Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – What’s not to like about the 2014 FIFA World Cup? The Curmudgeon, having watched half the opening round games, will take out his cusp (from Latin “cuspis”), point out a few things and spear a few vanities. Point the first: Vilifying the President. Present at the opening ceremony, Brazil’s President Dilma and FIFA’s Lord High Troll Sepp Blatter both thought silence was golden.
Yet as one might expect, at some point the cameras were trained on them and (as one might also suspect) boos and whistles rained down on them. What no one expected was the widespread name-calling of President Dilma.
Thousands of people called her a vulgar four-letter word in Portuguese which closely resembles the surname of Russia’s President. As many have pointed out, most of the cursing seemed to come from the VIP section, where spectators are only seated if their net worth exceeds that of Russia’s President.
Moreover, while it’s common for Brazilian football fans to refer to referees, players and managers as meretricious offspring, decorum ought to prevail in the political arena.
Point the second: Pre-game Celebrations. Speaking of vulgarity, it must be said that the official opening ceremony was beneath contempt. First, persons disguised as “ents” (read your Tolkien!) walked around the ground, giving way to others disguised as footballs and grasslands, some of whom carried a guy in a dugout canoe (dug out of Styrofoam).
All this led up to the sole “high-tech” feature—the world’s biggest artichoke, which eventually unfolded its sections to disgorge three “Hispanic” entertainers. Two of them were famous for wearing very little clothing because if they ever performed fully clothed, people would call them Russian Presidents. Arrrgghhh!
Point the third: Team Entrances. The Curmudgeon has long detested the appalling custom of having teams enter the field with players holding hands with children. He finds it a form of exploitation to which children should not be subjected.
Most of them have been put there by their parents so they (the parents) can gain their vicarious 15 minutes of fame by telling all their friends and relatives and acquaintances and half the Western world on Facebook or Twitter, ad nauseam, “our daughter/son came on with [fill in name of famous player].” The mini-parade adds nothing to the game, which is usually violent.
Point the fourth: Refereeing. Once the players are allowed to play football rather than act as chaperones, much of their effort has been spoiled by seemingly clueless referees. Egregiously missed calls abound, which upset the fans, who then (of course!) proceed to refer to the referees’ alleged Russian-President-like parentage using words the children (who have been herded into the stadium by their parents) ought not to hear.
So, what’s to like? Goal-line technology!
Finally, FIFA awoke to the fact that fans really don’t like having good goals disallowed and non-goals allowed. So they bought some technology and … lord and behold! It worked! A ball off the post bounced back along the line (“No goal”) then backwards off the hand of the goalkeeper (“Goal!”). All this was shown on the screens in the stadium. Hooray!
Michael Royster, aka THE CURMUDGEON first saw Rio forty-plus years ago, fetched up on these shores exactly 36 years ago, still loves it, notwithstanding being a charter member of the most persecuted minority in (North) America today, the WASPs (google it!)(get over it!)