What a nightmare of a World Cup it is turning out for Lionel Messi fans. He has not scored any goal and, worse, he has missed a penalty, and worst, Cristiano Ronaldo, is having a whale of a time and scoring goals seemingly at will and is also trying to a grow a goatee to literally establish that he is a GOAT.
Going forward, you can expect Ronaldo to bleat, Chitti-like in Endhiran, meh, meh, meh, to further prove that he is the true GOAT.
Now that we have made puerile fun of Ronaldo to feel slightly better as Messi fans, let us also realise that everything is not lost for Argentina, and it can still make it to the knockout stages provided these things happen:
Argentina beats Nigeria, and Iceland loses to both Croatia and Nigeria, or even draws both, or Willy Caballero joins overnight Iceland team, or they realise there is no nation called Croatia because Britain had actually voted for Crexit, or Nigeria has no kit to turn up for the match as the team jerseys, which have been a huge hit and are now sold in black market, are stolen by the Russian underground mafia…as as we said the possibilities are endless.
But while we may be sympathetic to Argentina’s cause, Iceland as plucky underdogs has become hugely popular and there is a groundswell of public emotion for it to make it to the pre-quarters. The support for Iceland is understandable, as it basically consists of a bunch of amateurs. Its coach is a dentist back home. The goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson is a filmmaker. The forward Alfred Finnbogasson, when he is not playing football, is in his free time the country’s Prime Minister. This is in contrast to Cristiano Ronaldo who actually thinks that he is his country’s Prime Minister.
Aside from Iceland, another team to impress is the hosts Russia, which has scored an impressive eight goals in two matches. Accepted, one of Russia’s opponents was Saudi Arabia, whose players approached the game gingerly because they were not sure whether or not the leather on the football was obtained after the animal was killed as per halal norms.
Anyway, coming into this tournament, Russia was the lowest ranked among the 32 teams. But suddenly we see them pumping goals after goals, so how did this transformation happen? Well, this is the beauty and unpredictability of football, but also allow us to point out that it may not be just coincidence that the family members of some of the important players of Russia’s opponents have been reportedly found missing in the last few days. And they were last seen being bundled into a dark van by tough-looking men of East European descent.
Ha. Ha. Ha. That was some good-natured ribbing of the Russians with standard stereotypical joke that the world has been using on them even before the Kennedy era. Away from the teams, plenty of debate has been centred on the efficacy of VAR (Video Assisted Referee). And, by boy, we are glad that the football administrators decided to use VAR, and it has served the World Cup wonderfully well by generating enough controversies that make people search for, on Youtube videos, even matches involving Iran.
Adjudication of on-field decisions through off-field video replays are now part of almost all international sports. But there seems to be one major difference between other sports and football.
System in most sports: Players, when they are unhappy with a decision, signal to the on-field umpire to to seek the help of off-field adjudicator, who watches the video replays of the said incident to give a verdict.
System in football: Players, when they are unhappy with a decision, signal to the on-field referee, who immediately whips out the yellow card.
Seriously, this is the rule in football. The players cannot ask for a video replay. It is not allowed. Only the referee, under his own volition, can refer any decision to the off-field referee. The system basically is: the appeal against a referee’s decision has to come from the same referee. Well done, FIFA! What were you smoking when you okayed this proposal?
VAR controversies are understandable though because video replays, as our experience with cricket shows, confuse rather than provide clarity on many occasions. Modern sports have taken recourse to video replays because why settle for man-made controversies when you can use technology to create state-of-the-art, bigger controversies and scandals.
As the tournament heats up there will be even more contentious moments, and if any of them involves the Portugal team, do remember to search for it on Animal Planet. That is where they show clippings of the real GOAT.