The Legend of Wooley Swamp

What ever happened to nuance? Jabberwocky is being spewed up by the left and right as they try to drag us into their Wonderlands. This blog charts a path out of this swamp of simple truths and false certainties. And from time to time, it'll be a place for more light-hearted musings.

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Location: Palms - L.A, California

Friday, November 18, 2005

Conspiracy and Paranoia Can't Mar German Lovefest

Picture a stalemate in Bratislava, a mudpaddy in Prague, bizarro world in Manama, a Waltzing Matilda extravaganza in Sydney and a sad, sad spectacle in Istanbul. Picture ecstasy in Spain, the Czech Republic, Trinidad & Tobago, Australia and Switzerland. And picture despair in Slovakia, Norway, Bahrain and Uruguay as well as chaos in Turkey.

ORIGINAL: The crowd envelopes Australian player Tony Vidmar as they celebrate after their second leg World Cup qualifier against Uruguay at Sydney's Olympic Stadium, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2005 Australia defeated Uruguay on penalties to book a World Cup soccer finals berth for the first time since 1974. (AP Photo/Andrew Cabello-Reynolds)

On Wednesday, the line-up for next summer's World Cup was completed (thanks Smokin' for the link.) The last five teams booked their tickets, bringing the total to a rather massive 32. Defending champion Brazil and host Germany will have their hands full, trying to avoid 'ignomy' at the hands of so-called outsiders. OK, those who employ that term DO have a point since only seven nations have ever won the Cup, including the aforementioned duo. Still I have my sneaking suspicions, and a burning yearning, that this is about to change. My favorites? More on that some other time - Tunisia comes to mind though - now back to what was a mad, mad Wednesday.

The first two games were rather uneventful mainly because Spain and the Czech Republic were so superior to Slovakia and Norway. Me thinks that most neutral fans are pleased with these outcomes since the winners happen to play the beautiful game. Norway in particular is known to play a game more akin to curling.
Unnskyld Norskis, I couldn't resist the barb, you're alright in my book.

In Manama things began to get more interesting. Two countries who have never been to the World Cup were playing for a famous place in the sun. Trinidad & Tobago should have been disadvantaged as the guest but managed to pull off a minor upset for their people and coach Leo Beenhacker. Beenie is Dutch and he's one of three Dutch coaches fielding a team next summer. Anyway, the tie (meaning a home and away game) was evenly poised and when TnT scored a 48th minute goal, Bahrain mounted a fierce assault in search of an equalizer. And in bizarre circumstances, it seemed they found one. The goalkeeper was about to kick the ball when Hussain Ali popped up, nudged the ball just after it left the keeper's hand, collected and blasted it into the very empty net. But the goal was disallowed for interference. Bahrain was not happy and have lodged a protest.

Down under, Australia's Socceroos (yes, not only the U.S. calls it soccer) was trying to get to its first Cup since 1974. Last time around, they were also forced to play a tie vs. Uruguay, which requires Herculian efforts by both teams as they combat jet lag, flying half way around the world to do battle. It was becoming a tedious tradition for the geographically isolated near-Republic of Oz: Ahead of the 1994 World Cup they lost against Argentina and in 1998 against Iran. But this time they were led by 'miracle coach' Guus Hiddink, Flying Dutchman II who brought his native Holland to the semi-finals in 1998 and managed the same for South Korea in 2002.

Uruguay won the first game in Montevideo and ahead of the return, their star striker Alvaro Recoba auditioned for the theater of the absurd. He claimed that the powers above were going to propel his team to Germany. In defence of his feverish belief in some kind of 'divine right,' one should at least mention that Uruguay won the Cup in twice in the 1930s. Yeah, that's kind of like England's random triumph in 1966, but whatya gonna do? Australia got the goal they needed and their goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer saved two penalties during the shootout. He later claimed that he 'knew' where the kickers were going to place the ball. Maybe Recoba told him. Regardless, the presence of even more Aussies in Germany will be greatly enjoyed. They will party on, singing infinite renditions Waltzing Matilda for the rest of us. For Uruguay, all that remains is to hire Hiddink ahead of 2010 Finals in South Africa.

Speaking of those present in Germany, this post is dedicated to the sane super-majority of the Turkish team's fans. That would include myself. In gut-wrenching circumstances the team that claimed 3rd place in Japan/Korea was denied an invitation by the lowly-rated Swiss. The aftermath of that game is still ongoing and my own reflections on the repurcussions are still stewing.

