You have to feel for a player of the calibre of Michael Ballack and for fans of Germany. Things haven’t always gone swimmingly for Ballack at Stamford Bridge since he joined in 2006, but there is no doubt he is Germany’s most accomplished player of his generation. Be it at Munich, Leverkusen or the national side, Ballack has been one of the most consistent performers in the last 10 years of European football.
My first reaction to the challenge by Kevin-Prince Boateng on Saturday was it was a nasty little challenge. Numerous replays have simply strengthened that belief and it was the end to a little spat that had been running for the previous 15 minutes in the F.A. Cup Final. Now, Boateng is not alone in having a spiteful side to his play, but the irony of the impact it would have on his and Ballacks summer is now becoming apparent.
June 23rd has now gained a new significance in the World Cup as it is the date that Ghana play Germany in South Africa. Now normally, any game which features a player going against a side who have lost a player due to a nasty challenge would be interesting. Add the fact that the player is Germany’s captain and talismanic leader and the stakes are indeed raised, but there is an even more tantilising twist to this tale.
You see, up until April, Kevin Prince Boateng was classed as a German international, having represented the national side at both Under-16 and Under-19 levels. Now he has been granted permission by FIFA to represent Ghana at full international level and is expected to make the cut for the World Cup squad named by Ghana’s manager Milovan Rajevec. It’s a new move and one that should be applauded, though I doubt FIFA had this kind of comeback in mind when they allowed him to join up with Ghana.
Now the game has a whole new dimension for both sides. It was always going to be a pivotal game for both sides, with the dangerous Australians and Serbia making up a tough group. I’m not one for advocating revenge, but I’ve a feeling certain members of the German squad will be gunning for Boateng. Not only for the injury that Ballack has sustained, ruling him out of the World Cup but for turning his back on his country of birth.
I appreciate the draw a country could have on a player, but the decision seems to be made based on taking the easier option for me. Boateng’s career has certainly stalled whilst he’s been in England, he has the air of a player that sometimes looks like he can’t be bothered. His appearance for Portsmouth against Coventry in this season’s F.A. Cup run was peculiar to say the least. At one point in the second half, he was too injured to run but magically had the ability to dribble and shoot when the ball was played to him.
Since being at Portsmouth, he’s certainly gained some playing time, but his spell at Tottenham was a dreadful indictment of the previous regimes slapdash transfer policy under Daniel Commoli.The only thing that shocked me was that Tottenham managed to get anywhere near the £5 million they paid out for him.
Poor Michael Ballack, suspended for the 2002 World Cup final, will now probably never play in a World Cup again. He’ll be 37 by the time Brazil rolls around in 2014, so time and common sense is against him. Boateng, all being well, could be on the cusp of a wonderful career for the Black Stars over the next decade or so. So all German eyes will be on Johannesburg on June 23rd as the two sides clash. By the way, did I mention Kevin Prince Boateng could be there with his brother, Jerome. Trouble is, Jerome’s been picked by Germany in their provisional squad. Talk about a twist having a twist.