The Beautiful Game

Sport aficionado and hard-core soccer fan Chris Pike explores the culture, controversies and craziness that will make up this year’s FIFA World Cup.

by Chris Pike

Every four years, the entire world stands still for 31 days as the top 32 soccer teams compete to have their names immortalized and make their nation proud in the FIFA World Cup.

“I’m so excited!” said second semester North South student Amanda Lippi. “I never follow soccer unless it’s the World Cup. When it’s on it’s all my dad allows on our TV’s at home.”

The FIFA World Cup has unrivaled status amongst sports tournaments throughout the entire world. It even makes some of us Canadians forget the Stanley Cup Finals are on. It’s a time when the multiculturalism of Canada is most noticeable and when Dawson students get to discover and experience their heritage like never before.

“I’m so excited!” said second semester North South student Amanda Lippi. “I never follow soccer unless it’s the World Cup. When it’s on it’s all my dad allows on our TV’s at home.”

This year the tournament takes place in South Africa, who beat out Egypt, and Morocco to host the tournament in an all-African bid.

The tournament includes several teams who definitely have something to prove.

Italy will be looking to hold onto their World Cup title despite the fact that star defender and team captain Fabio Cannavaro has not played internationally since their 2006 World Cup win. The Italian squad is also one of the oldest teams in this year’s tournament having players with an average age of 29 years old. Nevertheless, the Azzurri should hold up well against competition and advance deep into the tournament.

Brazil was the 2006 favorite to win but was disposed of by the French in the quarterfinal. This year they come to the tournament with  one of the strongest teams possible. However, the Brazilians have yet to narrow down who will be playing in the tournament leaving room for perhaps a few surprises. Expect fan favorites like Roberto Carlos, Kaka and Ronaldinho to be seen as a few of the starting 11 men. The only thing shaky about this year’s team might be goaltending. Gomes proved himself the choice for the 2009 Confederations Cup over the summer but the coaching staff might go for old favorite Julio Cesar instead. We’ll just have to wait and see.

England, who haven’t won a World Cup since their first ever in 1966 will foe sure have their eyes on taking home the trophy. With a new, all Italian, coaching staff and star Wayne Rooney playing some of the best soccer of his career, England has high hopes of getting through to the finals.

Unfortunately it seems that the drama that always follows David Beckham will be present this year. After rupturing his Achilles tendon playing for the Italian Serie A team, AC Milan doctor’s ruled him out for six months. According to ESPN Beckham has since been to a faith healer in Sri Lanka who says he can be game ready within a week. Will he play? Will he sit it out? Some English fans wish he would just quit, while few still believe in Becks. It will be up to new Head Coach Fabio Capello to decide if he gets another shot at glory.

Spain isn’t usually a team one thinks about during the World Cup, losing to South Korea in the 2002 quarterfinals and being easily defeated by France in the 2006 Round of 16 teams. But this Spanish team is different, winning the UEFA Euro tournament in 2008 and having gone 35-0 until just recently losing to the United States in the 2009 Confederations Cup. With stars like Fernando Torres and Cesc Fábregas at the top of their game, Spain will definitely be worth looking out for.

Additionally, The United States of America  who are not known for their soccer skills will be playing. The 2010 World Cup should change that. Ending Spain’s 35-0 run with a convincing 2-0 defeat in the 2009 Confederations Cup and narrowly losing to Brazil in the final by a score of 2-1. The USA will unquestionably serve as an underdog with enormous potential. Look for the United States to perhaps play spoiler to their group mate England’s dreams and maybe even a few better-known teams.

Unfortunately, like everything, the World Cup has its ups and downs, and as much fun as it is to watch these superstars of soccer do what they do best it isn’t to say that South Africa 2010 is without its controversy. The largest of which has been the issue of Ireland’s depart from the tournament after losing to France in qualifying. The issue was that France’s star player Thierry Henry used his hand to score the winning goal against Ireland. Even though his goal was blatantly illegal, FIFA does not rely on instant replays to double check a call by a referee and as such cannot change the call of a referee after it has been made.

I think it’s so stupid,” said Ryan McCarthy a fourth semester psychology student and Irish supporter, “if [FIFA] would just accept that instant replay is a good thing then this whole situation could have been avoided.”

Henry has since apologized for the handball and asked FIFA to reconsider the match allowing for another one to be played in its place, however under FIFA’s Laws of The Game this was an impossibility.

FIFA has been highly criticized by both fans and experts for its refusal to adapt to the invention of instant replay as many other sports have.

“I think it’s so stupid,” said Ryan McCarthy a fourth semester psychology student and Irish supporter, “if [FIFA] would just accept that instant replay is a good thing then this whole situation could have been avoided.”

“Its unprofessional to let a illegal goal decide the outcome of a match with that much riding on it.” William Burns, a second semester Social Sciences student said.

Hopefully, the instant replay rule, or lack thereof, won’t cause the actual tournament itself to be subject to scrutiny.

Unfortunately, this is not where the controversies end when it comes to the tournament. Several members of poorer communities throughout the country have been evicted from their homes. Claims have been made that these evictions are purely relocations for the time being in an attempt to beautify South Africa and impress tourists. Many people have voiced their disapproval of the government’s actions.

“The World Cup is going on at the expense of South Africans who urgently need housing, public services and jobs,” Ruth Tanner, from the charity, War on Want said to the British newspaper, The Independent.

This is coupled with the former construction strike and stadium costs currently going on in South Africa. According to ESPN soccernet many South African workers were to receive 2500 South African Rand (or 150 American dollars) a month for their services, but since July 9 2009 these workers were barely receiving 40 Rand (or 1.50 American). Fortunately, this problem was solved by July 16 2009 with the workers receiving full compensation.

According to news24.com, a South African news site, the total cost for building the new stadiums and refurbishing the old ones is totaled at 8.4 billion Rand (or 1.07 billion American dollars). This is over three and a half times what the government had set aside for construction costs. This worries South African economists who say that the revenue from the tournament won’t likely match up to its costs.

Included in the serious problems of the 2010 World Cup is the Deputy Chairman of South Africa’s Central Drug Authority (CDA) having said on March 7 2010 to the Digital Journal that it is feared 40,000 women will arrive in the country to work as prostitutes while the World Cup is taking place there in June and July.

With all these social issues going on at the same time as the World Cup, it’s difficult to call soccer The Beautiful Game, but hopefully once the tournament has ended people won’t only remember who won and lost, but remember the people of South Africa as well.

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