Heads up!

No big announcement, as you may have expected from the title of this post, merely this from the very same weekend a year ago.

That’s France’s Jeremy Toulalan and Uruguay’s Alvaro Pereira challenging for a ball which I comprehensively failed to get in shot. This was the second game of the tournament after the Bafana Bafana v Mexico game which we watched with a couple of hundred thousand others at the Waterfront. This one ended 0-0, meaning that I had watched a total of 3½ hours of football at the Cape Town Stadium without seeing a goal.

Fortunately, 39 minutes into the next game in Cape Town (a bitterly cold affair between Italy and Paraguay), Antolín Alcaraz scored for the South Americans and the duck was broken, only to return for the utterly dismal England v Algeria game a few days later.

Expect more quota photos loosely tied around a World Cup 2010 theme this month and every other June for ever and ever.

Dear Uruguay

Dear Uruguay,

As an honourary South African, may I first apologise for the huge amount of anti-Uruguayan sentiment that has been demonstrated amongst the locals here since Luis Suarez’s last-gasp handball against Ghana. Labeling the whole team as “cheats”, “scum” and “cheating scum” due to the instinctive actions of one player is rather foolish and unnecessary in my humble opinion. Equally as bad are the appalling and unamusing puns around the name of your country: “Ur-a-gay” and “Ur-a-gone”, which of course, you’re not, although last night’s defeat means that you will be exiled to Port Elizabeth for the weekend. I’m sorry about that too.

The popular perception amongst the nouveau riche of footballing knowledge (and by nouveau, I mean “I’ve learnt everything there is to know about soccer in the last 4 weeks”) seems to be that Suarez was at fault for Ghana’s exit. However, this is surely only the view of those who watched that game through African tinted spectacles. When viewed through neutral eyes, Ghana’s defeat was actually due to the fact that they couldn’t score any goals – especially from the penalty spot.
I’ve done some rudimentary calculations and it appears that statistically speaking, 85% of penalties are scored. In that quarter final, Ghana managed to pop a whole 40% in. Quite how that pitiful inaccuracy has been twisted and turned into apparently being Mr Suarez’s fault is somewhat beyond me.

The cheating allegations continue. That your players dive in order to get fouls. Like dear Luis again, for example, when SA goalie Itumeleng Khune tripped him up. Although, in fairness, that one was because he was tripped up by Itumeleng Khune, rather than because he dived.
But anyway: diving. It’s ugly and I dislike it.  We all do. Uruguay are, of course, the only nation whose players do this. Well, apart from Arjen Robben and Robin van Pear-See of Holland. And Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal. So Uruguay, Holland and Portugal, then. And maybe Fernando Torres a bit as well. So add Spain too.
(We’d probably include France, but they weren’t really here long enough for anyone to notice.)
But Uruguay are definitely the biggest cheats at diving, because South African fans say so (while conveniently ignoring Teko Modise’s pathetic 3m springboard antics).

And talking of Teko, we can also add to this growing list of reasons that we hate each and every one of the 3,500,000 inhabitants of your country so very much, the fact that you effectively ended Bafana Bafana’s dreams of World Cup glory by comprehensively outplaying them and scoring three more goals that they did in Pretoria on the 16th. How dare you?
Of course, that’s what you came here for – to win as many games as possible.
But against the host nation? Don’t you study history at all?
Do you not recall how Germany declared war on Italy after their semi-final defeat in 2006? How Japan refused several shipments of rose-flavoured candy after Turkey knocked them out in 2002? Or how France didn’t actually take any action whatsoever after they weren’t beaten on home soil in ’98?
No Uruguay. You got lucky when South Africa just decided not to like you very much after that 3-0 drubbing in Tshwane. We could have gone a lot further, like giving your kids vuvuzelas.
(Note to parents: Just. Don’t.)

And then there’s the personal insults. Mainly about Diego Forlan’s hair. Obviously, none of the other players playing in the World Cup here have silly hair (Siphiwe Tshabalala) (cough) so this makes Diego a prime target. This is exacerbated by his annoying habit of scoring really good goals. Siphiwe only struggled with that goalscoring issue rather briefly way back when.

All in all, it’s clear to see why some South Africans have suddenly discovered this hatred from all things Uruguayan. The spirit of Ubuntu only goes so far and the bottle had obviously run dry by the time we got down to U in the alphabet. Wait til you see what they  have in store of the Zimbabweans next week – a bit of booing and some hairstyle abuse is going to seem like a game against Bafana… er… I mean like a walk in the park compared with what they’re going to get.

All in all, I think you were hard done by. Quite what people expected you to do when faced with opposition football teams in an international football tournament escapes me. I would have stopped that shot with my hand if I’d have been on the line that night. So would David Beckham, so would Lionel Messi, neither would Robert Green.
That’s just part and parcel of football. And that’s probably why so many people here just don’t get it.

UPDATE: Some more posts on this, from Jacques Rousseau and Jeremy Nell.

UPDATE 2: More – Incoming from Jacques:
From a good football blog I’ve just discovered:

Then, Ghana. This is my sixth World Cup, and I have watched a lot of football over the last 20 years. (Time I’ll never get back, Isuppose.) And I’ve never seen an ending weirder, more arbitrary and more cruel than the freakshow of missed penalties and evil-doing rewarded that brought the Black Stars’ inspirational, continent-uniting underdog run to an end. I loved it.
See, Ghana distinguished itself by becoming the only African team that knows how to get a result, come what may. Dating back (at least) to their cold-blooded 2006 elimination of the United States, they’ve always been willing to do the business. Dive in the box? Waste a little time with a fake injury? Why not? It’s a Man’s Game, after all.
Football’s message to Ghana: “Oh, you think you’re hardboiled? Meet Luis Suarez’s hand!” I’ve been wracking my brain for a Hand-of-God-style sobriquet for Suarez’s last-second “save”—someone will get there, I’m quite sure—but in the end, it was just the kind of bizarre intervention that twists history one way and not another. Plan all you want, and you cannot plan for Suarez’s hand.
Sorry, Black Stars—but you had 120 minutes to win it, and you didn’t, so fare thee well.

He’s right, you know?

Big disappointment

Just back from the Waterfront, which was alive with sunshine and happy faces for the Bafana Bafana game last Friday, but was a very different scene this evening as things fell apart for South Africa. What started as a party full of hope went very quiet and ended in disbelief, anger and tears. Mainly because the parking machine got an errant R5 coin stuck in the coin slot.

The queues were quite horrendous.

In the footy, Bafana were quite simply outplayed for 90 of the 90 minutes. The midfield just didn’t turn up, the passing was wayward at best and there were only brief snatches (which are still better than no snatches at all) of the team that played with such passion and skill on Friday. Uruguay are apparently the same side that I saw in Cape Town last week and bored me to tears, although it didn’t look that way this evening. Also, the parking machine worked that night, so it really was completely different.

There has already been a lot said about the referee – not least his decision to award a penalty to a player who was apparently offside and give Itumeleng Khune a red card to boot (him off the field), but the fact is that Bafana never really looked like scoring.
Now SA need to rely on a France v Mexico draw (o-o would be nice) and then they have to go out and beat France. Nothing else will suffice if they are to make the last 16.

Photos (such as they are) will be up tomorrow.
Me? I’m off to bed with a sore throat, some dashed hopes and possibly – just possibly – a small tear in my eye.

P.S. Suarez to Man U next season, I reckon. They’ve been missing someone with diving skills like that since Prissy Crissy walked out on them.