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Rediff.com  » Sports » Cristiano Ronaldo, a shadow of his old self

Cristiano Ronaldo, a shadow of his old self

June 30, 2010 17:19 IST
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 second
His third
His fourth
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

Dear Ivan,

Here we go!

We know the Magnificent Eight who remain in competition for the Jules Rimet trophy. Did you know that the trophy, originally called 'Victory', was named after Frenchman Jules Rimet, the FIFA president in 1929 when it was decided to hold a world football tournament?

Quite disappointing that Japan could not make it. I find that one of the Nippon backs (Tulio Tanaka) looks like Toshiro Mifune, the great Japanese actor who played Musashi Miyamoto in Hiroshi Inagaki's famous Samurai trilogy. I hope they won't commit hara-kiri when they return to Japan.

It is true that there was nothing exciting or thrilling about the match and when the Belgium referee blew his whistle after 90 minutes, I thought "Phew, 30 more minutes of this football."

The penalty shootout always has something spellbinding (and heartbreaking when you support a particular team) about it. Poor defender Yuichi Komano, his shot smashed right onto the bar. It happened to the great Michel Platini in the quarterfinal of the 1986 World Cup against Brazil.

The Paraguay team who managed 5 on 5 in the penalty shootout, will have the honour of playing Spain in the next round.

It was amusing to watch the two coaches. Gerardo Martino, the Argentinean trainer of the Paraguayan team, displayed typical Latino behaviour, gesticulating, pacing up and down, always on the move, making faces and shouting advice to his players while a few metres away on the other side of the median line, stood Takeshi Okada, the Zen Japanese mentor.

Not a single muscle of Okada's face moved for most of the match. He has the merit of having taken his team to this stage of the competition. With a few millimetres of Luck, they could have made it. Next time we will perhaps have an Asian team in the last 8.

The night match saw better football with a strong domination of the Roja during the first half, but without 'hard' concretisation. The Spaniards accelerated during the second half against a timorous Portugal.

Cristiano Ronaldo is just not the guy who won the Golden Ball in 2008. He is probably tired after a tough season with Real Madrid. That is not the case for Valencia striker David Vila who is blooming during this South African competition.

Villa again made the difference after 63 minutes though he had to shoot twice to outwit Eduardo, the Lusitanian keeper.

The adventure is over for Carlos Queiroz's boys who had not lost 19 consecutive World Cup matches. The Spaniards were the best players of the Iberian Peninsula this morning.

A word now about FIFA President Sepp Blatter's U-turn announcement on referring. Blatter told the press: 'I apologised to England and Mexico. The English said thank you and accepted that you can win (some) and you lose (some), and the Mexicans bowed their head and accepted it.'

He further stated: 'It would be nonsense not to reopen the file of technology.'

It is good, a small step forward, but why apologise only to the 'big' teams? Just because they have vocal tabloids?

What about the US goal by Edu refused by the Malian referee?

Or the goal granted by the French referee to Luis Fabiano against Cote d'Ivoire, after he twice controlled the ball with his arm?

Yesterday, I wrote that all nations are equal on the field. I was apparently wrong. It seems there are unfortunately 'big' federations and lesser ones.

Where I support Blatter is when he declared in the strongest terms that the French government has no business to interfere in the affairs of a 'democratically' elected federation.

The French rout was discussed in the French parliament and Sports Minister Roselyne Bachelot asked for French Football Federation President Jean-Pierre Escalette's resignation. Being a good politician, Bachelot later said she was misquoted.

Blatter reminded the French government that football is not a State affair. He added that if there was any interference, 'Whatever the size of the country, whatever the type of intervention', FIFA would ban the country from participating in international competitions.

A bon entendeur, salut says the French proverb (if you have good ears, listen). Can you imagine 10, Janpath selecting the next cricket team?

True, India is an incredible country and everything is possible, but it is not morally and legally justifiable.

With Samurai vuvuzelas

Claude

PS: A small error in my mail yesterday. Nayan Chanda informs me that he does not teach at Yale; he edits the online magazine, YaleGlobal Online (http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/). He is also the author of Bound Together: How Traders, Preachers, Adventurers and Warriors Shaped Globalization (Yale 2007). Errare humanum est!

Image: Japan's Yuichi Komano hits the crossbar during the penalty shootout against Paraguay at the Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria. Photograph: Toru Hanai/Reuters

Claude Arpi