Goldfish have no hiding place

I have to do all this to present the demeanour of a cool exterior to prevent you from seeing that my interior is not at all well. Folks, this 18th edition of the Fifa World Cup soccer tournament underway in Germany has really been a bookmakers’ dream. Which is to say that it has been a nightmare for us punters. And for the pundits as well, if truth be told, because they have struggled through with analyses of how it is that the final at the Olympiastadion in Berlin today will feature France and Italy.

What ‘ France and Italy? Where are the favourites Brazil? Where the best team England has put together perhaps since 1966 or when it was that they last won this thing? Where the hosts Germany, buoyed by full houses wherever they played and driven by a coach whose strength was the weakness that the nation criticised? Klinsmann, living in the United States and bringing to the German workmanlike efficacy the American ethos of offence, or as they spell it themselves, offense, which has seen games such as cricket that do not end quickly and whose moves do not always involve high scoring as a team can just decide to bat out its innings for a draw, fail to take root. Where indeed is Argentina?

Probably stung by widespread criticism that he failed to convert a galaxy of vastly talented players into a constellation of champions, Mr Jose Pekerman called it quits soon after Argentina were dismissed from Germany 2006 by the hosts. Or perhaps he just decided to call time. Whichever it was, goldfish have no hiding place.

But calling it quits? The little girl runs to her grandmother and says breathlessly:

“Grandma, grandma, I know what the name of our next child is going to be!” “Really,” says an incredulous grandmother, because as far as she knows her daughter-in-law is not even four months pregnant.

“Oh yes, I do!”

“Well, what will the baby be called then?”

“Ah, I just heard Mom telling Dad last night that if it is a girl they will call it quits.”

Now, now, Mr Banda.

I am sorry for the detour, my friends. But you very well know that when roads are being constructed there are always such things. Meaning that you are building a road this Sunday? No, I am constructing something.

And so we had Mexico World Cup coach Ricardo la Volpe calling it quits after his side was beaten 2-1 by Argentina in their second round match. The Argentine was hoping to take Mexico to the last eight and was on course after a win over Iran, a draw with Angola and a loss to Portugal saw his charges through to the next 16.

The man who took over as Mexico national coach in 1998 was there when his team lost in the second round again in the 2002 global soccer showcase, is reported to be on his way to a managerial seat in Europe.

Goldfish have no hiding place.

Take David Beckham. A football celebrity or a celebrity footballer, he needed Germany to explain to the world how he sees himself. It is said the man would like to be remembered as a football great. Other than that free-kick against what team was that again, sadly there is not much to remember him for from Germany. And talking about free-kicks, what is new?

Surely it has always been just free-kicks and some occasional passing, has it not been?

He too has called it quits, but just from the captaincy. As has Roberto Carlos, from the international game. Is this a free-kick thing? As has, in fact, Juninho Pernambucano. Seriously, is this some free-kick specialist post-big tournament reaction? Give him credit. On quitting, Juninho called on all those players above 30 in the Selecao to follow suit. Hallo, hallo?

Can you hear me, hallo?

The point is the World Cup soccer tournament is a big tournament. It is global. To represent your country there is a big honour. It is something that some of us who have more brains in our fingers than in our feet can only dream of. Because of that, because of the stature of the tournament, it behoves all those who represent us there to do their best. And when that is done and that best is not good enough, they should stand up tall and say they have played their part, sign off, take a curtain call- please, please do not stone them- and depart the stage.

And so we had in England Mr Sven-Goran Eriksson also calling it quits after England was dumped out of Germany 2006 from the penalty spot by Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal.

Whatever they say about the man, and one British journalist with more than a touch of acerbic wit has said the man’s bedroom formations were far more adventurous than his footballing ones, I took off my hat to him when he spoke at his resignation news conference:

“If you’re a manager, you’re always responsible for the good times and the bad times.”

You do not just have to be a manager. You could be a captain like Beckham. And it does not have to be just soccer. It can be any sport. For example cricket. Which is why West Indies skipper Brian Lara has said he may throw in the towel. What, again? Yes, again.

He told a news conference after West Indies lost their first Test match against the touring India by 49 runs at Sabina Park in Jamaica to give the visitors a one-nil series win, that he is going to revisit his decision to captain the West Indies team. He said in the past two months, events surrounding selection for the West Indies’ One Day International and Test matches have left him with no option but to reconsider:

“I have West Indies cricket at heart, but it’s a situation where my reputation as a captain is being dragged down.”

There are times when a man has to do what a man has to do.

July 2006
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