I’m definitely an optimist, but having experienced a lot of ups and downs in my life, I’m also a realist. Having said that, I have some concerns and reservations about the 2010 World Cup. And that is that I hope the tournament goes off without a hitch.
Too many times in the past, negative incidents have soured the enjoyment of World Cup tournaments. I just hope that nothing this summer — either on or off the field — takes our focus away from where it deserves to be, the game of soccer.
Examples of previous incidents that have taken the shine off the World Cup include:
- June 17, 1994. On the day that the 1994 World Cup kicked off, the tournament was completely overshadowed because of one former NFL athlete who led police, cameras and a US TV audience of millions down a California highway. Instead of mainstream America focusing on the biggest sports tournament on its shores, America was going ga-ga over the OJ scandal. Talk about bad timing. Knowing the luck of the World Cup, Osama Bin Laden will be captured during the tournament or Fidel Castro would kick the bucket.
- July 2, 1994. When Colombian footballer Andres Escobar accidentally scored an own goal against the United States on June 22, the unfortunate incident helped the United States win 2-1 and meant that Colombia was knocked out of the first round of a tournament where they were heavily favored to advance. Two weeks later, Escobar was tragically gunned down in a Medellin suburb in what was believed to be “punishment” for scoring the own goal.
- June 18, 2002. Anyone watching the game between South Korea and Italy would have been bewildered to see referee Byron Moreno award South Korea a disputed penalty kick, disallow a perfectly legal Italy goal and eject Totti for diving in a game which South Korea went on to win 2-1 in injury time. Bizarre decisions or swayed by money from matchfixers? Who knows. But one year later, the referee was suspended for 20 matches after an incident in Ecuador. And he later resigned.
- July 9, 2006. Who would have expected that on the day of the 2006 World Cup Final that the most vivid lasting memory would have been a headbutt by Zinedine Zidane? It tarnished the sport and resulted in every talking about the headbutt incident instead of the game itself.
These are just a few examples of many unsavory moments that have happened on and off the pitch in the past 16 years. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that nothing catastrophic happens off the field which diverts the attention of the world media. And let’s hope that what happens on the field is pure soccer and not tinged with controversy. Somehow, though, something always happens. Or is it me?