Friday, December 11, 2009

Skill And Will In World Cup 2010

It’s been exciting times in football land (that’s soccer for those in the US, still), with the draw for next year’s World Cup taking place in Cape Town a few days ago. New Zealand is in Group F, which has been called an “easy group”. I’m optimistic by nature, but any group that includes the defending World Champions, Italy, along with Paraguay and Slovakia isn’t going to be easy for New Zealand. In fact, there are no easy games at the World Cup, and next year teams will have to deal with the problem of altitude as well, with games in Johannesburg sure to sap the energy of even the fittest teams.

The great Muhammad Ali said "Champions aren't made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them: A desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have last-minute stamina, they have to be a little faster, they have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill." Every tournament carries a massive upset, so I’m hoping New Zealand can surprise everyone and get to the 2nd round. That would be huge. To do that, the All Whites have to forget about the difference in skill and have the will. That’s an issue for those other all whites – Fabio Capello’s England. With one of the best squads, one of the best managers in the world, and a relatively friendly draw in a friendly nation, I’m backing England to go all the way and win... vs Spain in the final. Capello will have them more mentally ready than ever before.

There’s always a star of the tournament too, and next year we’re due to see the newly crowned Ballon D’Or European Footballer of the Year winner on the global stage a little way in to what is already a truly great career. Argentina and Barcelona’s Leo Messi beat his nearest rival Cristiano Ronaldo by more than double in the vote for Europe’s best player, recording the highest ever score in the history of the vote. Messi is the classic made good story: a child from a family of limited means, with a growth hormone deficiency, who only grew to his current size of 5 foot 7 with the help of medical treatment paid for by Barcelona, who brought him to Spain at around 12 years old.

He’s done it all with good grace, humility, and the most sublime skill seen since a certain other Argentine graced the world stage at high altitude in Mexico City. He’s often been criticised for not being as good for Argentina as he is for Barcelona. But if his will is greater than his skill, 2010 is going to be something special for fans of football the world over.

And watch out for one man with real will. Wayne Rooney. England's next captain.


Frewbru said...

After the world cup draw the realisation that it's only six months away has created an effervescent and tangible excitement in South Africa. We're so amped to show what we have and welcome the world.

observant said...

2010 World Cup, A Celebration of Football, Culture (and a bit of Advertising)

Thank you for sharing your exciting comments on the 2010 World Cup! What makes football the most exciting and popular sport in the world?

I remember when we used to play in the backyard, with a few friends after school. Just our school bags as goal posts and a crumbled lump of paper for a ball. Didn’t even bounce. Seconds into hours we flew, our world suspended on skinny legs of steel, image frozen, sweat, heart, hard work, fall, luck, up, missed the bus, such sweet shared memories, instant connection, all over the world.

Brazil, Japan, USA, Australia, Russia, Algeria, China, Bolivia, England, Ghana… yes, going or not, friends or foes, poor or rich, old or young, black or white, ladies and gentlemen, the whole world will be glued to the World Cup. ‘Tis a chance to enjoy the most amazing game we have ever seen, to shout for glory and to cry with joy or pain together. And to calm our edgy nerves, distraught, battling the toughest recession of our generation. Football, an oasis waiting to be discovered, to swell into an ocean of hope and relaxation for all souls, yet again.

With Episkyros balls of linen and hair, Tsu’Chu soldiers of the Han Dynasty they will come, Kemari they will shout dressed in Kariginu. Out they will pour from the jolly pubs of Stoke and the stoic chambers of Cambridge. They will come to see a spectacle of passion they never missed. They will come all the same.

From June 11 to July 11, to mark our calendars for FIFA World Cup 2010, when few other major sports events are in sight, with NBA finals almost over, a little bit of cricket and tennis at the All England, world football takes center stage. And South Africa promises to be a great venue for fierce competition, breathtaking rivalries, and a wonderful global celebration of culture, not to mention a fantastic advertising festival…

I imagine…

Just-married (or impulse) couples on a trip to beautiful South Africa for their honeymoon, packing just their credit card, to see the Cup and to explore a Safari,

All white teeth of a goalkeeper shining so bright to get in the eye of the kicker, saving the game winning penalty,

Clean shaven players (face and legs) away from the ball attracting mesmerized looks of ladies in the stadium during a match,

An observant fan taking a photo with his mobile cam as ball crosses the goal line saving the day when the referee misses the call,

Beer cheers in many different languages with fans drinking from cups (of the world) for celebration,

A player taking medicine to sooth his aches after a hard match while a fan taking the same after a tough loss,

A fan giving his fruit bar or drink to a player of his team down 0 - 3 during halftime,

Commentators from all over the world shouting “gooooll!” in the same language, dressed the same,

Crowds cheering for the same cause, to enjoy the game, to win the Cup not all can, mystery and suspense, a strange romantic affair, where anything can happen any time, a modern fairy tale where ordinary men turn into world heroes in a spark of magic, and tough battle painted on the face of every player, every moment…

1998, Croatia beats Germany 3-0 in the World Cup quarterfinals!

1999, Manchester United beats Bayern 2-1, scoring 2 goals in 3mins during stoppage time, to become Champions!

2002, Korea Republic beats Spain after penalties in the World Cup quarterfinals!

2005, Liverpool beats AC Milan after penalties, being down 0-3 in first half, to become Champions!

2010, New Zealand beats…

I imagine.

“Nothing is impossible.”

Isn’t football the most amazing “lovemark”?