It was a pathetic sight. If I see one more Dutchman cry I'm going to be ill. What you won't find in the picture galleries of today's Portugal vs. Crybabies/Holland match is all of the whining and crying that Dutch players entertained us with whenever they didn't get their way on the pitch - which was often. You won't see them grimacing and dissenting and crying and whining and stomping their feet and tugging and pulling and complaining and breaking almost every rule of the game. This was certainly a travesty today, and it was the players who were most responsible, followed by the coaches, followed by Sepp Blatter, followed by the fans, and finally, finishing with the referees - in that order.
Amid some bad officiating in this game and the tournament, in general, the Dutch squad continued to cry for the entire 90 minute match - never once stopping their crying to try and win their game based on their skills or fitness - and, perhaps, that should have been obvious. They were incapable of doing so, and as such, went to their backup plan - the Crying Game.
Fortunately, the Crying Game didn't work, and the Dutch have gone home - once again failing to show up for a World Cup match. Good riddance.
Now that the Dutch are done crying on the field, they're crying off the field, just like every other team that failed to produce results in this Cup. The USA springs to mind. The list is long and ever-growing. Expect more post-elimination crying to come.
Even Portugal is crying off the field, complaining at 'unfairly' losing Deco for his outrageous behavior. You can't make this stuff up.
It is rare to see a defense of the officiating, but I found it. Most of the criticism leveled after a game where the players make a mockery of themselves and the game consists of bashing the referees for not being omniscent and omnipotent, as are the spectators and media.
Rarely do we ever hear the unsportsmanlike conduct of the players being criticized. It's all "what will the world do without Deco?" - nothing like "what in the world was that hack Deco doing by holding the ball away from the opponent in a crass display of unsportsmanlike conduct, after he'd been warned by FIFA, the referees, coaches, and millions upon millions of fans around the world, repeatedly, since Day 1 of the Cup?". It's atrocious this hero-worship of a bunch of soccer hacks. There are some honorable players on the pitch, still, but their names don't start with 'Deco'.
The following video is Eric Cantona's call to all players of the world, including Deco, to stop the cheating, and instead, 'play beautiful'. It is part of the Joga Bonito ad campaign being produced by Nike:
Here is the text of the ad:
This is Eric Cantona, interrupting your transmissions, broadcasting live from the heart of Germany. Mes a mi, footballers - for too long we let liars and cheaters make a fool of our game.
[video clips of horrendous fouls, time-wasting tactics, etc.]
I am here to remind the world that this game is about skills, heart, honor, joy, team spirit.
[video clips of soccer skills, teamwork, etc.]
Mes a mi, I need your help, your heart, and your feet. Together, me and you, we can make it beatiful again.
So, step forward, my brothers in football, and join us.
The beginning of this article seems to sum up what the players were up to on the field this evening:
An evening of mayhem and spite, sometimes synchronised cheating and complaining...
That pretty much covers what we saw out there. Players cheating left and right, Netherlands players crying non-stop, and American sports announcers also crying non-stop. Rarely if ever were we treated to criticism of the players for their unsportsmanlike conduct.
On the issue of a referee 'losing control', I've been involved in many matches where the referee lost control, and I've witnessed and watched countless others. I don't ever recall a referee being able to 'regain control' of a match. If the players on the field decide that they're going to be big burly men by attempting to hack and fight one another on the field where they know there is virtually no chance that they'll actually have to face an opposing player man-to-man and 'fight like a man', there is nothing the referee can do to stop it. That's where the fans come in. If the fans choose to treat their players like prima-donnas and allow them to make a mockery of the game and the fans, then they will do so - and they did so this afternoon. The only chance that a referee has to get control of a game is to start sending players off by showing cards - early and often. And that's what this referee did, and he has been harshly criticized for it. It's outrageous that he is being criticized before the players and the coaches and Sepp Blatter, head of FIFA.
Sepp Blatter threw his Russian officials under the bus. That's shameful. It was his decision to call the games tighter and he should take the blame for the tighter officiating. Instead, he has pulled a Bruce Arena, and threw his 'players' under the bus. Pathetic and shameful - just like the players on the pitch who refused to 'joga bonito'.
UPDATE: Unbelievable. AP Sports writer calls Deco out for his 'childish timewasting'.
UPDATE: One final note, Ronaldo, the Portuguese one, was off the field after getting injured by another nasty Dutch foul. The earlier-referenced 'defense of officiating' article alludes to this injury prevention being one of the primary goals of stricter officiating - talking about how Pele was unable to play his trade effectively because dirty teams would just take him out. Today, the Netherlands just took out Ronaldo. Why any self-proclaimed soccer fan would defend the behavior of these hooligans on the pitch today is beyond me.
