Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Personal Reflections of the Tournament, So Far 到目前為止.我眼中的世界盃

Personal Reflections of the Tournament, So Far
 
I’m sure you will all agree that so far Brazil 2014 has been a fascinating tournament both on and off the pitch. Indeed I would contend that it has been a microcosm of the sport itself with the sublime skills of practitioners of the beautiful game contrasting spectacularly with the darker more malevolent aspects of football.

Negative ‘hype’ before the event – true or false?

As has become customary with major sports events, in the run up to the tournament there was huge negative publicity. In the case of Brazil 2014 the media focused on; the stadia, working conditions of builders, the infrastructure (or lack of it) and general public dissatisfaction with the costs as manifested in riots and unrest. Having been to Brazil for the first two weeks of the competition, in my opinion some of the criticism was indeed justified. It is clear that some of the venues were incomplete. Brazil and its main cities are difficult places to get around and levels of service leave a lot to be desired. Although I personally saw no rioters or public discontent, I was struck by a general apathy and lack of enthusiasm among the local people. When we arrived in Sao Paulo a few days before the event, it was as if the World Cup was not even taking place. I would describe the atmosphere as ‘sombre’ rather than ‘samba’. Admittedly this changed a little once the tournament got underway and there was certainly more of a carnival feeling in Rio than in Sao Paulo. I see England as the historical home of football and Brazil as the ‘spiritual’ home of football. I can tell you that at least initially, it didn’t feel like football was ‘coming home’.

The Business of Football

The 64th FIFA Congress was an eye-opener and I got to see first-hand how the global ‘politics’ of football works – quite fascinating for me but probably boring for most people so I won’t dwell on it here. Suffice to say that Mr Blatter is very ‘hands on’, is likely to stand for another term, is likely to be elected and whilst not universally popular (especially within UEFA) is certainly an astute politician. The popularity of football generates enormous revenues for FIFA from TV. It is very good at using this wealth to cement its power, to use its influence and to be fair, to spread the benefit across the world.   
Delegates were treated to a Congress Opening Ceremony billed as ‘a dazzling celebration of Brazilian culture, its people and its natural environment’. It was indeed a kaleidoscope of colours, sounds, visuals, songs and dance. The undoubted highlight for me was a ‘parade’ of 209 children each carrying the flag of one of the Member Associations affiliated to FIFA. It was surprisingly moving to watch and it put into perspective just how huge and diverse our world is and how football transcends differences in race, colour, creed, religion and other perceived ‘barriers’ to togetherness. Some of the countries represented are in deep turmoil and it was a time to remember how lucky most of us are because we can easily sit back and enjoy a global sporting event rather than worrying about hunger, disease, war and other catastrophic events.

The flags of the 209 Member Associations are paraded by children – football is truly global

The Football

The ‘public’ opening ceremony was colourful and lively, if a little bizarre but it was a mere curtain raiser for the home team’s first match; Brazil V Croatia. What an atmosphere!

A giant electric football forms the centerpiece of the Opening Ceremony

The National Anthem before kick-off made the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. I knew I was very privileged to be there. Perhaps the expectations on the Brazilian players was too much however because they went a goal down early on and eventually won a scrappy nervous encounter. The 3:1 score was very flattering.


The wall of sound coming from the Brazilian crowd was literally awesome

Immediately after the match I headed to the airport and after a circuitous, expensive and decidedly uncomfortable night of travelling I finally arrived in Salvador for the Spain V Netherlands match. I, like people all over the world, watched in stunned disbelief as the match unfolded. We witnessed the end of an era as the ‘mighty’ Spain were literally humiliated by a very impressive Dutch team who played some of the best football I have ever seen. Scintillating, breathtaking stuff. As the match finished I realized that in my enthusiasm to get to the stadium I had not planned my return journey to my hotel. I ended up walking and walking and eventually getting lost in a seriously scary place.

The end of an era? – Spain V Holland, an unforgettable match

The next match I saw was in Rio at the amazing and iconic Estadio do Maracana (another lifetime ambition achieved). The atmosphere was again electric as Argentina took on minnows Bosnia-Herzegovina. In actual fact, it was a pretty dull game apart from one exquisite piece of skill by you know who, the inimitable Lionel Messi. As I watched his supreme goal I looked forward to seeing him again in Hong Kong in October. I thoroughly enjoyed my few days in Rio, the tournament was starting to come to life and it is a vibrant, exotic place.

