Claude Arpi captures the fan's passion for football in these entertaining e-mails to Ivan Crasto,Rediff.com's Sports Editor.
Read Claude's first e-mail
His 5th: Revolution is a French sport
His 6th: World Cup balls
The 7th: Why is refreeing so poor in the World Cup?
His 8th: The sinking of Old Europe
The 9th: Did you see the most ridiculous goal of the competition?
His 10th: Germany have their revenge, finally
His 11th: Brazil is Brazil and will hopefully remain Brazil
His 12th Cristiano Ronaldo, a shadow of his old self
His 13th No Samba anymore
His previous e-mail: Die Mannschaft is not an association of stars
How is life in Mumbai? Not too wet, I hope.
Though the temperature seems to differ from one venue to another, it is a good change that the World Cup is taking in the southern hemisphere winter. Yesterday, during the first semi-final, Dutch coach Bert Van Marwijk wore a scarf after the pause. Was he cold or was it for good luck?
I did not know what Paul the Octopus had predicted for the Celeste vs Oranje match, but I have read that in any case Paul is colour-blind.
I would like first to come back to Uruguay's quarter final with Ghana. Many did not agree with me and felt that Suarez, who blocked the ball with his hands at the last minute of extra-time was a 'national' hero and that his hands were 'divine'. Well, even Ravana probably thought that he was 'divine', but the issue is that there is (or there should be) an ethic in sports (like in everything else, including business and politics'). What do the sports ethics say?
It was beautifully put by Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the Olympic Games (it is now the motto of the games): "The most important thing is not to have won but to have taken part the important thing in life is not the victory but the battle, the essential is not to have won but to have fought well." It is valid for all sports.
I wrote to you about the Tour de France, the most popular cycling event in the world (by the way, in one day the Tour has more physically present spectators than the entire World Cup; between one and two million cheer on the roads of France and neighbouring countries). Two days back, the Tour crossed Belgium; it was raining and the cyclists were racing on narrow slippery roads through the hilly Flandres. In a very fast descent (more than 70 km/h), many of the top favourites in the main field fell (it included Andy Schleck from Luxembourg and his brother). Other favourites, like Spaniard Alberto Contador or American Lance Armstrong could have accelerated and 'finished off' the two brothers. But the field collectively decided to go slow to let them catch up again after they had changed their broken cycles. That is sports!
Predictably, the Oranje are the first qualified for the final. It was not a match which will remain in the annals of football, but the 'important thing' was to make it to Johannesburg on Sunday.
Nothing exciting during the first half, except for two magnificent goals by both captains. From the start, Uruguay was handicapped by two of its key players being suspended (Suarez for his un-divine hand and defender Jorge Fucile).
During the first minutes, it became clear that Van Marwijk had given instructions to his players to keep the ball and wait for an occasion. We don't have long to wait. The 18th minute brings one of the most beautiful goals of the competition, Giovanni Van Bronckhorst, one could say out of nowhere, sends a 35-metre missile into the top corner of the Uruguayan posts. Muslera can't do anything. The Dutch are in the lead (1-0) and their visa for the last leg is nearly stamped.
The game slows down to the limit of boredom, when, as the pause approaches, we get a Forlan Special. The Atletico Madrid striker, often in a lonely position without his companion Suarez, places a long and tight kick under the horizontal post of Maarten Stekekenburg who looks surprised by the trajectory of the Jabulani.
After the pause, the Uruguayans play better, having probably got a severe 'talk' from their coach Oscar Tabarez "You can do it".
Despite a few occasions on both side, nothing too electrifying. But again three minutes are sufficient to seal the fate of the Celeste which will not be able to replay the feat of 1950. It is again Sneijder who takes a ball destined to his partner Kuyt and with a curved kick sends the ball on the far post, Sneijder is helped by the slight deviation by an Uruguayan defender, Van Pierse is off-side on the action, but the Uzbek referee grants the goal, probably considering that the Arsenal player does not participate in the action.
Three minutes later Robben heads the ball on the opposite post after a tight centre from Kyut. Muslera can just look and collect the ball from behind the line.
The Celeste are now groggy. They will keep fighting till the end, scoring a last goal by Maximiliano Pereira at the last minute, but it is too late.
The Oranje enter into the legend of Dutch football like the Magician Johan Cruyff's team in 1974 and 1978.
Now, Paul the Octopus has said the Roja will play the Oranje. Nice combination of colours, but the White of Joachin Loew have not said their last words and they may not listen to the diktats of a cephalopod mollusk.
A word about Ravshan Irmatov, the referee from Uzbekistan. He has officiated in five matches, a record. He has made very few mistakes (the only one was perhaps the yellow card to Thomas Müller for an involuntary hand against Argentina); he is cool, close to the action; he is able to explain his decisions to the players and he is Asiatic. He is a true revelation in the competition. Let us hope that we will see him again soon.
Participating is good, winning is better, must be thinking the Dutch.
With Oranje vuvuzelas,
Image: Netherlands' Giovanni Van Bronckhorst celebrates his goal with team mates Wesley Sneijder and Joris Mathijsen during their semi-final against Uruguay at Cape Town.