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.
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.
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...