But I had one more match to watch and so it was back to Sao Paulo to see my beloved England in a crucial encounter with Uruguay (another potential opponent of Hong Kong in September). Well what can I say? I know I should be used to it by now but defeat still hurts. Although after this second loss it was still mathematically possible to qualify, it was improbable and the England fans there, myself included, knew it. However, the squad is young and I am sure we will do better in 2018 (I thought I would get my unwavering but totally mis-placed and only to be disappointed optimism in early this time). Neither team played particularly well; the main difference was the finishing quality of Suarez (more about him later).

Post Visit Reflections

My time in Brazil had come to an end. I was sorry to be leaving just as the tournament was getting interesting. It had been a great experience and I know how lucky I am to have been to a World Cup in Brazil. My only regret is that I think it could have been a lot better as an event. I don’t see there being any real football or social legacy and the country doesn’t seem to have taken the opportunity to invest in much-needed infrastructure or raise the standard of service, which is frankly woeful at times.

But for now the focus is on the football and I have to say that it is an open and exciting competition. The South American teams were expected to do well including Brazil and Argentina. Whilst the ‘big two’ are somehow stumbling through, some of the lesser known Latin American teams are playing great football including Columbia and Costa Rica. The Europeans seem to be polarized into two main groups, namely disappointing and excellent with Spain, Portugal, England and Italy in the first group and Germany, Holland, France, and Belgium in the latter.

The Asian teams have had a very poor campaign and the difference in skill level, intensity and physicality has been exposed. This must be a worry to the AFC. Three points in total for the four teams is a poor return and ironically the team that didn’t gain a single point, Australia, actually played entertaining attacking football in a difficult group, scoring one of the best goals of the tournament.

I am troubled and disappointed by the performance and behaviour of some the African nations. There is no place at any level of football for match-manipulation, but for allegations to be made concerning two teams at the World Cup is astonishingly worrying. Nothing is proven yet and I sincerely hope that in this case there is smoke without fire. What I also find unfathomable is the Ghana bonus situation. It seems that players are holding Associations to ransom these days over bonus payments. Quite frankly I have never understood the concept of bonuses when playing for your country. Needing ‘additional’ financial incentive to try harder to win a football match at any level is an anathema to me but for your country at a World Cup, it’s unbelievable. What’s more Ghana didn’t win a single match so what exactly was the US$3m cash actually rewarding – one draw and failure to progress from the group stage? Talk about throwing good money after bad.

Obviously one of the saddest and most annoying incidents was the Luis Suarez bite. What I found most disturbing was not the bite itself, sickening as it is, but the people who have leapt to his defense in a pathetic attempt to condone the unforgivable. FIFA acted swiftly and decisively and I think the ban is about right, if not on the lenient side for a third offense.

Unfortunately for me there has also been too much simulation, diving, time-wasting and general histrionics by some of the players from some of the teams. I watched Robben take a blatant dive in the match against Spain and whilst there is no doubting his footballing brilliance, like Suarez he should know better. These people have the potential to be role-models for aspiring footballers and young people all over the world. Unfortunately they do not use their privileged position to become positive icons and it is their unacceptable behavior and lack of sportsmanship that will ultimately define them. The fact that their colleagues, peers, coaches, mentors and even politicians defend them simply reinforces their own sense of self-importance.

Summary

And so as I said at the start, for me this world cup (so far) has been a reflection of the good and the bad in our sport of football. There is no doubt that generally the quality of the football is incredibly high with technique, tactics and physical attributes on display that us mere mortals can only wonder at. Football is arguably the only truly global sport and therefore has a unique ability to bring all people together. The passion, friendliness and camaraderie of fans in Brazil was fantastic. I did not see one bit of aggression (off the pitch). I shared drinks, good times and bad times with people from myriad nations. That bit was great.

