Sunday, 18 June 2006

Team America

It took place last night, we taped it and watched it this morning (that is, when we got up, which was actually more like noon): Italy vs. the USA, or in other words – probably the world’s funniest football game ever.

The laughs started when they read the players on the American team. At the substitutes table there were both Howard and Beazley, both at the same camp for a change. Call it whatever you’d like to call it, the fact they were both subs on the USA’s reserves list must be more than a mere coincidence.

Next they played the national anthems, which is always a surrealistic affair. The Italian one was funny and lasted forever, but it didn’t prepare me for what happened next: a few people held the American flag at a 45 degree angle to the players, who stood in line; the players all stood at a sexy angle to face the flag for the singing of the Stars Strangled Banner; and worse, they all had their right hand on their heart. I didn’t know whether to laugh because it was just so pathetically funny or whether to cry because this was the closest I will ever get to the sight of a proper Nazi salute. Both Jo and I thought it looked like a scene from Starship Troopers.

The SBS commentators are all pretty shitty, but the one assigned to handle this game was so bad we kept on laughing at his remarks (not that he has much of them to share with us; he keeps on repeating himself). Thing is, he kept on referring to the USA team as “Team America”, and having seen this excellent film I could not stop laughing at the connotations this reminded me of. With the flag salute and all, this was definitely a soft target hit.

Next came the game itself, where I was for the USA. I tend to prefer the underdogs, and I tend to hate Italy because they play such a boring and uninspiring game. Usually, that is, because so far in this tournament they didn’t play badly at all; in fact, in this particular match, it was the Americans that did their best to subdue any hint of creativity.

Between the yellow cards, red cards, and offside calls the game was as eventful as a football game can ever be. Everything seemed to go wrong for the Italians, who scored an own goal and then got a red card, and then everything seemed to go wrong for the Americans, who got two red cards.

The Americans kept using the offside trap so effectively the Italians became e so frustrated that one of their attackers, facing the goalie alone, seemed to have given up for an offside when an offside was not even called. Watch the game’s highlights and you wouldn’t get that; but just like real life, it’s this accumulation of brief moments that determines how the overall experience feels like.

The referee was the star of the game, which is always a cause for alarm if you actually want to enjoy the game as anything but comic relief. I have to say all of his decisions seemed correct to me; it’s just that by applying some common sense things could have been much better to both sides. Why is it that every game where the referee is from South America ends up as a complete farce?

After watching this game I am convinced that life is like a game of football: brief, full of tackles but also full of laughs, full of bad decisions but also some inspiring moments, but most of all – meaningless.

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