Football can be Krul: How Dutch courage changed a match

Call me a snob about football. But, I think I’ve been in and around long enough to know what I see. Yesterday, another pair of quarter finals matches were played. Argentina looked better than Belgium throughout and got a 1-0 win with an quick volley from Higuain, whose form had been in question. Asked and answered. We watched the match by Copacabana Beach, in a restaurant with a good crop of Argentine supporters.

Next up was Holland-Costa Rica. I’m pulling for the Dutch, who are nation which has been to the final game the most and never won. It was what I would caught a hard-fought match. Costa Rica looked content to defend tightly and break away when they could. The Dutch looked to attack constantly, and snuff out counter attacks. Los Ticos were very well organized, and goalkeeper, Navas, was in great form; call him Howardesque’, performing similar heroic saves as the USA keeper had a few days ago on the same ground against Belgium. Maybe, it’s the grass. The posts and crossbar was playing for them too. The Dutch had good enough chances to score, but didn’t, and the match went to a penalty shoot out. Never my liking as a player, coach, or spectator. I would always prefer to see more play, with reduced numbers.

But, this shoot out would different. A minute from the end of extra time, the Dutch made a substitution. They brought on goalkeeper Tim Krul. “That’s an insult!” said my daughter-soccer coach. Not at all, I said. Krul is a great shot blocker, with excellent form in shoot outs. A bold move by coach van Gaal. This bringing on of a penalty saving specialist had never happened before in the World Cup finals. Bold the move proved to be, as Krul saved two shots and the Dutch won the shoot out 4-3. 20140706-070346-25426202.jpgThat set up the classic encounter with them against Argentina. You can look up the history of that contest, but let me just say the record shows epic battles.

Now, why did I mention snobbery? Some people thought the match had been pedestrian or boring. The latter came from its lack of goals. Since when has that been the measure of great football? It’s like saying that chess matches are boring because they end in stalemate. The countering plays of each side is THE game. Goals may come, but luck plays a big part. Instead of the woodwork being hit, we could have seen at least one stunning goal, which would have been memorable. But, football is also much about the agonizing near misses. So, put away your nonsense about boring and get back to reading about cuticle removal.

The game being pedestrian is trickier to deal with. It’s open to several views, depending on how literal one wants to be. I thought the match was played at a fast pace, considering the conditions, which we know to be hot and humid. But, it could refer to the style of play. The Dutch tried to weave their way through Costa Rica’s covering layers, and often found the way to hola blocked. The Costa Ricans played balls forward quickly, trying to catch the Dutch exposed in defence, but often finding their lone striker couldn’t get past the last defender. At least one commentator thought the Dutch moved the ball too slowly. Relative speed of play may matter to some, so I won’t bang hard against pedestrian. But, each team plays to its style and rhythm. The Dutch have Arjen Robben, who, though 30-something, was clocked at 37 kilometres per hour (23 miles per hour) during Holland’s 5-1 rout of Spain – a new record for a footballer. He is surely not pedestrian, except when lying prone on the ground.

Two thrilling semi finals to come, which will be played however each team feels best to shift the delicate balance of top-level play in its favour. Au Jeu.

To the manner born

Kingston, Ash Wednesday, looking like a Sunday

Jamaica is not somewhere to stop pondering how life can be made better. Lent begins today, and it is a season of reflection in the Christian calendar. It began as a quiet day–a holiday here–and I want to keep it that way.

However, my mind remains active. So, I think I will put down some place holders for topics to pursue during coming days.

Many observers and commentators about Jamaica’s social problems have focused on the breakdown of certain types of social behaviour: The country has “gone to the dogs”. No one has any respect, anymore; it’s all about the individual not about the group, etc. Let’s simplify that by saying that people believe manners are worse now that at some time in the recent past (living memory being the line drawn, and that can be extended with the help of memories of grandparents or pictorial artefacts. However, it’s not easy to extract from how the world has changed and how Jamaican attitudes and behaviours have changed within that context. I’ve heard similar comments wherever I’ve lived.

Windrush passengers
1950s-60s men’s wear had a more formal look

Without undertaking a deep sociological study, I’ll take as a break point for Jamaica, 1962, the year of Independence, when the country could be said to be ‘on its own road’. Many older people in any society talk about the ‘good old days’, and for many Jamaicans that means when the British were in charge. (I sometimes wonder if in the 1860s people harked back to the days before the abolition of slavery, but let me not go down that slippery path.) For Jamaicans, it was during the preceding years that a mass exodus had begun to the ‘mother land’, seeking better fortunes.

During the 1950s/early 1960s, dress styles were more formal when people were ‘going out’ or ‘on show’: for men, jackets, pleated serge trousers, fancy shoes, hats, ties; for women, dresses that went below the knee, high-heeled shoes, hats, gloves. Nowadays, it is hard to distinguish between formal and informal wear: jeans and tee-shirts/polo shirts, with sneakers/sports shoes may be de rigeur for men, but trappings of formality (like bow ties and waistcoats) get merged casually; for women, hemlines have risen a lot, tight short pants can be the wear of choice, with low-cut blouses or other ‘revealing’ styles.

Modern mens wear is more casual for almost all occasions
Modern men’s wear is more casual for almost all occasions

I cite these as indicative of what people may see as suggestive that attitudes have changed.

However, a friend reminded me, that in the 1960s the view held by some then too was that things were not formal enough.

But, Jamaica has moved like most places of the world. Modern behaviour has left behind much formality. New forms of communication also mean that ideas spread almost instantaneously, and copying or borrowing from other cultures is now almost impossible to stop.

Likewise, we have issues when it comes to how young people function in society. If we simplify and say that in the 1950s/60s, the principle was that children should be seen and not heard. Nowadays, many believe that children have too much say in the lives of households, maybe ‘ruling’ their parents in some sense. My parents always encouraged me to speak up for myself and not to be afraid to challenge someone just because they were older or bigger. Maybe, my parents were abnormal. However, we know that society has many variations around the average.

The truth is that society is always out of kilter with itself, often seeing the past as some kind of Halcyon days. My friend, who just came to pick up her daughter after an impromptu sleepover, also reminded me of the wisdom shared by one of the world’s foremost philosophers, Socrates (circa 5th century BC): “Children nowadays are tyrants. They contradict their parents, gobble their food, and tyrannise their teachers.”

The world turns and turns and yet may not change that much. Nearly 3000 years and we’ve moved so far.