Matthew Monk

Matthew Monk is a school teacher from the UK who has the World Cup as one of his greatest passions. He will share his views about the past, present and future of this event.

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The Boys from Brazil

    Ask yourself a question: when do you think the World Cup starts for real? The opening game? The start of the knock out phase? The final itself? Or when Brazil play their first match?

    For many people, the World Cup does not truly begin until that team in gold and green make their debut, and regardless of what or who has gone before them, the expectation and hype surrounding Brazil overshadows everything. Today was no different. And if you agree with this answer, then read no further - you are not likely to like what you see.

    This is not an outstanding, unbeatable Brazilian team - far from it, the stumbling path they picked through the South American qualifiers gave hope to many potential opponents this summer. And after watching Brazil struggle to defeat Turkey today, the coaches of France, Argentina, Italy, Portugal and Spain will be rubbing their hands with glee.

    Brazil have played worse at the World Cup than they did today - Claudio Coutinho's 1978 version barely survived against Spain and Austria - but rarely has a Brazil team looked less likely to do well at the tournament progressed.

    Brazil never managed to dominate the game, as they would have done so many times in the past. Turkey are a good, tough side, and were deserved quarter finalists in the last European Championship, but they are hardly earth-shattering opposition. Yet they easily matched Brazil for long periods, and belittled the odds makers who were offering 6 to 1 for them to win. What we were seeing again was the media's love affair with anything dressed in gold and green, a love affair that ignores hard fact and glorifies the current team based on what last happened sixteen years ago.

    1986 was when a truly outstanding Brazilian team last played a game in the World Cup, and though good form was shown in 1990, 1994 and 1998 the form of Socrates, Careca and Josimar has not been reproduced for a long time.

    Now before I get rambling emails from disgruntled Brazilian fans, I do not hate Brazil, nor do I believe that Bebeto, Romario, Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Roberto Carlos are poor players. Far from it, they are some of the most gifted footballers the world has seen in the last 10 years. Similarly the heights reached by Pelé's 1970 or Socrates' 1982 team have rarely been equalled, never mind surpassed. But that cannot mean that this current squad is beyond criticism.

    But when I set out to write this column I simply meant to focus on what I perceived to be the deficiencies of the squad; I was annoyed by the usual obsession with Brazil ignoring all other teams, but so what, that was hardly unusual was it?

    But while I watching the game today - and when I visited the official FIFA website after the game - I became exasperated by the totally predisposed coverage, in particular the way Rivaldo's shameful playacting has been ignored. FIFA named him Man of the Match - seemingly for scoring a penalty - and did not even mention his insidious actions.

    Before the tournament began FIFA made a big play of cracking down on cheating, highlighting a directive for referees to give yellow cards for shirt pulling, diving, playacting and ungentlemanly conduct. Rivaldo managed to both dive and playact when Hakan Unsal kicked the ball at him right at the end of the game. Watch the incident for yourself. The ball clearly strikes Rivaldo: squarely on the knee. He goes down in agony, clutching his face and head, as if he had been struck by something thrown from the crowd. The referee - the utterly inept Kim Young Joo of Korea - was unsighted, he had to have been, for why else would he have let Rivaldo get away with this cheating?

    Hakan Unsal is stupid for doing such a daft thing, for letting his temper take control of him, but what he did warranted a yellow card at most. Now this would have still meant his expulsion - he had been cautioned midway through the first half - but a good referee would have taken that into consideration before he acted. Mr Kim did no such thing. He marched up to Unsal and sent him off. He did not show him a second yellow card, although the official FIFA match report says this is the reason he was sent from the field. That in itself shows ineptitude, but when you add it to Kim's failure to take action against Rivaldo, and his prior failures you get a very sorry picture.

    And why did Unsal do such a heinous thing in the first place? He was angry, he was livid, irate. Why? Because Brazil had just been awarded a penalty for an incident that clearly took place outside the box. There was no need for controversy here. Luizao was fouled crudely by Alpay, and as he was arguably the last man a sending off was justified. But it was no penalty. Unless you were Mr Kim. The free kick should have been taken from two or three metres outside the box, and who knows what would have happened? Given the awful free kicks from Roberto Carlos and Ronaldinho Gaucho earlier in the game, and the excellent form of Rustu in the Turkish goal, it is conceivable that Turkey would have one point right know, as would Brazil. Instead Rivaldo scored the penalty - just - that won them the game.

