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The Four Big Headliners of FIFA World Cup 2010

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By Aayush Shrut:

The World Cup finally ended with Spain being the ultimate victor. Having never ever reached the final, let alone winning it, Spain recorded a first time win in the World Cup. Spain’s victory also marked the first time that a team that had lost their opening World Cup finals game had gone on to win the tournament, henceforth breaking the myth that a team couldn’t win the World Cup if they lose their opening game. It’s also the first time since 1974 that the current Euro Cup Champion also won the World Cup, the last being West Germany. Spain had set a new record for the fewest goals scored in the World Cup tournament for a champion (8). The Final itself was a dizzying specter of fouls and yellow cards (a record 14). But apart from the final, what really marked the whole World Cup? In other words, what really defined the South African experience of FIFA? Every World Cup has previously been marked with some controversy and drama (Zidane head-butted Materazzi in the previous World Cup), however big or small they might be. Here are the four big headliners that set the 2010 football World Cup extravaganza apart from the rest.

  1. The Jabulani Ball: Ever since FIFA World Cup 2010 began, this one ball became the epicenter of much heated discussion for both the critics and players alike, throughout the course of the tournament. Announced as the official tournament ball for the FIFA World Cup 2010, on December 4, 2009, the word “jabulani” means “celebrate” in Zulu (the language of South Africa). The Ball itself weighs around 440g and has a circumference of 69.0cm, with 0 percent weight increase in case of rain. Now, it’s not uncommon for the new ball to be criticized widely, as evident by the criticisms garnered by previous Adidas Teamgeist, the World Cup ball of 2006 and Fevernova, the World Cup ball of 2002. But somehow, Jabulani surpassed all of its predecessors; so much so that it cultivated into a 12-page open letter to FIFA president Sepp Blatter by ex-Liverpool FC footballer Craig Johnston, who compiled feedback from professional players criticizing the ball for poor performance and asking it to be abandoned by FIFA. Called “Supernatural” by Brazilian striker Luís Fabiano, “Dreadful and Horrible” by English goalkeeper David James and “very complicated” by Argentinean striker Lionel Messi, the ball had been all but praised in the entire course of the tournament. NASA scientists at the Fluid Mechanics Laboratory at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, even concluded that the Jabulani, with its relatively smoother surface, starts to knuckle (volatile swerves and swoops) at a higher speed of 45—50 mph (72—80 km/h); making it’s trajectory unpredictable. FIFA had to announce that the Jabulani issue would be raised at a debrief meeting to be held in September. Rarely had the issue of playing ball reached a fever point, but this one surely did in this World Cup and hence became the focal point for the controversial waves.
  2. Paul the Octopus: Forget Britney Spears, the latest celeb taking the world by tides is not a human at all. It’s just a common octopus (not Oswald off Pogo), residing in a tank at a Sea Life Centre in Oberhausen, Germany. Common, but having an uncommon ability of a perfect seer. Throughout the tournament, Paul was presented with two boxes containing food in the form of a mussel, each box marked with the flag of a national football team in an upcoming match. The team’s box which he used to open up for his food would be the predicted winner of the next match according to him. And he was right with his predictions with an accuracy of a hundred percent! Initially, he chose only between the German matches, but he also correctly predicted Spain’s victory in the finals over Netherlands. So far, his predictions are 100% (8/8) correct for the 2010 World Cup and 86% (12/14) correct overall (two errors for Euro Cup 2008). Now applying mathematics here and assuming Paul’s predictions are no better than the independent coin flips, the probability of 8 successful predictions out of 8 attempts is 1/28 = 0.39%! Extraordinary indeed! True there had been other animal oracles, for example Mani the Parakeet of Singapore, who correctly predicted all quarter final matches, but none matched the “headlines” Paul generated. His prediction that Argentina would lose prompted Argentine chef Nicolas Bedorrou to post an octopus recipe on Facebook, and the prediction that Germany would lose to Spain led to many death threats as German fans called for Paul to be cooked and eaten. Paul is a real celeb made out of this world cup!
