‘Hullo. Nice to see you.’
In many arguments, there are two protagonists.
There’s one who cheats and the other who gets angry.
As experience in politics, business and even love will teach you, cheats tend to prosper more than the angry.
Cheats are underhand, the angry are overt. Cheats maintain control, the angry lose theirs.
So in countless sporting events, it’s just as it was when you were seven years old, thumping the living daylights out of your older brother who’d just stolen your favorite toy.
Dad rushes in. Your brother points to the red mark on his face and says: “Look what he did.” And you are smacked or grounded or both.
Which brings us, quite naturally, to the World Cup.
The facts, fortunately, were filmed.
Portugal’s Pepe and Germany Thomas Mueller were tussling for the ball. Pepe’s arm hit Mueller beneath his face.
Mueller fell as if he had been smacked in the face by a former lover with a serious grievance and a nifty technique with a pickaxe.
This was such obvious, badly acted fakery that Pepe was, just as a little brother would have been, annoyed.
It doesn’t help that this was Pepe, whose heart (and temper) tends to live not merely on his sleeve, but all over body.
He came over to Mueller, who was by now seated on the ground, and placed his head against Mueller’s.
One can imagine he might have mumbled: “Look, you cheating little lump of excreta. I did nothing to your ugly face.”
At this, Mueller — let’s remember he’s the cheat here — launched himself up in an utterly false display of rage, as if to say: “How dare you besmirch my integrity, you cad?”
Powerful transgressors enjoy this ruse.
I did not have sexual relations with that woman!
There was no head-butt. The angry man leaned into the cheat, invaded his space and said his piece.
There are so many protesters who’d love to do this to people in power.
The cheat, meanwhile, acted as if he was an innocent, assaulted while he was minding his own business.
Of course, Pepe shouldn’t have leaned in so close. But to give him a red card and Mueller no sanction at all defies either justice or, the thing you’re more sensible to hope for in life, poetry.
Thankfully, FIFA has replays of everything at its disposal.
It can look at the footage and do the right thing.
It can ban Thomas Mueller for the next two games. One game for each of the two goals he scored after Pepe was sent off.
That way, a touch of just balance would be imposed.
Pepe did nothing especially underhand, except wave his hand under Mueller’s chin. In fact, once Mueller tried to cheat, Pepe offered a remarkably honest expression of his feelings.
You’ll tell me I’m insane. You’ll tell me my suggestion is against the rules. You’ll tell me that I have a warped sense of justice.
You would, of course, be right.
Players know they can’t use their heads to invade the space of another player.
But wouldn’t there be a certain joy in learning that Mueller is also being banned for being such a sniveling act of plain old cheating?
After the arrant fakery of Brazil’s Fred against Croatia, wouldn’t it add a little beauty to see the obvious (to the fans) cheats pay a little for their sneaky dissimulation?
Might it not stop them from quite so easily behaving like the most venal, the most powerful of politicians, the ones who make ordinary citizens so angry?
After all, they’re always telling us that politics has no place in sport.
Wouldn’t it be fun to prove it?
Image: Brazil 2014/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk