FIFA’s Foul Play

Parks-071510-FIFA_jpg_470x456_q85 Tim Parks in the NYRB blog:

The final saw Holland playing Spain, two European colonizers on African territory. Before the game Nelson Mandela’s grandson complained that FIFA had put “extreme pressure” on the elderly hero to attend, despite the fact that he was in mourning for the loss of a great-granddaughter. “Their focus is on having this world icon in the stadium, yet not really paying attention to our customs and traditions as a people and as a family.” The miracle is that anyone ever imagined that FIFA might behave otherwise.

In the event, the grand finale was a disgrace; it also offered another pathetic “English” performance in the shape of the referee, Howard Webb. Having seen German youth outclassed by Spanish skills, the Dutch decided for spoiling tactics. That is fair enough, but their harrying and pressing came with a systematic intimidatory violence that amounted to the worst possible advertisement for football. A “filthfest,” the Guardian’s commentator called it. Webb showed plenty of yellow cards but didn’t have the courage to send a man off until the last minutes of extra time. The moment when Nigel De Jong lifted his leg high to kick his studs into Xabi Alonso’s chest and then was not shown a red card was emblematic of the mentality that FIFA has created in players and officials.

The Dutch team knew that Webb would not want to be responsible for ruining a TV spectacle with a dismissal, so they ruined the game themselves in the hope of grabbing a goal from the shambles they had created. Andres Iniesta’s wonderful strike just five minutes away from a penalty shoot-out was the tournament’s only moment of poetic justice and FIFA’s only fig leaf. On this ugly showing 2014 is rather too soon for a repeat performance.