The Strangest Thing About The World Cup So Far

Robin Van Persie can't quite believe it either.

Robin Van Persie can’t quite believe it either.

It’s as if your mother got divorced, took tango lessons and took up with a Swedish artist.

It’s as if your local vicar stood in the pulpit and railed against “that damned God person who’s raining disaster and misery on us all.”

It’s as if Hillary Clinton actually said what she really meant.

The first few days of the World Cup have thrown up something so strange, so painfully bizarre that they might drive the average soccer fan to (additional) drink.

All these teams are actually trying to win.

To a passing American, this might seem like the most inane suggestion. But, just as in American football, defense is supposed to win championships, so in world football far too many teams have preferred to sit back, steal a goal, and sit back some more.

These teams are generally known as Italy, Italy and “you stinking negative Italian bastards.”

Of course it’s not just Italy. Germany was for years well known for its sturdiness and simulation, rather than for its glorious passing movements.

And the annals of Argentine defending are filled with pages dripping with spittle, blood and sinews hacked from opponents’ limbs.

However, at this World Cup, in every game so far both teams have not only tried to play football, but they’ve truly dedicated themselves to some notion of attack.

It could be that, in these desperate time of marketing, attacking players, being more glamorous than defensive dullards, are being featured by coaches who know which side of their palms are ultimately being greased.

It could also be that fewer and fewer little boys want to grow up to be defenders, because defenders are ugly and destructive and we all live in a world of deep, loving Facebook sharing.

It’s been noticeable, though, that the likes of Lionel Messi, Arjen Robben and Andrea Pirlo have somehow managed to not only remain unscathed, but to saunter about in a fine approximation of doing their thing.

There was a time when the sight of a talented player in the World Cup meant one thing: chop his legs off.

The Brazilian great Pele and the Portuguese legend Eusebio were both brutally kicked, gouged and trampled during the 1966 World Cup.

The fact that it was in England was no excuse. It wasn’t the English doing the brutalizing.

Several World Cup winners — most notably the Italians of 2006 — played merely to snatch victory in the same way that a magpie snatches food.

Except that many of these magpies carried a cosh and a mace.

In Brazil so far, there has barely been a dull game. There hasn’t even been a draw.

Stunningly, even some penalties have actually been penalties.

There’s something painfully odd about a competition run by such desperately devious individuals as FIFA, shorn of scruples and good taste, delivering such free joy to a stunned world.

Of course these are early days and the pressure of corporate play and subterfuge may reassert itself.

This so far, though, has been akin to walking into a Michelin-starred restaurant, not being treated as if one is a chromosome short of a monkey, being offered food that is quite beautiful, tasting it and discovering that it is remarkably good and then being told the meal is on the house.

That doesn’t happen very often.


Image: MTSProductIs/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk