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     Volume 5 Issue 101 | June 30, 2006 |

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World CupWoes

Nader Rahman

The group stages of the World Cup have finished and by the time this is published the quarterfinals would have started, but for me it still seems like the tournament has not really got off the ground. While many people may laugh at my opinion, pointing to the football fever that has seemingly taken over the rest of the world. I will stick to my opinion and elaborate on it.

South Korean midfielder Park Ji Sung (C) and his teammates gather during a training session at the Ulrich-Haberland-Stadion in Leverkusen

This year's World Cup is a little too bland for me, in general the games have been average bordering on boring. When it is all said and done this tournament may be called a success, but the people who call it a success could hardly have been talking about the football played. These are the times when success means commercially profitable; enough people have gone to see the matches, enough merchandise has been sold and the sponsors have filled their pockets, but what about the games themselves? This year the World Cup has been played in fine FIFA spirit, there have been a few red cards here and there but in general there have been very few talking points (Italy's and Portugal's game aside).

But let's be honest. What makes a tournament interesting is when there is something to talk about, the last time around Italy were dumped out of the World Cup with a series of refereeing blunders. People were up in arms and later that year a block of public toilets in Rome was named after the referee in that game. That is the sort of emotion that is missing from this years World Cup. While I will admit no one intentionally wants an incident ridden World Cup what I would like to add is that no one wants one completely incident free. Graham Poll the English referee added some spice to the tournament by issuing three yellow cards to Josip Simunic of Croatia before sending him off, but that was just a one off. Sure enough there have been calls for dubious off sides but in general this tournament seems to have been played in a wholly good natured manner. Call me Lucifer but all I wanted was a little more "action".

Aside from that aspect of the game one of my major complaints about the World Cup is the commentary. This year the commentary has been particularly unpalatable. While I am not sure as to who the commentators are and for which network they work, all I have to say is that their commentary has been utterly shambolic. Firstly their Englishness seems to get in the way of everything they say, and at best they could be called politically

Ghanaian midfielder Haminu Draman (R) shoots the ball past a diving US goalkeeper Kasey Keller (R) for the game's first score during the opening round Group E World Cup football match between Ghana and the United States

incorrect. The very distinct nature of their comments leaves one with the feeling that England and the West have "allowed" inferior nations to compete in the World Cup. They seem to live in colonial times, when the rest of the world was inhabited by barbarians. I will be the first to agree that commentary is eventually the opinion of the person commentating, but during this World Cup the opinions spouted by the commentators have been heavily biased. The devil has a forked tongue because of his apparent double speak; the same could be said of the commentators this time. Even their praise for the lesser teams seems loaded with social commentary and comes across as backhanded.

For them every African team has struggled to get to the tournament and still lives in the Dark Continent, they seem to think that merely a goal in a lost game is good enough for them. Their praise for the Africans seems to be limited to their speed and physical strength, the skill and artistry can only come from the more established footballing nations. The Asian nations suffer the same fate, their players are all portrayed to be small, wiry and full of agility. A decent goal by them could only be called luck, and there is a possibility that their foreign coach had something to do with it. Their praise for the smaller teams is as effusive as it is sarcastic. I cannot possibly explain the extent of their bias when commentating, it is something I have had to endure throughout the entire World Cup and much to my disappointment unlike last time not many of the lesser known nations have made it past the group stages. At least I will be spared their colonial views from the second round onwards.

My father said something very interesting about the World Cup this year; he said this year unlike in 2002 the smaller countries are pushing the traditional powers without beating them. In my opinion he got it spot on, the last World Cup was the underdog's competition, this time the underdogs have gone close to beating their more illustrious rivals but have just not managed to do so. While that has meant that all the traditional names have made it to the knock out stages it also has diminished interest in this year's competition. The whole world took notice of Senegal, South Korea and Turkey last time around because no one expected them to get where they did. Everyone was hopeful of an upset, maybe an Asian or African nation would win the cup for the first time, but this year the progression of all the big names has diminished the hope for another fairytale. This argument can go both ways, people may say that having the big names in the knock out rounds makes for a more even match, which could go anyway. But I see things differently, I would rather have South Korea playing Germany for a place in the final rather than England playing Brazil. But then again that is my opinion, the F.A Cup is known for its fairytale stories, non league clubs beating the best in England, to me the World Cup should be something like that. When a team from nowhere beats the world champions, now that would be great. It happened last time, I guess it was too much to expect it this time.

My final complaint about the group stages of the World Cup is quite simple, the football played has been well below standard. Now I am sure thousands of people will be more than willing to point out superb goals and fine individual performances but for me the first three rounds have lacked oomph. The big names Germany, Brazil, England, France, Italy have all made it through to the knock out stages but their insipid performances have marred the tournament. Even mighty Brazil wore a jaded look for the first three rounds, the samba was missing and so too was their confidence. The worst so far was without a doubt France, since winning in '98 it has taken them eight years to win another World Cup match. They were seemingly impotent and were about as entertaining as a discussion on nuclear physics. England were also a great let down, their squad was brimming with talent but their performances rivalled that of their cricket team against Sri Lanka recently. Germany and Italy made it through as well but their football was a pale shadow of what one expects from them. The world may be happy that the traditional powerhouses made it into the knock out phase of the competition, but for me they may have made it, but certainly did not entertain anyone getting there. This year the competition is a little too staid, what it needs is a little flair.

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