Monday, July 10, 2006

Ciao Copa

Campiones! Forza Azzuri!

First things first: Many congrats to Italia on their deserved World Cup victory. They played great all tournament (with an aberrant stretch of mediocrity against the US) and are true champs. After getting robbed on a PK that resulted from a clear dive, they bounced back, scored a nice header, and dominated the first half. Their fatigue caught up with them in the second half, which was controlled by a great French team, but they hung on for a draw, and then won on 5 perfectly executed PKs in the shootout. I hate that a PK shootout decided the World Cup, but that's the game, and Italy are the undisputed champs.

Oh Zizou...

Even Chirac gave him the European Finger Wag on this one. I'm sure those of you who give a damn about soccer (i.e. anyone reading this far), know exactly what I'm talking about and have seen it several times (it has been viewed on youtube in various clip forms approximately 2.5 million times in the last 22 hours), but here it is anyways:

God. What the fuck can you say about this? It was just absolutely shocking. Unbelievable that someone like Zinedine Zidane would do something like this at a time like this. Obviously there was some provocation, but what could possibly have been said that would have precipitated that type of attack in overtime of a World Cup Final. The Daily Mail is reporting that it was a racist slur, more specifically that Matterozzi called Zidane, the French born son of Algerian immigrants, a terrorist. The Guardian and the BBC are running variations of this story as well, but without characterizing it as racist or mentioning a "terrorist" slur. So let's assume the worst - Matterozi tweaked his nipple and then said something sexually degrading about his mother and called her a terrorist. Still, for chrissake man. It's the World Cup Final. Let it go. But none of us have been in the shoes (or "boots") of a World Cup Finalist, except for loyal VTK reader Diego Maradona, so we really can't speculate. After a long career of soccer and the cumulative effect of all the experiences at matches, after 3 World Cups, after 6 full matches (he was suspended for the Togo match due to hardly warranted yellow card accumulation) and several minutes of overtime in a month, after 110 minutes of intense competition on the biggest of stages, after getting taken down and injuring his shoulder, after having what would have been the most glorious game winning goal in the history of soccer deflected over the goal a few minutes earlier, some guy gives you a purple nurple and calls your mother a dirty terrorist whore. I would like to say that I wouldn't react but I couldn't say for sure. Should he have controlled himself? Absolutely. But he snapped. Human, all too human. It's just too bad that this is the last image that the world will have of this great player. It's really beyond comparison. David Hirshey attempts comparison in writing that "it would be like Tiger Woods, moments from donning another green jacket at the Masters, bringing his putter down on top of Vijay Singh’s skull. Or Michael Jordan stepping up to the free throw line in the final ticks of an NBA championship game and breaking Kobe Bryant’s nose with a basketball." But he correctly notes that Zidane's breakdown was worse. Because not only did he disgrace himself and possibly cost his team a World Cup (and lose me $50), but he did it on the precipice of canonization. We sports fans love our stories and this was so close to being one of the all time great ones, only to flip in a moment and become ... I want to use the word tragedy here, but that's not what this is. There is real tragedy in the world, and this is not that. But it's very sad to see humanity trip itself up like this. Beyond comparison. And yet he was awarded the Golden Ball as the World Cup's most valuable player. So, for that, Zinedine, Congratulations.

Ciao Copa
How to wrap up the last month? I am so psyched that I got the opportunity to be unemployed this summer so that I could watch the Cup nearly in it's entirety, much of it accompanied by good friends and times. The first Cup that I really followed was in 1990 (my soccer team and I watched several matches together). In 1993, I was able to follow Ireland's qualifying matches from within Ireland. In 1994, I enjoyed following Ireland and the US from within the Cup host country (the US). In 1998, I sold a couple paintings and quit my job, proclaiming myself a professional artist, but did little more than sit on my couch in Clearwater, drink 40's, and follow the World Cup for a month. In 2001, dewy24 and I watched the US qualifier against T&T at the old Foxboro Stadium. In 2002, AK and I got cable for the Cup and hosted a series of 4 AM pre-work parties, culminating in celebrating in the streets of Allston with ecstatic Brazilians. In 2004, dewy24 and I watched a US qualifier against El Salvador in the new Foxboro stadium. And in 2006, I have had the good fortune to be able to watch exactly 50 matches live (8 were simulcast so I couldn't watch them, and 6 I just missed). I watched them at the pub, I watched them at home, I watched them at my housesitting gig, I watched them at friends houses, I watched them at the pub, I watched them alone, I watched them with friends. Add in the pregame and between-game analysis and that's about 120 hours or 3 full work weeks of soccer. Add in time reading, emailing, and blogging about Copa and I'm easily into 4 full work weeks. And since the Cup is exactly 1 month long, I can quite literally say that I have been World Cupping full time for the last month. In fact, a girl I met at one of the pubs introduced me to her friend as "This is Dan. He watches the World Cup." I am going to be going through some major soccer withdrawals for a while. I may even watch a Revs game to get me through it. South Africa - 2010...