I won’t allow the negative aspects of the tournament to spoil it for me but neither should they be ignored or forgotten by me, by you the reader and more importantly by the football authorities. Those of us involved in the sport should never forget our responsibility to use football as a force for good, to bring people together to promote positive behaviour and enhance humanity. I fervently hope that the rest of the tournament will showcase what is good about football (fingers crossed).
Mark Sutcliffe July 2nd 2014

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到目前為止,我眼中的世界盃

迄今為止,相信大家應該認同今屆在巴西所舉行的2014年世界盃,無論場內場外都成為茶餘飯後的話題。事實上,我會稱之為一個體育本身的微觀世界,一方是擁有精湛球技、以打出漂亮足球著稱的強隊,與另一方標榜帶有惡意的暗黑勢力相互周旋。

大賽前充斥負面的「廣泛宣傳」— 孰真?孰假?

每逢大型的體育盛事來臨前,慣性地都會伴隨著一大堆負面消息,以巴西世界盃為例,傳媒焦點都會集中於比賽場地、建築工人的待遇、基建設施(或缺乏基建項目)以及公眾普遍對政府開支不滿而引發的騷亂等。來到巴西的首兩個比賽週,個人認為部分批評恰如其分,部分場館尚未完工,而巴西及其主要城市並不容易四處遊逛,服務水平亦有很多地方有待改進。雖然本人並未遇見任何示威或對政府不滿之人士,但我卻對當地人民普遍冷漠及缺乏激情而留下深刻印象。當我們離大賽開幕的數天前抵達聖保羅時,縱使世界盃仍未正式舉行,當地的周遭氣氛卻給人一種「死氣沉沉」多於傳統的「森巴氣息」。誠然,隨著賽事揭開帷幕,里約的嘉年華氣氛會較聖保羅更加濃厚。我會將英格蘭視為「歷史上」的足球發源地,而巴西則會被視為「靈魂上」的足球發源地,但至少在此由一開始我認為足球並未真正的「歸家還鄉」。

足球的商業層面

被邀出席第六十四屆國際足協會議,真令本人受益匪淺,同時有幸窺探有關足球運動的最新國際「政策」—更令本人萬分興奮,惟大部分人士可能會覺得枯燥沉悶,恕不在此贅述。我只想說明白禮達先生是一名「務實派」,他有可能當選及蟬聯下屆會長,縱使他不是普遍受歡迎的人士(尤其在歐洲足協方面),但他確實是一位精明的政客。足球是風靡全球的體育運動,從電視轉播上獲取了龐大的收益,進而運用財富來進一步鞏固其力量,並利用足球本身無遠弗屆的影響力,合理地將其優點向世界傳播。

眾代表成員觀賞了一場仍如置身「耀眼悅目的巴西文化、人民及其自然環境的大型慶典」的會議揭幕式,表演揉合了萬花筒般絢爛的不同顏色、音效、視覺、歌曲及舞蹈等不同元素,最令本人震撼的是當二百零九位小朋友各自手持代表一個國際足協屬會成員的國旗「進場」時,令我明白到面對浩瀚的世界、分離的國度,但足球卻可將不同種族、膚色、教條、宗教及其他認知「障礙」的人士凝聚在一起,部分國家仍身陷水深火熱之中,我們大部分未受威脅的人群應該慶幸自己的生活,因為我們可以並肩欣賞全球觸目的大型賽事,而不是終日為飢餓、疾病、戰爭及其他悲劇而憂心。


二百零九幅屬會成員的旗幟由小朋友手持列隊進場足球是真正的全球運動

足球

全球觸目的世界盃揭幕禮帶有濃厚色彩和生活氣息,縱使表演缺少了創新的環節,但仍為今屆賽事的第一場賽事揭開序幕,巴西對克羅地亞大戰一觸即發!
 
一個巨型的電子足球是今次揭幕禮的中心裝飾品

在賽事鳴笛前的一刻,全場高唱國歌的場面多少令人毛骨悚然!我慶幸自己能夠親臨現場,或者大家對巴西的期望太高,因此當主隊在比賽早段落後而最終在驚濤駭浪下得以反敗為勝,3:1的比數實在教人驚喜萬分!

由巴西球迷傳出震耳欲聾的吶喊聲,現場氣氛感覺難以形容!

