Sunday, February 17, 2013

The biggest cry-baby ever on a football field

A section of British media has gone gaga over the marvelous virtuosity of Tottenham’s Gareth Bale. They see a Cristiano Ronaldo in the making (not sure if they are being pragmatic here). But the fact that Tottenham are currently placed 4th on the premier league table and Bale has played a huge role, speaks volumes of his skills. Still in his early twenties, whether Bale becomes the worlds best or not remains to be seen. However like CR-7, Bale too has earned a name for being slippery as a squirrel (read faking dives). There are a few writers like Rob Hughes who have given him a benefit of doubt though. He writes “Some might say that, at the exceptional speed at which Bale moves, the slightest kick or tug might unbalance him”. But Bale has involved himself in such incidents with chilling efficiency and was recently awarded suspension as well. 

There are many such cry-babies in world football today. Liverpool’s Luis Suarez and Manchester United’s Ashley Young are other examples. Their vociferous appealing to the referee after falling down, rolling over in agony on the pitch to win a free-kick or send off a rival player et al are actions these players have been indulging in. While many do gain sympathy from fans, there are many who are less forgiving and are calling this habit a ‘Cancer’. 

Such antics are not new and history is ripe with numerous examples. However, there has been a player who caught my attention and has really impressed me with his acting skills. His on-field- antics were flippant to such an extent that they caused a huge brouhaha and the player was suspended for life. This player to me has to be the biggest cry baby ever.

The year was 1989. Brazil and Chile clashed with each other in a world cup qualifier at the Rio de Janeiro’s Marcana stadium for a ticket to FIFA World Cup to be held in Germany. Around 140,000 Brazilians turned up to support their home team who were leading 1-0 into the second half courtesy a goal scored by Careca. The noise was deafening. The Brazilians sensing victory already had begun celebrating. They were singing, chanting and exploding firecrackers in the stadium.

At 23rd minute into the second half, a fire-cracker landed next to the Chilean goal-keeper Roberto Rojas. Minutes later, Rojas was down and bleeding profusely. The Chilean team gathered around the player who seemed unable to move and there was a resultant interruption. The medical team was summoned and Rojas was carried off in a stretcher. Chilean skipper Fernando Astengo abandoned the match and walked off with his team. A resentful Rosemary Demello, a Brazilian fan who burst the firecracker was held guilty and criminal charges were levied against her. 

FIFA ordered an inquiry into the incident and a couple of months later the truth was out. Rojas hid a razor in his glove and cut off his forehead with it when the fire cracker exploded near him thus bleeding severely. It was a ploy. The Chileans wanted to ward off an inevitable defeat. In such a scenario, FIFA would have either awarded the game to Chile or may have called for a replay. The Chilean manager Orlando Aravena and team doctor Daniel Rodriguez were also involved in this fracas. The Chilean team was thus penalized and banned from the FIFA world cup tournament. The match was rightly awarded to the Brazilians (score of 2-0) and all those involved were handed life bans. Astengo however escaped with a five year ban whereas Rojas was banned for life for his suicidal mission. And Rosemary became famous overnight.

Brazil lost to Argentina (score of 0-1) in the round of 16 when Caniggia scored following a lovely pass from the in-form Diego Maradona. The World Cup was eventually won by West Germany defeating Argentina with a score of 1-0.