Dan said...

oh yeah, and the Final Power Rankings are the same as the rankings were after the Semifinals:

Updated Power Rankings:

1. Italy
2. France
3. Germany
3. Argentina
5. Brasil
6. Portugal
6. England
8. Holland
9. Spain
9. Mexico

2008 Euros should be interesting with those 7 Euro teams, a talented young Swiss team playing at home, a Czech Republic team looking for redemption, and a superb Irish team that I know nothing about but am assuming is superb.

Dan said...

update from Sky Sports - Materazzi speaks:

"It is absolutely not true, I did not call him a terrorist," Materazzi told Italian news agency Ansa.

"I'm ignorant. I don't even know what the word means.

uh. ok.

Dewy24 said...

Although I vigorously disagreed with you a times I'm giving you my "World Cup Blog d'Ouro" award. Well done.

One quick note: you left out the pre-World Cup friendly against the Netherlands in spring of 2002 with AK when USA lost 0-2 and you I and said repeatedly that they were going to get smoked at the World Cup while AK was at first dismayed that he wore an orange t-shirt until he realized that it might increase his chances with Dutch women and then amused us by drunkenly trying to speak with a Dutch accent.

Dan said...

Thank you, thanks a lot. At least I have something to show for my 160 hours of "work".

I am vigorously against blogging about friendlies.

"Yyyyeaaaah! Your energy is totally kicking my ass! That orange shirt is kicking my ass! Yeeeeeahhh!!"

alex said...

Hey, don't forget about the talented Austrian team that is co-hosting the Euros.... oh, who am I kidding.... HOP SCHWIIZ!!!!!

I was quite suprised at the number of swiss highlights they showed in the world cup post-tournie wrap up.

Dan said...

hey Alex [Alex was the ESPN correspondent for the Swiss team this year], I heard someone talking about the Swiss strategy to overcome the disadvantage of having a small population to cull talent from, by selecting players who have been playing together for a long time, in hopes that the extra chemistry/knowledge of eachother would give them an edge. Any inside knowledge or thoughts about this?

Dan said...

I didn't know much about Zidane's upbringing before today, but this is from the Globe:

Zidane, whose parents emigrated to France from Algeria, became a proud symbol of a multicultural France and is adored in Algeria.

In the mountains where Zidane's parents grew up, Atmanne Chelouah carried off a life-size cardboard cutout of the player at "Cafe Zizou" after the red card.

"We are very disappointed," Chelouah said. "He should have kept his cool."

But lashing out is nothing new to Zidane, who grew up playing on concrete in an impoverished immigrant neighborhood of Marseille, where fouls and insults are met with instant retribution.

Perhaps he could never shake off that you-or-me mentality.

"You can take the man out of the rough neighborhood, but you can't take the rough neighborhood out of the man," striker Thierry Henry said Sunday.

Anonymous said...

It's AK here, and I have to say that I had forgotten the bit about the dutch accent. The shirt trick seemed like a sure-fire snatching of victory from the jaws of defeat at the time, but didn't end up working. I've filed that idea away along with the plan (never implemented) of frequenting cheesy bars on Boylston St. with an extra pair of sexy underwear (like I even have one pair) to trawl for friends of bachelorettes at bachelorette parties.

Congrats on a great accomplishment, Mr. VTK, in both watching all those games and in blogging about them. Not sure what I'm going to do with myself for the next four years.

I had a few funny lines about baseball here but they seemed a little inappropriate in your excellent blog...

Dan said...

I don't get it. would you be wearing one pair of underwear and carrying the other pair? to show the girls? or is the underwear for them to model for you. this sounds like a fun afternoon activity for the bachelor party.

as for the futbol, don't worry. Euro 2008 Qualifying matches start in 2 months, featuring ... Italy v France.

as for beisbol, that's the only sport for the next couple months so I'm sure there'll be some blogging about it. In fact, there's a guest blog post from the PRT coming soon, so stay tuned.

marshall said...

50 games? Wow. I heard that Franz Beckenbauer went to 46 of 64 games, and I'm sure that he had a driver or private airplane at his disposal. You only had the T and your own feet...

As for what you can spend your time on now that the Cup is over, how about a new film-- "Zidane vs Shopping Cart" perhaps?

Dan said...

well, I'm running a soccer blogging camp for kids the rest of the summer, but that might be a good project for the fall.

Anonymous said...

The extra pair of underwear is so you get to be the dude who gets to check off that box on the bachelorette's shirt ("get a guy to give you his underwear") without actually having to take off (and lose) your underwear (not every night is a Bob Pollard night, after all).

One could argue that being able to provide a clean pair of underwear might be the entree to other exciting checkboxes, like "have a guy drink a body shot off your ___" or "feed a cherry to a guy with your mouth" or "do a heavy metal air guitar jam with a guy on the bar"--you know, something like that.

I like the idea of making the poor bachelorette model the underwear--that might even be on the shirt already.

Dan said...

I'm going on Craigslist to see if there are any bachelorette parties going on the weekend of your bachelor party.