Come Wednesday you could cut the atmosphere in Berlin with a knife. The streets in Kreuzberg were empty by 7 pm. This scence was repeated across Germany, several million citizens and residents with Turkish heritage had their priorities straight. This is the biggest Turkish population outside of Turkey and the biggest minority here by far. So if you can imagine a World Cup in Germany without Turkey, you're imagining the wrong World Cup. Unfortunately, despite an amazing game in Istanbul, that's the World Cup we're gonna have imagine. It is a shame. But there was more than shame on display in Istanbul.

The game was pulsating, a consequence not only of what was at stake but also of the fact that Switzerland (already up 2-0 from the game in Berne) converted a penalty in the FIRST minute. Turkey now had to score FOUR goals and somehow they conjured just that. Unfortunately, they also let in one more and due to the obscure rule that goals away from home count more, the aggregate of 4-4 was in Switzerland's favor. OK, them's the brakes. But after the final whistle somebody lifted their leaden foot off the pedal. All hell broke loose.

The Swiss players ran off the field like Maurice Greene, but were soon embroiled in a major melee as they tried to reach the dressing room. One of their players kicked a Turkish official (he may now be banned from the dream he had just qualified for) while another was hospitalized after receiving a hard blow to the stomach. The German TV crew I had been watching fled and Turkish security personnel beat on Swiss officials.

FIFA, the international football federation, has launch an inquiry, but before it even got underway the FIFA boss Sepp Blatter stepped in the wrong place on the cow pasture. Instead of withholding judgement, he launched into a slew of accusations against the Turkish authorities, waving the ultimate sanction of banning Turkey from participating in the next international tournament. This was rash indeed, but since Blatter - like the head of FIFA's disciplinary committee who will rule on this - happens to be Swiss, fertile ground for conspiracies was tilled.

ORIGINAL: Turkish police form a cordon as Swiss players and supporters enter Istanbul's Atataurk Airport. Turkey could be banned from the 2010 World Cup after FIFA launched an investigation into the violence that followed their play-off with Switzerland in Istanbul. (AFP)

Heck, paranoia was rife before the game, with the Turkish media whipping up a frenzy of disinformation, and the Turkish team manager Davut Dasli uttering the following: "The Swiss have treated us badly. And if fairness does not deliver justice on Wednesday, we will take care of it ourselves."

Yes, this is still football. And while many Turks were affronted by the booing of their national anthem in the first leg in Bern, there can naturally be no excuse for veiled threats and then seemingly acting on them as if it was all a bad video game.

Ahead of this World Cup, some in Germany have speculated that a sporting event of this magnitude may help foster assimilation and understanding between communities. Not too absurd an aspiration. Something along the lines of German Turks - this is the telling term preferred by all to 'Turkish Germans,' though often the German is omitted altogether - cheering for Germany if Turkey is not playing.

Remember that this is 'bloodlines count first, foremost and forever' nation-state Europe , where you are brought up to believe in things you may not have experienced. But anyway, with Turkey now eliminated, we shall see...I doubt they'll be ringing cow bells with the Swiss fans. And there is some reason to hope based on the experience of 2002 when both countries reached the semi-finals. 'Sustantiated rumors' have it that the Turkish population stood behind Germany when it played Turkey's conquerers Brazil in the final. It didn't help - nothing could have - but even some conservative commentators noticed and had their Weltanschaung turned upside down.

It's been a while since those glory days and aside from this nothing has really changed.
But it would be the ultimate rebuke to the moronic nationalists in Turkey and the identity politics purveyors of all communities here in Germany. So here's to hoping.


PS In case you were wondering, Flying Dutchman III is none other than Bondscoach (Holland), the talismanic striker Marco van Basten.

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Blogger Package said...

who was the original Flying Dutchman pre Guus and Marco?

12:49 PM  
Blogger Johnnie Oz said...

Package van Bouven,

I refer you to this passage:

Trinidad & Tobago should have been disadvantaged as the guest but managed to pull off a minor upset for their people and coach Leo Beenhacker. Beenie is Dutch and he's one of three Dutch coaches fielding a team next summer.

Next thing you know. the U.S. will try hiring Dick Advocaat, who I did forget. Flying Dutchman IV, he's the head coach of South Korea, the team Guss left. So make that 4 out of 32, 1 out 8 coaches who can call themselves cheesemongers. You gotta like their odds. Of the four, my heart beats for Holland, but my head says...Australia.

7:48 PM  

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