“Wowwy wow wow!!!”
This text message came clattering over my cell phone at 4:17 PM, Foley’s time.
“Shades of Nicola Caricola” hit my screen at 4:18 PM, from a correspondent who shall be identified as Doug From Florida.
Both were noting the own goal in far-off São Paolo, greeted with mostly horror by the large crowd in the Irish baseball pub on New York’s W. 33 st.
Many of the patrons were wearing the familiar yellow jersey or t-shirt. As somebody at our table said, everybody’s default position in the World Cup is Brazil. (Except Argentines.)
The “Wowwy wow wow!!!” speaks for itself, but the “Nicola Caricola” in question was an old Juventus player who became legendary by making an own goal in the very first game for the MetroStars, from which the franchise is still recovering.
In jam-packed Foley’s, there was the frisson of danger that Croatia might profit from the own goal propelled into the net by Marcelo of Brazil.
Some of us at the table spent a few minutes telling the tragic tale of Andrés Escobar of Colombia who scored an own goal against the United States in 1994 and was gunned down in a parking lot when he got back home.
Before long, Brazilian talent and the referee's hasty whistle for a penalty kick combined for a 3-1 victory for the host team.
Finally, they were playing the World Cup. I was hoping that Brazilians would make their points about the brutal costs imposed by FIFA for holding the World Cup, and yet balance it with their love of futebol.
I have been thinking that Brazil players would be somehow affected by the demonstrations planned around the country, but on the first day the yellow jerseys swarmed. Neymar carried himself with the assurance of a young man who knows he is handsome and talented. Not sure he meant to hit a slow grass-skimmer inside the right post, but that may be the way life works for Neymar.
I sold a couple dozen copies of my new book about the eight World Cups I covered, hung out with old friends from Hofstra and elsewhere, met some really nice people.
For the duration of the World Cup, I'll be commenting on the matches here and there on a daily basis. Reactions and Comments are more than welcome. Muito obrigado.
Welcome to World Cup 2022, the most absurd thing that the routinely absurd world of sports has ever produced.
Those extreme descriptions were what virtually the entire world, save for those who had walked off with bags of cash from Qatar, called the awarding of soccer’s greatest event to the incredibly tiny, incredibly wealthy country back in 2010.
Twelve years ago, many were convinced this event couldn’t possibly happen: staging the world’s biggest sporting event in a country the size of Connecticut, one with zero soccer culture and even less soccer infrastructure? The tournament couldn’t possibly take place in 120-degree heat, and FIFA, the governing body of soccer, most certainly wouldn’t upend football leagues around the world to change the traditional summer schedule, could it?
And, for God’s sake, what about the beer?
Those were just the logistical concerns. The moral concerns are far more distressing. FIFA, so busy paying lip service to equality, couldn’t possibly expect the world to embrace a country where you could go to prison for being gay, where women’s rights are severely curtailed and female victims of sexual assault could go to prison, charged with engaging in extramarital sex. And all those questions came before the global realization that the World Cup was being built on the backs of migrant labor: modern-day slaves held in Qatar with virtually no rights, low wages and no ability to leave. Migrants make up 90% of Qatar’s stated population of 3 million. The country’s native-born equal about 300,000, or roughly the size of Anaheim.
---Ann Killion, columnist for The San Francisco Chronicle.