    Perhaps on the overall 90 minutes Brazil had been slightly better, and had Alpay not brought down Luizao, and a goal been scored, few people would have complained. I certainly would not have. But after such unfairness I find it impossible to do anything but concur with Senol Gunes, who said "We wanted three points, but couldn't get them for reasons I won't mention. We came here with great pride and we leave with great pride… We produced a great effort but we couldn't get the result we deserved. There is an injustice about the result. I have to say that, an injustice."

    Strong words, but honest words as well. This was an injustice, perpetrated by Kim Young Joo, and then compounded by the insidious actions of Rivaldo, and the complicity of Kim.

    Two things stick in my mind here. First, Rivaldo is a cheat. He agrees. This is what he said after the game, reported by the BBC for all to see: "Obviously I exaggerated the incident for the guy to be sent off. The ball hit my hand and my leg. It didn't hit me in the face but that kind of attitude must not be allowed on the pitch. He deserved a red card."

    You can make up your own mind about his very questionable morals, but that kind of attitude needs to driven out of football. Rivaldo has openly admitted to taking a dive, to cheating. He is guilty of that and of ungentlemanly conduct. If anyone deserved a red card it was him. Rivaldo is a lucky man. Alpay was incensed and went to 'talk' to Rivaldo. Roque Junior put his huge frame in front of the Turk, and Alpay sized up the situation and turned away. But he should not be so lucky after the disciplinary committee have finished with him. Rivaldo should be suspended for his cheating, not just fined. But neither of these will happen.

    I said two things stuck in my mind. The second was the start of the game. The two teams are presented to Sepp Blatter. Nothing unusual in that you say? Well France and Senegal were not presented to a single dignitary before the opening match, and I cannot remember Sepp going down to meet and greet a single player before any game so far, nor before the last World Cup final. But it is not this that is strange. What is bothering me is the way he embraced Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho Gaucho, Roberto Carlos and the others so warmly. He kissed several of them on their cheeks, and laughed and joked with the others like a long lost uncle at a meaningless friendly. This was a competitive World Cup match, which was more than likely to decide which team won Group C. Blatter made no secret of who he - the supposedly impartial FIFA President - was supporting. Now here is the bit that proves I am paranoid.

    Mr Kim is not exactly the perfect choice for such a high profile World Cup match. He has been refereeing international matches since 1994, but this is his first World Cup finals game. Before this, the biggest game he has ever been in charge of was the massive Confederations Cup clash between the superpowers of the USA and Mexico. Impressive CV eh? That is supposed to be ironic, by the way.

    And this was the 'experienced' whistle blower put in charge of a vital, decisive finals match. Who is in charge of selecting which referee takes charge of which game? The referees committee of FIFA. Who is in charge of that? Who else but the man in charge of FIFA, and the man who hugged and embraced Ronaldo and his friends before the game: Sepp.

    Lets not start any conspiracy theories here. I am not suggesting for a minute that Sepp instructed the hapless Mr Kim to give a non-existent penalty, send off Alpay and ignore Rivaldo's cheating. I will leave that to all the crazies on the forums. No, what I am suggesting is that Sepp and his cronies gave control of this vital match to Kim because he is from Korea. And as Brazil always garner huge TV audiences that would give additional exposure to the Korean FA (co-hosts of the tournament) and show off how 'good' they are, through their representative. Ignore the fact that Kim has never refereed a big match before, or that he was not a good official - Korea need to be represented and looked after. Expect Japan to get similar treatment soon. But just hope their referee is better that Mr Kim.

    Still, while I have your attention, we may as well face a few facts. It would not be beyond FIFA to make qualification as easy for Brazil as they can. Brazil makes a lot of money for FIFA and they supply TV audiences that no other nation - not even France or England - can bring in for non-knock out games. This brings in even more money, more advertising revenue, sells a few hundred thousand more bottles of Coca-Cola and makes Sepp very happy. It is in FIFA's interest to see Brazil do well. Why else do they get the easy groups? Why else was Ronaldo allowed to play in the 1998 final after his name was left off the official team list handed in to the referee? And why else will the con artist, the swindler Rivaldo, get away with his cheating? Because Brazil is more important than Turkey, and they get special treatment from FIFA.

    Just imagine for a second that Maradona or Zidane had come out after a game and said that he had blatantly cheated. He would have been suspended faster than Big Joâo could fix an election. There is one rule for Brazil and separate rules for everyone else.

    It is not fair. It is an injustice. Turkey were robbed. We were robbed.



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