隨著比賽完結的哨聲響起,我立即飛奔直赴機場。經過了一段迂迴、昂貴兼不舒適的晚間旅程後,終於抵達了巴西薩爾瓦多,為的是觀看西班牙與荷蘭的世紀大戰。我,與全球球迷的心情一樣,對於賽果感到難以置信,大家共同見證著西班牙「強勢」時代的一個終結,如何被荷蘭的悅目足球徹底摧毀,而後者亦是本人有生以來觀看的最佳賽事之一, 真是妙不可言、令人窒息的感覺!賽事完結後,我驚覺自己的激情仍在場館上空縈繞,因此我放棄了折返酒店的念頭,而是不斷漫無目的地前行,最終迷失在一個極度心寒的陌生地方。
一個時代的終結?西班牙與荷蘭一役,令人難以忘懷的大戰

我會親臨現場的另一場觸目之戰,將在里約的馬拉簡拿體育場上演(已達成另一個人生目標),阿根廷對波斯尼亞一戰的氣氛同樣熾熱。隨著比賽的進行,場內的沉悶氣氛終於被一位天才球星所打破,他正是獨一無二的美斯,以一記精采入球回饋球迷,讓我對阿根廷十月訪港之行充滿期待。我在里約徹底享受著數天的歡樂時光,而比賽氣氛亦開始濃厚起來,這裡是一處充滿活力及異國情懷之地。

然而,我還有一場非看不可的賽事,因此我急不及待返回聖保羅,以支持我心愛的英格蘭出戰烏拉圭(另一支有機會在今年九月訪港的國家隊)。我還有甚麼話可說?雖則應該要對落敗一事坦然面對,但至今仍令人心痛不已。縱使從數據上英格蘭仍有出線的可能,但英格蘭球迷知道,包括本人在內,這是一個不可能的事實。然而,今次英軍陣容以年青小將為主,我深信他們在二○一八年能夠做得更好(我的信念堅定不移,但很遺憾地這次樂觀的看法未免太早了)。事實上,兩隊在場上的表現乏善可陳,唯一最大的分野在於蘇亞雷斯的把握能力(下文會有更多關於他的陳述)

旅途後的感想

今次我的巴西之旅接近尾聲,當賽事開始變得有趣時,遺憾地我卻要選擇離開。今次是一次印象難忘之體驗,同時明白今次我有多幸運能夠親身感受世界盃的魅力。唯一痛惜的是主辦國可以透過今屆賽事做得更多更好,我在巴西並未親身目睹屬於巴西真正的足球或社會傳統文化,而國家領導者並沒有充分把握今次機會投資更多為市民而設的基建設施或提高整體的服務水平,這點實在教人遺憾!

目前全球焦點依然投放在足球賽事身上,我敢說世界盃仍是一個競爭激烈的大型比賽,南美洲球隊的表現令人引頸以待,當巴西和阿根廷兩支傳統熱門驚濤駭浪下出線,其他較少人關注的拉丁美洲球隊卻令人眼前一亮,如哥倫比亞和哥斯達黎加。另一邊的歐洲球隊可以用「強差人意」及「成績彪炳」來劃分兩組,西班牙、葡萄牙、英格蘭和意大利被編入一組,而德國、荷蘭、法國和比利時則屬於另一組。

今屆亞洲球隊的表現同樣教人失望,與世界列強的最大差異在於技術層面、球隊實力及體能狀況中完全顯露出來,這種情況將會令亞洲足協為之擔憂,四支球隊合共僅取得三分,而澳洲更在死亡之組中三戰全敗而遺憾告終,縱使他們射入大賽以來其中一個最佳入球,但他們的悅目進攻足球卻未能為球隊取得任何分數。

本人對於部分非洲球隊的行為和表現深感失望,在足球運動的任何領域中都必須嚴禁杜絕非法操控賽事的行為,對於參加今屆世界盃的兩支球隊的有關指控是令人憂慮的,但迄今沒有任何佐證,本人由衷希望這類事件純屬謠傳。另一個令我費解的是加納的獎金情況,似乎是球員脅持總會來要求贖金多於要領取獎金,坦白說我真不明白為國家而戰卻要求獎金的目的,我對任何需要在足球賽事中爭取更佳表現而要求額外財政鼓勵的行為深感痛恨,尤其是你的國家能夠參與世界盃賽事,此動機實在令人難以置信。試問加納在小組賽中僅取得一和二負、未能成功出線的尷尬戰績,在一場不勝的情況下有何顏面獲得三百萬美元的獎金?實在是花錢填補無底洞。

