Monday, July 12, 2010 at 5:25 AM

Spain World Cup Champions!

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

Like most matches during this year’s World Cup, yesterday’s final between Spain and the Netherlands was distinguished far too much by the referee stopping play because a player was writhing in pain on the pitch, feigning injuries to get free kicks, than by skillful play or, God forbid, scoring goals.  

This is just one of the reasons why soccer will never compete with the likes of football as a spectator sport in the United States: when the referee stops play in football because a player is writhing in pain on the field, it’s not because that player is feigning injury to gain an advantage, it’s because he took a gladiatorial hit that would kill a mere mortal.   

Frankly, unless one were a jingoistic Spaniard or Dutchman, there was little about this spectacle, which ended in a 0 – 0 tie after 90 minutes of regulation time, that made one interested in watching to see what might unfold during extra time.

Therefore, when Spain finally scored – with only five minutes left in an equally boring 30-minute extra time, I felt more relief than triumph … and I was actually rooting for Spain to win, well, in this final match at any rate.

As for the home team [South Africa] winning, well, that would take a fairytale ending that surpasses that which South Africa experienced in 1995 when it’s first post-apartheid team won the Rugby World Cup on home soil. This feat was chronicled just last year in the movie Invictus

I picked Cameroon to go all the way. Unfortunately, it was practically the first team to be eliminated. Therefore, I’m now pulling for Ghana, my ancestral home – with apologies to the US, my residential home.

(ALH, “World Cup highlighted by shame and disgrace,” Caribbean Net News, June 25, 2010)

My dream of an African team, any African team, winning this year’s World Cup nearly lived on: All Asamoah Gyan, Ghana’s  best striker, had to do was make a heaven-sent penalty kick with less than a minute left in extra time and the Black Stars (of Africa) would have defeated Uruguay and become the first African team to advance into the World Cup semifinals. But he blew it, striking the top bar and missing a wide open net.

It was a heartbreaking loss, not just for Ghana but for all of Africa.  And Gyan was visibly inconsolable….

This is cruel. But it is football. What can you say to him [Gyan]? We were so close and somehow it did not happen. We were so close to history.

(Ghana coach Milovan Rajevac, Yahoo Sports, July 3, 2010)

Then, in an effort to find a reason to retain some interest in this tournament, I transferred my despairing hopes towards the prospect of the semifinals featuring all South American teams. Unfortunately, these hopes too were dashed when the Europeans ended up dominating all of the other quarterfinal matches – with the Netherlands upsetting quadrennial favorite Brazil, Germany shutting-out dynamic Argentina, and Spain outplaying Paraguay.

At this point, I suppose I could have tapped into my Third World political consciousness to manufacture a North-South feud that would see Uruguay taking on and defeating the Europeans. But frankly, I really did not give a damn who won at this point, especially given the way Uruguay defeated Ghana: one of its players deliberately blocked a sure Ghanaian goal with his hands, which led to the aforementioned penalty kick that Gyan blew.

This is why the final between Spain and Netherlands held so little interest for me. All the same, I congratulate Spain on defeating the Netherlands 1 to nil to win its first World Cup trophy.

(Incidentally, I suppose there’s some redemption in the fact that Saturday’s third-place match featured five goals during regulation time, ending with Germany defeating Uruguay 3 to 2.)

Having said all that, it would be remiss of me not to note that, despite the disappointing performances of African teams, we can all take pan-African pride in the way South Africa hosted this year’s World Cup.  Not least because just months before the first game was played, the foreign press was replete with abiding fears that this tournament would be plagued by the kind of incompetence, disorganization, and violence that characterize so much of daily life on the continent. 

Yet when the final whistle blew yesterday, it was sweet vindication to hear commentators waxing more nostalgic about how well South Africa performed as host than about how well teams played on the pitch. Let’s just hope all of the fringe economic benefits that were touted to follow a successful hosting gig now materialize.  


Related commentaries:
World Cup highlighted by shame and disgrace


  1. saitoti ole tingisha July 12, 2010 at 5:38 am

    Thank you all spain players for making me proud more so to arsenal captain.

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