The big party continues in Africa. But by now, half of the guests are on their way home. So far, we already had some great plays, exquisite colors, anthological goals, all framed by the one-note sound of the festive Vuvuzuelas. Players made their mark on the field and fans danced on the bleaches. Here’s hoping the joy of football and the united celebration of a great tournament save the day. We had some great moments. Here’s five of the ones that we’d rather forget.
The First Round’s
Five Lowest Points
1. Nelson Mandela’s personal family loss right at the eve of the World Cup’s Opening Ceremony, an event that wouldn’t have taken place hadn’t been for his charismatic presence.
* It was an accident, for sure, but what a tragic way of fate to reward one of the greatest figures of our time in an occasion that meant so much for so many of his own people.
2. The two North Korean players who defected even before kickoff.
* One can only imagine the heartbreaking involved in their decision, just as the Korean conflict completes its unfortunate 60th anniversary.
3. The out-of-line accusations against players who wouldn’t sing their national anthems before the games.
* Only xenophobes and racists would call the Germans or Frenchs unpatriotic. It’s been known that most athletes don’t sing, period. After all, they’re players, not soldiers.
4. The turmoil at the French delegation, though, was indeed lamentable, as it was the lack of sportsmanship from the team’s coach, who was broadcast live refusing to shake hands with South Africa’s coach.
* Whether it reflects a larger issue grappling France’s national identity at the moment, it’s beside the point. Les Bleus were expected to perform to the best of their ability and, for one reason or another, they now own the fans a meaningful about-face.
5. The bad referee call that prevented a come back victory for team U.S.A. against Slovenia, and the piece of phony acting from the Ivory Coast player, who faked injury and cost a Brazilian his ejection from the game.
* Then again, referees and players are fallible. The U.S. didn’t win because it failed to score earlier and more often in the game; and FIFA has ways to punish such bad behavior, as it did in 1994, with another Brazilian who also faked injury.