明顯地,其中一個令人嘆息又極度負面的事件非蘇亞雷斯的咬人行為莫屬。最令人困擾的並非咬人本身的情況,而是部分人士以憐憫的態度為他尋求開脫,從而為這項不可寬恕的行為獲得赦免。國際足協迅速作出裁決,在其觸犯三次同類的行為後,個人認為該判罰通情合理。

不幸的是,球場上亦有個別球隊的部分球員出現太多作狀、插水、浪費時間及個人表演的鏡頭。我曾目睹洛賓在對陣西班牙賽事中一次明顯的插水行為,無疑他擁有出眾的足球天賦,如蘇亞雷斯一樣,他應該深明不應如此。這類天才球星將會成為全球足球員及青年人的典範,但可惜的是他們沒有利用其尊貴的身份成為真正的楷模,相反其不可理喻的行為以及缺乏體育精神的表現將會令他們形象盡毀,事實證明他們的隊友、同輩、教練、導師以至政客們都會為他們極力辯護,從而助長他們狂妄自大的特性。

總結

在本文開首中提及,我認為今屆世界盃(目前為止)充分反映了足球運動的好與壞,無可否認,無論個人球技、戰術及體能各方面,各隊都為今屆賽事呈獻了高水準的比賽質素,足球佔據著全球運動的王者地位,它能令世界球迷為之瘋狂,因此足球有其獨特魅力能將所有人士凝聚在一起。巴西到處瀰漫著球迷的激情和友情,我從未見過一點的暴力行為(場外),我可以與無數國家的球迷們開懷暢飲,互相分享彼此的美好和傷心時刻,這一點實在令人動容。

本人不會容許任何有關賽事的負面消息影響了我的心情,無論是我和你以至足球當局方面最終決定採取無視或忘記這類信息,以體育運動作為生活一部分的大家,都應該緊記我們有責任將足球作為一種推廣美好的原動力,將人類匯聚在一起,共同將正確的人生態度及博愛信息加以弘揚。本人熱烈盼望世界盃的餘下賽事,將會展示足球美好的一面(祈求一切順利)

薛基輔

二○一四七月二日
中文譯本僅供參考,內容如與英文有歧異,概以英文原本為準。
 



3 comments:

  1. Dear Mark,
    I was in Brazil during the group stage and had similar observations. It's been a fantastic tournament so far. The experience has been particularly wonderful to be surrounded by people of many nations and cultures sharing in the passion of our sport.

    I was able to visit the Amazon and watch the Americans dominate Portugal, but come to a draw at the close. The U.S. has a relatively short history in its national and youth team development, and an even shorter existence of a top tier league in MLS. Perhaps there is something to be gained in reviewing best practices of upstart footballing nations such as the U.S. and Australia.

    I fervently agree with your assessment of simulation. However, many South Americans I spoke with (in my broken Portugues and Español), believe diving is a necessity. One local cited the US-Ghana match and explained the game would not have become so physically violent and more free kicks would be awarded if the Americans weren't 'too proud' to dive. In many cultures, people believe simulation is a way to manage the referees. There was no movement in this debate, but we agreed that it has become too excessive and ruins the game, e.g., the lack of really football being played in Italia v Uruguay. A solution to curb this problem is already in place in some leagues around the world. Disciplinary review committees are able to proactively review game footage and levy heavy fines on players and clubs for excessive rough play and simulation. FIFA should implement this for all international competitions.

    The punishment for Suarez was well measured. He's a great player, but there are probably underlying mental health issues. It was too bad Uruguay didn't have enough 'bite' without Suarez.

    With the excitement of the games, I hope that we can capitalise in the fervor of the World Cup to further football at home.

    Best Regards,
    -David
    (sent from mobile)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Dear David,
    Thanks for your comment, I am glad you had a good time in Brazil.
    How depressing that some countries think simulation is a 'necessity'. For your information we will be having a briefing meeting with our Clubs before the start of the season and we will explain our expectations about good conduct. Similarly we will be briefing our referees on clamping down on unacceptable behaviour of players and coaches.
    We will also be introducing a 'Match Review Panel' which will look at any incidents retrospectively that have been missed by the match officials. This panel will have the authority to refer matters to the Disciplinary Committee.
    We are looking forward to the new season.
    Regards
    Mark

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