Monday July 2, 2012
Sideshows and short passing
One Man's Meat
By PHILIP GOLINGAI
Looking back at the highlights of Euro 2012 and they are not necessarily about football.
EURO 2012 has come to an end and I’ve found the Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes impending divorce to be much, much more thrilling than the tournament.
There was something missing from the three-week European championship. Perhaps it’s because there were no glamorous WAGs (footballers’ wives and girlfriends) in Euro 2012 which was hosted by Poland and Ukraine.
Yes, there were Coleen (Wayne Rooney’s wife), Toni (John Terry’s wife) and Kimberly Crew (Joe Hart’s partner). But they pale in comparison to the original WAGs. Victoria Beckham (David’s wife), Cheryl Cole (now Ashley Cole’s ex-wife) and Nancy Dell’Olio (now ex-girlfriend of former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson) glamourised the 2006 World Cup in Germany with their big hair, sunglasses, designer heels and endless outfit changes.
But surely a WAG does not make a tournament. Was Euro 2012 less thrilling because most of the matches were played at 2.45am Malaysian time? I’ve learnt that it is really not worth my time/life to watch a 2.45am football match – I’ll end up a zombie or dead.
A Chinese superfan died from sleep deprivation after staying up 11 nights in a row to watch every single Euro game. On June 19, the 26-year-old man from Changsha in south-central China died after watching the Italian beat the Irish 2-0. He took a shower, went to bed at 5am and died in his sleep.
I do think that Euro 2012 was less thrilling as I didn’t have a national team that I supported feverishly.
It used to be England. Well, it is the “motherland” plus I know all the English players because of the English Premier League.
However, motherland has consistently disappointed me. And Beckham did it for me.
It was the 1998 World Cup in France, and England was playing Argentina in the quarter final. Argentinean midfielder Diego Simeone fouled Beckham and the Englishman was sent off for a petulant retaliatory kick on Simeone.
The match ended 2-2 and England was dumped out of the World Cup on penalties. That was the end of my love affair with the English football team.
The only Euro 2012 game that I watched “live” in full was Spain vs Portugal. Although the Spanish were victorious at Euro 2008 and the 2010 FIFA World Cup, I’ve only recently become a fan of La Furia Roja (the Red Fury).
Tiki-taka is the reason I’m a fan. Wikipedia describes tiki-taka as “characterised by short passing and movement, working the ball through various channels and maintaining possession”.
Here’s how it is played: the ball is passed from Xavi Hernandez to Andres Iniesta, Iniesta to Xavi, Xavi to Xabi Alonso, Alonso to Xavi, Xavi to Cesc Fabregas.
Boring football for some but relentless ball retention is the way I would have played football if I had teammates who could tiki-taka.
Plus, I have a hidden agenda in liking Spain. Liverpool’s new manager Brendan Rodgers has pledged to pursue tiki-taka the Liverpool way.
It is the sideshow that makes a tournament thrilling.
Denmark’s Nicklas Bendtner revealing the name of an unofficial sponsor (Paddy Power, a betting firm) on his green boxer shorts while celebrating a goal.
The secret of the slick performance for the hair-challenged Rooney is Wella Shockwaves Ultra Strong Rock & Hold Gel Styler.
The sideshows that happened kilometres away from Euro 2012 action were thrilling, too. It seems there are zoos which want their animals to be like Paul the Octopus, which became a global superstar when it correctly predicted the results of eight 2010 FIFA World Cup matches.
There are Funtik the Pig in Ukraine, Big Huat the Fish in Singapore, Lin Ping the Panda in Thailand, Citta the Elephant in Poland and Yvonne the Cow in Germany.
So far, in terms of correct predictions, these animals have been as accurate as Shebby Singh, the ex-Malaysian international footballer and now Blackburn Rovers director of football.
Animal rights activists claim that animal punditry has spiralled out of control.
For example, a German Internet radio station filmed a python called Ado being offered the choice of two live rats – one representing Germany and the other Portugal.
Ado ate the rat representing Portugal which meant, according to the radio station, that Portugal would win Euro 2012. Of course Ado the Python got it wrong.
As I write this, the Euro 2012 final between Spain and Italy has yet to be played, but my prediction (and no animal has been exploited in my punditry) is Spain’s tiki-taka will bore the Italians to death.