As the World Cup Tournament gets about halfway through “group play”, there are lots of stories about the game and the fans that are heartwarming. There is also a less-than-wonderful atmosphere with regard to some aspects of the games in South Africa but you might not know about any of them if ESPN is your only source of World Cup information. For example:
The South African police deported 17 Argentinean fans who they say were rowdy hooligans and who were only in South Africa to commit mayhem. Gee, who would be surprised to learn that “soccer fans:” and “hooliganism” went together?
There are organized protests at many venues about the money that the South African government spent on the World Cup games. I am on record as saying that the country will never recoup the investment it had to make to stage these games. The local people complain that the government pleads poverty when people ask for newer/better schools or improved housing options but it did not take the same government much time at all to come up with hundreds of millions of dollars of deficit spending to build stadia.
The transportation system in the South African cities hosting the games is insufficient to handle the traffic generated by the crowds and by the vehicles needed to keep those cities’ inventories of supplies for its guests at a reasonable level. I visited South Africa last year and having seen the country up close, this is not a surprise to me. I am sure that FIFA officials will be SHOCKED by the widespread traffic problems.
At some of the World Cup venues, South African police have had to take over the security duties from the folks who were hired by FIFA and the South African organizers to handle stadium security. The reason for that is that the security workers have walked away from the jobs claiming that they are being paid only about one-third of what they were promised as wages.
FIFA had some Dutch women arrested for wearing orange mini-skirts and tops to a game venue claiming that they were part of an unauthorized – - translation: “unpaid for” – - sponsorship/promotional activity. Fortunately, this was amicably resolved.
For those folks annoyed by the vuvuzelas comes good news. Wimbledon has announced that it will ban the sounding of any vuvuzelas during their tournament. That really should not come as much of a surprise to anyone. If you thought Wimbledon was going to approve of vuvuzelas, you probably also think that the horns would be welcome in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome during a Papal Mass.
I have found three ways to cope with the vuvuzelas:
1. The mute button. The problem is that the game announcers on ESPN are really good and I miss their commentary.
2. Learn to just shut out that background noise and turn the volume down a bit. This is what I do most of the time.
3. When it gets overly annoying, I have found that flipping the channel to MLB Network for a baseball game or to NFL Network for some NFL Films programming allows me to reset my brain so I can do a better job with Option 2 above.
Here area two observations from the games:
South Africa was totally outplayed by Uruguay losing 3-0. It was not that close; it could have been 5-0. South Africa still has an outside chance to make it to the elimination round. If they do not, they will be the first host team not to do so.
The Nigerian team is not a team. It plays like eleven individual entities on the pitch. No wonder they are 0-2 in their two games and will be heading home very soon. Lots of national teams have nicknames. The South Africans are Bafana Bafana; the Italians are the Azzuri; the Spanish are La Furia Roja. I have no idea if the Nigerian team has a nickname but in case they are looking for one, here is a suggestion:
In my neighborhood, there are two Irish pubs that have advertised that they will be showing each and every World Cup game “live and in HD”. I presume that does not include the ones that will be happening during those hours when drinking establishments have to be closed; whatever. Anyway, if I were to think about dropping in on an Irish pub to see a random World Cup game, I think I would choose “France versus Anybody”. I think I know how the Irish contingent there will be rooting…
Finally, here is a comment about the World Cup from syndicated columnist, Norman Chad:
“In England, soccer players get knighted; in the United States, they get Business Select tickets on Southwest.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…