I will look for myself at evidence of social unrest in Brazil. It wont be exhaustive, but I prefer to check my own sentiments. Before that, what has the week that includes the start of the latest edition of this four-yearly football carnival brought us?
What was bad? I personally did not find a nerve stirred by the opening ceremony musical performance by Pit Bull, Jennifer Lopez and Claudia Leitte. I think that somehow mega-stars performing at events such as these (or Super Bowl) are more about themselves than about really pleasing an audience and making them feel a part of something significant. Just my view.
Anyway, that was a rather dull start to the tournament, but once games got underway later the same day, the magic of the World Cup was really with us. It has been very good, so far. Brazil won their opener against Croatia, without a stellar performance, but ‘star boy, Neymar, came good with two goals. But, the hosts know that looking pretty and not winning is not what top-level football really likes. No game, so far, has been dull. Some matches have definitely not gone to plan and shown that football is a game of two halves. We saw the reigning Champions, Spain, get absolutely drubbed 5-1 by the Netherlands, after being tied at half-time. But, the real talking point of the match was the Superman-like leap of Robin van Persie to head the go-ahead goal, the like of which I have never seen before.
Costa Rica shocked Uruguay with a 3-1 win yesterday, their first ever against a South American team. Ivory Coast came back from one down to beat Japan 2-1 last night. England-Italy was the drama that it was billed to be, with the Azzurri winning 2-1.
What else, though? Goals have been going in at a rate of knots. So, fans shouldn’t complain about being bored and matches being dull.
Referees have already been the centre of controversy about penalty decisions given or denied, as well as goals denied. I have not held back in my ridiculing of any concerns about referees and calls they make. FIFA has set its face against using television evidence to help officials during matches, since 1970. FIFA does not permit video evidence during matches, although it is permitted for subsequent sanctions. The 1970 meeting of the International Football Association Board “agreed to request the television authorities to refrain from any slow-motion play-back which reflected, or might reflect, adversely on any decision of the referee” Moreover, in 2008, FIFA President, Sepp Blatter, said: “Let it be as it is and let’s leave [football] with errors. The television companies will have the right to say [the referee] was right or wrong, but still the referee makes the decision – a man, not a machine.” That’s the official position. So, fans, get over it! If you don’t like it, better find a way to shift FIFA’s thinking.
We’ve seen other things. FIFA has bowed to the god of new goal-line technology, to determine whether the ball crosses the goal line between the posts. It was embarrassed enough by the goal that was not seen when England’s Gerrard put the ball into the net, except that the referee was at his eye exam and his pupils were still blurred and he waved play on. What a total jackass he must have felt when he saw the replays at home with Mrs. Referee. But, FIFA, have not stopped there. They have dealt with the annoyingly childish practice of players creeping forward at free kicks to encroach on the required 10 yards from the ball. Referees now have some disappearing foam, which they can spray to make a really neat circle or line where the ball should be, and then make a line where the players toes should be. You can see some bewilderment amongst the players, as the referee bends down to resist the temptation to sign his name. But, let’s spray begin.
We cannot get the full flavour of the matches on television. Seeing the drumming fans of Cote d’Ivoire is not the same as having them right next to you. The arm-waving Chilean fans look fanatic, and probably are. The tearful faces of Costa Rican fans needed to be seen up close. In Jamaica, we also suffer from just poor reception. I’m not going to tackle it much here, but CVMTV has a substandard product that the country need not have had to tolerate. The warning given to them by our Broadcasting Commission made me wonder why they were allowed to win. Surely, eligibility should have screen out a problematic provider. But, in Jamaica, we like to be exceptional. Interestingly, a plethora of links to streaming sites have started to spread on social media. I have not checked any yet, but it will be interesting to see if they are better quality, or what features make them popular. Portability may be one. As I will be in airports much of the next days, that may be a relevant consideration. I know, though, that coverage in England and France will not be substandard.
I have been underwhelmed by the goal celebrations so far. We had Daniel Sturridge doing his thing when he scored for England, but most celebrations have been about players piling on top of each other, or running madly towards their coach and teammates on the side. The best collective effort so far has been Colombia’s, led by Pablo Armero.
Well, I’m pulling for Ghana, who have to right the wrongs of 2010. My daughter is American, so we will be sleeping with our backs to each other after the match between Ghana and the USA on Monday.
Jamaicans are true waggonists, and I look forward to seeing how the displays of ‘support’ change in coming days. Spain got dumped. Will orange be the new black in Kingston? I’m really looking forward to seeing how committed fans are behaving in Europe. I’ll be there in a few hours and will share happily.