Theatricals starting to spoil the football
When I go to the theatre, I wouldn’t expect to see a soccer match break out on stage.
And so when I’m watching a soccer match I don’t want to see theatrics.
But watching the diving, feigned injuries and other nefarious attempts to fool the referee when Spain played against Italy in the quarter-finals made me wish both teams could somehow be eliminated.
It’s a beautiful game, but it was bad theatre and worse soccer. It was the first match of the tournament that I stopped watching after a while because the acting was putting me off.
Italy’s Luca Toni might be tall and intimidating when he runs towards the goal — and a likeable player at Bayern Munich — but several times it looked like it only took a gentle breeze to topple him in Vienna.
Spain’s David Villa later got a yellow card for diving in the penalty area but he was by no means the only player to hit the ground hard after the slightest contact.
German referee Herbert Fandel deserves credit for seeing through it all. Sure, he might have failed to award a penalty in the first half for Spain but really it’s like the little boy who cried wolf. After a while you assume everything is an act.
My favourite moment of the tournament? Ruud van Nistelrooy staying on his feet against Italy despite being tripped by Italy’s goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon in the 18th minute. The score was still 0-0 and he could have fallen and got the penalty as the ball rolled away from him. But he didn’t.
Similarly Eren Derdiyok of Switzerland stayed on his feet a few nights later despite a clumsy challenge by Turkey’s goalkeeper Volkan Demirel in the heavy rain in Basel. He rounded the keeper and crossed to Hakan Yakin, who tapped the ball in.
I’m glad we’ve seen more of the Van Nistelrooys and Derdiyoks in this tournament so far and less of the Spain-Italy theatrics.
PHOTO: Herbert Fandel shows Spain’s David Villa a yellow card during the Euro 2008 quarter-final against Italy in Vienna, June 22, 2008. REUTERS/Christian Charisius