reading the responses to a recent article that draws attention to Brazil’s poor state of preparedness for the 2014 World Cup, one is struck by the degree of ignorance, short-sightedness and willful disregard about the way the World Cup functions in the local context. While we distract ourselves about notions of “Fair Play” and contributions to a culture of deceit (e.g.: the Suarez handball against Ghana), the dirtiest, cheating-est, most dishonest game is in the very production of the World Cup itself—where the laws that govern society are changed, violated and ignored so that “we” can consume the inherent drama of sport in safety and comfort.
1) FIFA is a corrupt institution of organized criminals that bullies national and local governments into financing a private party. FIFA is very explicit about the private nature of the event. Everything within an x-kilometer radius of a World Cup stadium is FIFA’s private domain: a sanitized and securitized world of private accumulation where only certain signs, symbols and behaviors are permitted. Worse, this FIFA-world is controlled by public and private security forces that act to ensure the smooth production of a global spectacle.
2) The Local Organizing Committee (LOC) has little or no public accountability even though they receive and direct all public funding for the event. This closed organization is neither elected nor subject to public regulatory agencies. In South Africa, one of the 23 SA2010 LOC members was shot dead outside his home on his way to a whistle-blowing deposition. Once the event is over, the LOC will dissolve, forever eliminating the possibility of legal action or public accountability.
Brazil 2014 is a story of corruption foretold. The Brazilian LOC only has six members. For the first time in the history of the event the head of the national football federation (Ricardo Teixeira) will head the LOC. His daughter is the Secretary-general. Her grandfather is João Havelange, president of FIFA from 1974-1998.
3) Transportation infrastructures are constructed with only short term mobility and use in mind. FIFA does not employ urban planners. A LOC does not hold public meetings. In Johannesburg, for example, the construction of BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) lines linking the tourist zones with the stadium had two effects. One, it eliminated employment for thousands of informal and formal transportation providers, who later opened fire on the BRT. Secondly, the BRT will be almost completely unused after the World Cup, draining public coffers to maintain the linkages between the five-star hotels and the Ellis Park Coca Cola Park Stadium (itself a totally unnecessary construction).
In Rio de Janeiro, the construction of BRTs linking the Zona Sul and the International Airport with the Olympic Zone in Barra de Tijuca is underway. There is also much talk of a bullet train linking Campinas-São Paulo-Rio de Janeiro (at a cost of R$45 billion). Presently, there is no passenger train service at all! Fala serio.
It has become accepted gospel in soccer circles that two of the great teams in soccer history did not win the World Cup: the Netherlands in 1974 and Brazil in 1982. I remember sitting at a bar in Salvador listening to a Brazilian go on and on about Socrates and the rest of Brazil national team, and how it was a great injustice that the better team did not win against Italy. My only reply, which produced some incredulity in my drinking companion, was, “Better team? Apparently not.”
I like pretty passing and flair as much as the next guy, but if Brazil didn’t have the guile or onions to unlock or break the Italian defense, then how good could they really be? And, while “Total Football” (as annoying and overused a phrase as “the beautiful game”) might have been an important leap forward in the evolution of soccer, how good were the Dutch really if they lacked the discipline and killer instinct to finish off West Germany instead of trying to put on a clinic? Those were flawed teams, and I know this because they lost.
With proper respect to Herm Edwards, you play to win the game. Not to be pretty, not to “play the right way” and not to impress the fans in the stadium and a worldwide audience. No, the object is to kick a ball into a net more times than your opponent. As overwrought sportswriters have become enamored with particular styles and displays of flair, they have forgotten the central truth that these things are incidental—and not central—to the game of soccer (notwithstanding South America’s purported preference for artistry over mere results in decades past). To say that the 1982 Brazil or 1974 Holland teams were among the great teams of all time is only slightly less ridiculous than saying that the 1979 Harlem Globetrotters were among the great basketball teams off all time because Meadowlark Lemon could hit half court hook shots or bounce in free throws between his legs.
That play in the 116th minute has justly given Spain its first World Cup title. Yet, apart from the cheering in Spain, the biggest reaction to the final has been one of revulsion from the international media. ESPN pundits to a man criticized the way the game was played, especially on the Dutch side, and The Guardian is reporting as a matter of fact that the "display of anti-football" let Europe down.
Slavery (of Africans, but also of some Asians) was a feature of the new colony almost from day one, as was the process of subjugating the local indigenous population. Academic historians commonly refer to the events of the 17th century and 18th century in South Africa as the “white invasion” or “conquest.” The first violent conflicts between the Dutch community and natives dates from 1659; over the next 50 years, the settlers took advantage of superior weaponry to gradually gain control of more land and more resources (livestock) formerly controlled or occupied by native Africans. A devastating small pox outbreak in the late 17th century further decimated the Khoikhoi ("Hottentot") native population.
