The 2010 World Cup has been full of surprises so far. Granted, all-time favourites Brazil and Diego Maradona’s Argentina are still on course to meet in the finals. But who would have expected to see defending champion Italy and 2006 runner-up France going home after the first round?
The once-mighty Azzurri failed to live up to expectations, as coach Marcello Lippi was the first to admit. And the French team was too busy arguing with coach Raymond Domenech to focus on performing well. The 2010 World Cup would also not be complete without its share of controversies. With the vuvuzelas as a soundtrack, England crashed out 4-1 to Germany in the second round, protesting in vain at Frank Lampard’s disallowed goal.
How would you explain the dismal performances of some of football’s acknowledged greats? Bad coaching? Poor teamwork? Tired players? Fifa president Sepp Blatter’s previous stubborn refusal to use goal-line video technology?
None of that, according to some football blogs and news sites which blame it instead on the Nike advertisement curse. Nike released an ad entitled Write the future before the World Cup commenced. The ad features Ivory Coast’s Didier Drogba, Italy’s Fabio Cannavaro, England’s Wayne Rooney, Brazil’s Ronaldinho and Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo. Amongst others, it shows Rooney dreaming of all new English babies being named Wayne, and Ronaldo imagining a giant-sized statue of himself being unveiled in Portugal.
Even before the tournament began however, disaster had struck some of the advertisement’s main protagonists. Drogba broke his elbow a few weeks before the World Cup and had to begin the tournament on the bench. Ronaldinho wasn’t even selected for the Brazil World Cup team.
Rooney left South Africa without having scored a single gold for England. (Corrected) Italy under captain Cannavaro let past five goals in three matches, a dismal performance considering the Azzuri conceded only two in the entire 2006 tournament. And with Portugal’s second round defeat to Spain, Ronaldo also had to pack his bags earlier than hoped or expected.
Meanwhile, Argentina’s Lionel Messi and Brazil’s Kaka who are sponsored by Adidas, and were therefore absent in the Nike advertisement, have had a much more successful World Cup campaign so far.
Black cats and other superstitions
The sporting world is not short of superstitions and strange practices. South Africa, in fact, saw it fit to ban the use of witchcraft in this World Cup. An octopus in Germany has been hailed as an oracle by correctly predicting the outcome of all four of Germany’s matches so far by choosing between two mussels.
Fans, coaches and players alike comply with religious-like fervour to all sorts of beliefs and rituals in their quest for victory. Brazil’s technical coordinator Mario Zagallo is obsessed with the number 13 and was ecstatic that Brazil’s debut in the World Cup was on 13 June. French coach Domenech apparently relies on astrological signs in determining his line-up. He is famously reluctant to use “spotlight-loving Leos” or Scorpios who “always end up killing each other”.
Spain blamed goalkeeper Iker Casillas’s newscaster girlfriend as being bad luck and a distraction when Spain lost to Switzerland 1-0. Cassilas responded by shaving his goatee and changing from a blue to turquoise jersey for the match against Portugal, which Spain went on to win1-0.
In 1998, French players ensured they always occupied the exact same seats on the team bus and listened to Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive at full volume in the changing room. Laurent Blanc would also kiss goalkeeper Fabian Barthez’s bald head before starting every match. France won the World Cup that year.
Eat my shorts
England’s captain in the 1960’s and 1970’s Bobby Moore would apparently insist on being the last to put on his shorts in the changing room before a match. He would stand around holding his shorts patiently, while everyone else to put theirs on first.
The Daily Telegraph recounted how Moore’s teammate Martin Peters was fascinated by Moore’s superstition. It said: “Peters would wait until Moore had put on his shorts, before taking off his own. Moore would respond by taking off his shorts, and wait until Peters had put his back on.”
Other superstitions involving shorts and even underpants abound. Romania’s Adrian Mutu said curses had no effect on him because he wore his underwear inside out. Former Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Goycochea, on the other hand, would hitch up his shorts and urinate on the pitch before facing penalties.
Malaysia, tak boleh
Fans also have their rituals — wearing the same shirt for as long as their team is winning or avoiding catching the game at venues where they have watched their team lose before.
But whatever Malaysian fans’ superstitions are, they will have to be reserved for foreign teams, since Malaysia predictably failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup finals. Much has already been said about the dismal state of the Malaysian national team, for example by rapper Namewee in his video clip Handicap Goal. We will leave it at that for now.
In the meantime, Malaysian employers are probably breathing a sigh of relief that many matches were played at 8.30pm and 10pm Malaysian time, reducing the absenteeism usually seen every four years.
What has your World Cup experience been like so far? What were your happiest and most frustrating moments? Who are your favourite players? And which team would you like to lift the World Cup on 11 July 2010? Share your thoughts with us in only six words. Here are ours:
Even Honduras qualified, what about Malaysia?
For the love of the husband.
England football fans: “We wuz robbed!”
The goal that never was – tragic!
Drinks, friends, World Cup = happy
Sports getting too expensive on Astro.
Gan Pei Ling:
The only time I watch football.
Perfect excuse for mamak every night.
Germany for champion, Klose for GB!
Mueller and Ozil – best young players!
Jacqueline Ann Surin:
Absolute referee discretion = absolute mistakes.
Brazil! Brazil! Brazil! Brazil! Brazil! Brazil!
Men with balls give good show.
Beckham, Jagger, Clinton. Who’s the fairest?
Germany fabulous. US not bad. Malaysia?
Koh Lay Chin:
Four years can’t come soon enough.
Pseudocitizen negara lain sebab Malaysia takde.
But we cheer for Subkhiddin! (Bolehlah).
This World Cup’s Argentina’s to lose.
Is there anyone cooler than Maradona?
Pain: Blind refs, vuvuzelas, 2.30am matches.
A truly beautiful game = priceless
Only interested in World Cup vuvuzelas.
Does anyone watch Women’s World Cup?
Am I the only Spain supporter?
Hoping Netherlands shocks Brazil on Friday.
Inevitable question in future: Cristiano who?
Strong opinions about referees and players.
Hah, I don’t even play football!
Swapping jerseys better than party hopping.
The Nut Graph watches football, too.
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