Thursday, July 15, 2010

World Cup 'madness'... the aftermath...

Rarely does the work of a policeman entail quelling a sanctioned riot disguised as a football match in the full glare of an estimated 700 million worldwide viewers.

That's exactly what one English police sergeant by the name Webb Howard found himself embroiled in last Saturday as the first World Cup on Africa soil came to an end.

What football pundits had billed as a would be greatest final of all time imploded into badly scripted play, the main protagonists being the thuggish Dutchman against the petulant Spaniard.

The was the ultimate show-stopper and Webb was only meant to play a supporting role. But in strange twist to the tale the chief members of the cast connived to thrust him into the heat of the spotlight.

Fate having placed him right at the center this farcical, yet comical show, Webb, who took a break from law enforcement duties 2 years ago in favour of the whistle, flashed a record 14 yellow cards and a red a card, just for good measure.

Suffice to say, in so doing the South Yorkshire Police officer unwittingly earned himself an eternal place of infamy in a Dutch folklore that will be told and retold in many years to come.

But then again, what other options did good old Webb have given that the Dutch hoodlums – the once highly acclaimed inventors of 'Total Football' - seemed more intent in clattering down and flattening the spineless and soft-pithed Spaniards? Something was bound to give in, at some point - and it did.

Having displayed a remarkable degree of restraint, Webb's patience finally ran out deep into extra time. The eventual jettisoning of Johnny Hetinga - the de facto leader of the triangular 'axis of evil', that included the repulsive Mark van Bommel and Nigel de Jong, was indeed very long in coming.

In the immediate aftermath of the ill-tempered final match, anger took the better of fans of the jinxed Oranje, with mounted police called to break up 200 rioting Dutch fans in The Hague of all places.

Funny that in a mere 120 minutes of total anarchy, the hunter - Webb - turned into the hunted. That's the irony of life.

Not so far away from the setting of this well choreographed charade, this whole business of a man and his many cards must have left the millions of Kenyan viewers with a sense of deja vu.

Kenya is known be a very political state and in local parlance, these are indeed the times of the 'Greens' and 'Reds'. In typical Kenyan speak, the two 'primary colours' have taken a whole new dimension ever since they were unveiled as they official colour codes of the looming plebiscite.

Absurdly, this whole colour fad bears the remotest connection to the beautiful game. A 'Red Card' is no longer connotative of a players expulsion from the field of play nor does a 'Green Card' refer to the once much coveted license to the 'land of opportunities' - President Barack Obama's birthplace.
Still, you have to marvel at the Electoral body's ingenuity in cashing in on the spirit of the game by running an advert in between live match coverage with a tag line that went like this … “Red or Green, we are Kenyans.”

Yet the greatest tragedy to this episode is that one section of the ever-feuding Kenyan football (mal)administrators had the audacity to laud our hands-on Premier's attempt to do his own version of a 'Jonathan Goodluck' coup. Perhaps a case of political-correctness taken a bit too far.

On whether Howard Webb, failed either by acts of omission or commission, the jury is still out there. But there can be little doubt in the mind of the majority that the first World Cup held on African soil, by the Rainbow Nation, was one big success story; whichever side of the colour scheme you choose to look at it from.