Also significant for South Africa’s subsequent history is the fact that the white colonial settlement had sharp “gradations of status and wealth,” as historian Leonard Thompson puts it. Colony administrators and a few wealthy farmers controlled land and resources, but many other white settlers were landless. This was the strata from which the first “trekkers” emerged—those white colonialists who over the course of the 18th century branched out from the Cape Town base and began expanding white presence in southern Africa, to the north and the east.
The trekkers had only limited contact with Dutch colonial culture during this process. Government beyond the Cape Town region was extremely limited, and the trekkers in effect made their own laws, particularly in dealing with native Africans. Over much of the 18th century, there were no formal schools for these settlers, and little organized religion; contact with the home colony base consisted of long, arduous trade trips. These colonialists of Dutch descent had an increasingly marginal relationship with Cape Town, much less Holland itself and the intellectual and political developments of 18th-century Europe.
As the World Cup Final looms, there’s no clear consensus on who will win it all. What people seem to agree on, though, is that they hope the match will be decided before it comes to a penalty-kick shootout.
Soccer purists hate penalty-kick shootouts. They seem like an unfair way to settle a match after two hours of often-intense play, and the final victor seems a bit arbitrary in the end. Or, so the argument goes.
Personally, I have never disliked the penalty kick. Perhaps as an American who was raised on the idea of free throws deciding basketball games and field goals deciding football games, it just seems normal and reasonable.
We'll have to wait until Sunday to find out which European power will get to write its name on the World Cup trophy for the first time. But we can go write ahead and start describing the 62 matches of this World Cup by the numbers, with a little help from fifa.com's statistics pages.
First, overall trends. In the knockout stage thus far, only two matches (Paraguay-Japan and Uruguay-Ghana) have gone to penalty kicks, compared to four matches in 2006 (including the final), two matches in 2002, and three matches 1998.
RICHMOND, VA—Is it possible for a English-language sportwriter to write an article about the German national soccer team without any reference to World War I, World War II, any past national leaders, any references to "efficiency," or any references to the words "blitzkrieg" and "Aryan?"
I don't know, and it's obviously too late for this article to accomplish that feat. But let's pretend for a moment that the German national side that has now dismantled England and Argentina in four-star fashion were actually from California (where former legend Jurgen Klinsmann sometimes resides). What I'd say is they are like totally awesome, I am sooo in to the way they have been playing this World Cup.
In 1930, when Uruguay had 1,734,000 residents, they beat Argentina in the World Cup final. The Argentines burned Uruguayan businesses in Buenos Aires. In 1950, when Uruguay had wildly grown to 2,194,000, they beat Brazil in front of 200,000 suddenly silent Cariocas. In 2010, Uruguay is the team with the second smallest national population in the tournament (Slovenia is the smallest) and is one game away from the final.
There has been much vilification of Luis Suarez, for denying Ghana a birth in the semifinals by swatting the net-bound Jabulani with two hands. It was a crazy moment but tactically the right thing to do. Guarding the line, Suarez chose expulsion and an 80 percent chance of a goal to a 100 percent chance of a goal. If he hadn’t done that Uruguay were out. He did it and only he was out, and will get to play at least one more game.
I’m not sure why his tactical decision makes him a cheater to some observers—or at least a violator of the spirit of the game, as Thad Williamson wrote here at Triangle Offense. The rules were clear and correctly applied. Gyan had the chance to win the game in a way that almost never happens in soccer—a game ending spot-kick, in a historically laden situation—sending the only remaining African team to the first African semifinal in the first African World Cup. The pressure was too much and he missed, and Suarez’ gamble paid off (Gyan’s bravery in taking the second penalty was as stirring as his initial miss).
Here’s the question as put by Luis Fernando Verissimo in today’s O Globo, “Should a moral goal [Gyan’s] count more than a grave infraction that causes the perpetrator to be expelled?” That is to say, Suarez’ handball counted as much as a legal goal, as conditioned by the rules. Fair play, indeed. Maybe that’s what people don’t like about it.Captain Diego Lugano is doubtful, Suarez is suspended, and defenders Fucile and Godin are suspended and injured respectively. But there’s Diego Forlán, putting on a show as CR9, Rooney, Kaká and Messi couldn’t (one goal between the four of them).
The key to Uruguayan success against the dour Dutch will be in absorbing pressure while remaining organized (a 3-5-2 that turns to 5-3-1-1 on defense) and then hope that Forlán will be able to counter at pace, creating opportunities for others, and getting a few free kicks around the box to try his Jabulani luck. Two goals from Uruguay would be a miracle, but they’re here, have a hell of a footballing tradition, and anything is possible.