It’s World Cup season again; that magical time when journalists forget the correct use of the word “hero”. A time when half the globe seems to think that 11 guys in colorful underwear can change their world. It’s that time when sanity gets sent on a vacation.
Despite the World Cup’s inflated importance, it’s a pretty good show. Many matches are really good this year, and all players are real athletes. But you know what I miss? It could really use a little more of the Olympic spirit.
I would like to see a little more love of the sport; a genuine delight to be kicking a ball at the biggest stage in the world. Too many players seem mainly concerned with shoe fashion, silly hair and their latest tattoos. Many spend entire matches playing the victim, or acting insulted every time they get called on fouling an opponents. It would be nice if this kind of “professionalism” was balanced out by some more joy of the game, more pride to be part of it all.
The Olympics are called “Games” for a reason.The nature of the Olympic Games leaves more room for people who haven’t forgotten that their sport once started as a hobby. It’s fun when guys like Usain Bolt get balanced out by Eddie the Eagle-types. Bolt is an absolutely brilliant athlete, but I don’t care for all his posing before and after his races. I guess his sponsors love it, but I don’t.
The Olympics have always featured lovable amateurs like Eddie the Eagle. At the World Cup, the only amateurism you’ll see is the refereeing. And that’s not the fault of the referees, blame FIFA president, and lo-tech relic, Sepp Blatter. His resistance to video-assistance leaves the poor referees with just 4 pairs of eyes to judge everything that 22 players are doing. A single mistake can let the wrong team progresses to the next round, but Blatter considers this part of “the romance of football”. I guess we have rather different views on romance…
Last night Brazil played Chili in a spectacular match. The Brazilian lineup included the muscular “Hulk”, and all I can remember from his game was that he bitched and moaned about basically every decision by the immaculate referee Howard Webb. I know that this kind of behavior is considered professional by many, but for me it only establishes the following: Hulk = Cry Baby and Brazil = Bunch of Drama Queens. And that’s a shame, because it distracts from the accomplishments by some great players.
Time for an Olympian
Enough about “professionalism”, time to meet Eric Moussambani; an Olympic swimmer from Equatorial Guinea, who entered the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. Eric gained entry to the Olympics via a wildcard, intended to encourage developing countries to participate. Before coming to the Olympics, Eric had never seen a (50 meter long) Olympic-size swimming pool. Nevertheless he set a new personal best and Equatoguinean (Yes really, that’s how they say it…) national record at the 100 meter freestyle.
In Sidney, swimmer Pieter van de Hoogenband shone during the main event, the 100 m freestyle. The tall Dutchman, who’s currently in a relationship with London 2012 100m gold medallist, Ranomi Kromowidjojo (see picture) swam a world record of 47.84 and won a gold medal Yet, he probably didn’t get as much applause as Eric Moussambani, who doggy paddled to a time of 1:52.72. The video below is awesome, and especially the commentators are hilarious. Of course this kind of amateurism doesn’t belong at the World Cup. But still, it’s a nice counter-balance.