  3. Poor Referring: “If only Lampard had been given that goal”, these were the only words amidst the angry English Fans who were sent home following their thrashing 4-1 by Germany. Never before had the call of technology been so much needed in football, and never before had such a monumental controversy over referring errors ever arisen. The linesman Mauricio Espinosa and the referee Jorge Larrionda denied the one goal courtesy Frank Lampard, which could have been England’s “Savior of morale”. Further, in the same night, Carlos Tévez scored a goal against Mexico from what could be clearly seen as an off side position. Referee Roberto Rosetti still kept put at his decision and allowed Argentina to win 3-1. These two major blunders, further exemplified by many other minor incidents, greatly catalyzed and once again brought forth the issue of Technology and Referral system in Football. True minor errors are the “charm of the game”, as was stated by FIFA President Sepp Blatter, but in a game of such magnitude as World Cup Knockouts, these so called “charms” account for nothing and only create unfairness and bitterness. However, post World Cup, Blatter has promised to re-open the discussion regarding devices which monitor possible goals and make that information immediately available to match officials, less than four months after FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke said that the door was closed on goal-line technology and video replays after a vote by the International Football Association Board (IFAB). Ironical and a major headline indeed.
  4. Vuvuzela: Perhaps the only headliner which reflects the traditional culture rather than controversy, Vuvuzela, apart from generating a really loud noise, reflects the African Continent’s efforts to promote their culture and increase homogeneity in this World Cup, at all costs (No pun intended)! Known as lepatata, or a Stadium Horn, it is typically a 65 cm (2.13 ft) plastic blowing horn that produces a loud, distinctive monotone note, typically around B3, hence, making it sound like a buzz of a honey bee. It can generate sounds upto 125Db, which at close range can lead to permanent hearing loss for unprotected ears after exposure. No wonder it was met with immediate response of limiting its use, muffling its sound, and even an outright ban. Lionel Messi complained that the sound of the vuvuzelas hampered communication amongst players on the pitch. Cristiano Ronaldo went on to state that the sound of the vuvuzelas disturbed the teams’ concentration. Both meet Blatter’s response of “that is what African and South African football is all about – noise, excitement, dancing, shouting and enjoyment“. Despite the criticisms it obtained, it survived the world cup without much hazards. But it’s buzzing sound of a million honey bees still echoed through the television sets and the stadium alike, long after the match was over. Some people were grateful that the 35 meters (115 ft) blue vuvuzela in Cape Town, possibly the world’s largest Vuvuzela built by Hyundai as part of their marketing campaign, was never voiced. Unpleasant or not, Vuvuzela truly delivered on it’s promise of an “authentic South African football experience”, by being the trademark of South African Football. We would never forget it!

This World Cup witnessed many other dramas and controversies, like the famous “Hand of God”, one off Uruguayan striker Luis Suárez who prevented the last minute goal, which ultimately resulted in the Uruguay’s victory. But even with all of its controversy and drama in place, this World Cup has been a major success, with rising stars such as Thomas Müller of Germany (Golden Boot winner), and some outstanding performance by players like Diego Forlan of Uruguay (Golden Ball winner). We fans can all but eagerly wait for 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where Spain defends their championship.

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You must be to comment.
  1. Proxima

    True to its word,this time the World Cup attracted more unwanted attention due to non-professional reasons than the professional ones.Although highly entertaining to the common mass,yet this kind of a trend tends to become unhealthy from the professional point of view.Players who slog their daylight hours dedicating themselves to the game,donot expect their game to hit headlines due to lame “pom-poms” or sea creatures.Hopefully the FIFA organisation will try and sort out its shortcomings by the next World Cup and try and rely more on technology than plain human judgment for decision making in issues of international level.

    Good article,I wondered throughout the World Cup where the irritating noise was coming from! 😛

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