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Don’t cry for me Argentina

By Tony Deyal

I have been a football player, coach and sports nut all my life so when my wife got angry because I was not helping here prepare lunch and gave me an ultimatum that I either choose her or the football game, I thought a moment and then responded: “Hear what! Give me 90 minutes to think about it!” Corny as this sounds, it has been part of the joy of the present football World Cup. Watching the games is great, but getting calls from my friends during the half-time intervals is even better than some of the matches in the tournament. Like I told my wife, “It is when you saw me make a brilliant save in a football game, you knew right away I was a keeper.”

I heard all kinds of jokes for the last few days. John G with, “Tony boy, you watching the World Cup? You know it makes me realise that football is a strange game. It’s really a bunch of people running away from their goals.” Then there was the question, “Why was Cinderella real terrible at soccer? Man, she kept running away from the ball.” In return I dropped this on my “Reverent” friend who called me after one of the games, “I bet you don’t know what was the first reference to football in the bible? You are a preacher so you should know.” After he hemmed and hawed, I replied, “And then Jesus went up for the cross.” I added, “You doubt me? You just like Jonah. He didn’t trust the ocean because he knew there was something fishy in it.” I didn’t dare try this one, “Why didn’t Jesus play in the Bethlehem game versus the Nazareths? Because, like Andre Onana from Cameroon, he was suspended.”

The team that I heard the most jokes about, even from a couple of my English friends, was England. For example, “What’s the difference between England and a teabag? Well, the teabag stays in the cup longer than England.” The England team visited an orphanage in Qatar just before the Word Cup. “It’s heart-breaking to see their sad little faces with no hope,” said Hassan, age 6.

What do you call an Englishman holding a bottle of champagne after a World Cup. A waiter. What do you call an Englishman at a World Cup final? A referee. And one that an Englishman shared with me at half-time in the England vs US game, “Why is making love with your wife similar to the England World Cup squad?” I countered with, “Do you want to hear 26 England jokes?” I added, “But they’re not back from Qatar as yet.” He continued as if he didn’t hear me, “Well in the matter of you and your wife making love, neither of you knows why you’re there or what you’re doing, there’s little passion or communication and you rarely even make it past the first stage. It’s often accompanied by lots of unnecessary noise, horrible dribbling, and never a clean sheet. It’s always over far too quickly and when it does end, you know it will be at least another four years before it happens again.”

I really had no idea how to respond. Should I ask him, “Have you heard about Iran’s national football team? They’re Shi’ite!” Or what did Wales coach say after his country was dumped from the World Cup? “I didn’t just walk out, Iran.” There was also the situation when during one of the games, an Iranian player ran into the stand and beat up a spectator. Man, the Shi’ite hit the fan.” Or, as one of my friends pointed out, “Listen Tony. You realise this is the first time the United States is fighting in the Middle East without looking to grab other people’s oil?”

I have seen and followed almost every World Cup for the past sixty years. Television had come to Trinidad and all of us were lucky that a young lady had a television set and allowed the neighbourhood boys, all of us footballers, to watch the games in her living room. A couple of the boys had no idea how television operated. Most of us had watched the final of the 1966 series when England beat Germany. The game was rerun about two hours later and again we were there to take it in. Carly had missed the first showing and had no idea that we were watching a rerun. He bet Dick ten dollars that Germany would win. This was a lot of money at that time, especially for young men who only got the occasional government ‘ten days’ of work to earn a few dollars. Dick was with us in the first round and knew the outcome. Without any hesitation or pity, he took the bet, eventually grabbed the money, and the Vat-19 rum flowed in the rum shop happily ever after.

My favourite team from my earliest years of coaching was the Netherlands. I was 19 and in addition to teaching English, History and sometimes, Geography, in a secondary school near me, I was also in charge of Cricket, Football, Athletics, Netball, Drama, Debating and anything else that the other teachers did not want to do. I played football and was a terror in the “back-line”, but I did not believe I knew the game well enough to help my players learn, thrive and win. Typically, I got a book and read it several times. It was a revelation. It was my first Dutch treat and proved why in every game they were a Dutch threat. I followed the work and ideas of Rinus Michels, the Dutchman who invented the concept that became my bible as a coach-Total Football. I stressed mastery of the tools of the trade and, in this case, it was the ball.

Then came Johann Cruyff who, it is said, “used his uncanny ability to read a game to implement his coach’s ambitious game plan. Michels’ ideas were put into action by Cruyff, a kaleidoscopic shifter who switched between defenses and swarmed the ball.” The World Cup of 1974 in which the Netherlands made their mark globally was played in West Germany. The home country won the Cup but, interestingly, it was the start of the global view that the Netherlands is the best team never to win a FIFA World Cup.

This year Germany is out of it but the Netherlands seems to be back in the reckoning and is widely considered one of the best national teams in world football and is also regarded as one of the best teams of all time. I am writing this column on Wednesday, December 7. There are four quarter-final matches to come. Unfortunately, today when you read my article you would already know whether the Netherlands is through to the semi-finals or they lost to Argentina. My friend Jimmy, a huge Argentina fan, called me when his team beat Poland and joked, “Hey Tony. I know an untidy guy who’s an excellent footballer.

Messi, just Messi.” He has always laughed at my supporting Netherlands so I plan to call him on Friday and boast, “Well today is the big match my friend. I have sent a message to my team, the Netherlands. Don’t bother with the boasting by the Argentines. Tell them for me,‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’- cry for yourselves.”

*Tony Deyal was last seen quoting Ronaldo, “I’m sure sex wouldn’t be so rewarding as this World Cup. It’s not that sex isn’t good but the World Cup is every four years and sex is not.”



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