UPDATE: I'd like to be one of the first to call for Blatter to apologize and then resign as head of FIFA. His public denunciation of his officials was sickening. If he will not resign, he should be forced out. The officiating of any one particular match must fall with Blatter, as he is the one who decided to have his referees call the games radically differently than in the past. His referees were only doing what he told them to do. Blatter should resign immediately, even before the Cup finishes. Right now. Tonight (this morning). Immediately.
p.s. On an unrelated note, when will South American and other teams from relatively short-statured nations start employing taller keepers? The loss today by Ecuador on the set play by Beckham was disturbing. Surely a country is able to produce one human being that is 6' 2" or taller, yes? Keller would have gotten to that ball on the worst day of his career. But, Ecuador gave up after the goal, so they deserved to lose.
UPDATE: FIFA gets letters!
Subject: Sepp Blatter must resign immediately, or be fired.
His comments about his referees today were wholly unacceptable. He should apologize, resign immediately, and then go get his officiating license so he can become the target of abuse by players and fans and officials for carrying-out politicies that the FIFA president has set.
Just sayin. Blatter resigning is the only the honorable thing left to do, short of Hari-Kari.
UPDATE: Wow - I totally forgot about that. A true outright shocker - and not the good kind.
This blog points out something that I didn't quite catch during the game, but which the announcers caught and many of the fans caught, too. When a player is injured, the team possessing the ball will play it out of bounds to make it easy for the ref to stop the game and check on the injured player. It's good sportsmanship. When play resumes, the team who has possession returns possession to the team who, as a show of good sportsmanship, played it out of bounds in the first place. No advantage was gained, it's the honorable thing to do, happens all the time, etc.
But today, the Netherlands refused to give possession back to Portugal. I don't know the details - I can't even confirm it happened as I didn't see it, but if true it would be a horrible blight on the Netherlands' record. I've never actually heard of this happening before, ever. Maybe there could have been a mixup, maybe the Netherlands thought the Portugal player was only play-acting, etc. - there could be a thousand+ excuses, but as I've said, I've _never_ seen this happen before, even if a player was play-acting, which is about the only constant in international soccer - happens _all_ the time.
If true, and all the reports coming out suggest it is true, it would be, for me, the most shameful episode of this World Cup. This World Cup won't be about anything that has happened yet or anything that will happen in the runup to the end of the Cup - this World Cup, the 2006 in Germany, will be about how the Netherlands refused to play the ball back to Portugal after Portugal played it out of bounds due to an injury.
In the international football arena, this type of 'crime' is about the worst thing that could be committed. If there is anything worse, I cannot think of it. Maybe allowing your fans to physically attack the opposing team? Maybe having your whole team physically assault the opposing team? Something like that. The problem is that even when a very hard, shameful foul is committed by one player against another, it is only committed by one player - but in this case, it appears the whole Dutch team was in on it. Incredible. It would be a shame upon the entire Dutch nation unless they dealt with the matter seriously and swiftly. And even then could it ever be erased from the annals of shameful play?
Again, this just underscored the outrageousness of Blatter's criticism of the referees. The Netherlands, it seems, have committed one of the most egregeous 'crimes' attributable to any soccer-playing nation, and Blatter criticizes the referees instead - his referees who were enforcing his policies.
Methinks this is developing into a much bigger debacle than Blatter could have imagined. Maybe he thought putting his referees at the mercy of the mobs was a classy move. Time will tell.
Also, the Dutch coach, Marco van Basten, who was an awesome striker back in the day, refused to play his star goal-scorer, Ruud van Nistelrooy. In my recollection, Rud was never a model of sportsmanship, but one has to wonder why he didn't play today, and if his absense had something to do with total lack of class and sportsmanship in the Dutch side. This, too, will be something that van Basten will have to answer for.
This requires more attention. Developing...
UPDATE: More details on the Dutch Deviousness:
Poor sportsmanship marked this match, with the most flagrant example being Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder's decision not to play the ball back to Portugal after an injury stoppage. Sneijder took the ball on the run and was cut down on a hard foul by Deco, and several Portugal players raced over to berate the Dutch player.
The 'pitbull with patience'? Or, perhaps, just 'the classless Chihuahua'?
UPDATE: Disgraceful. Too bad Blatter hasn't yet been shown the red.