CAPE TOWN - The following words of Isaac Newton, the esteemed thinker and astronomer, have, throughout the ages, had a profound influence: “For every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction.” On Tuesday night, that famous statement inveigled its way into football.
In a World Cup bristling with entertainment and excitement, punctuated by some astounding games and a glut of truly memorable individual moments, the “opposite” made its presence felt with some of the most insipid, uninspiring and frustrating football on show as yet. Tuesday’s Sweden v Switzerland encounter has to rank as the most boring match at Russia 2018.
It was an absolute snooze-fest as players on the lower end of the talent scale produced a forgettable game of football. The finishing, particularly, was diabolical and acutely reminded me of what I witness week in and week out during a PSL season. In a scrappy 90 minutes, even the winning goal turned out to be scrappy, with Emil Forsberg’s innocuous effort deflected into the net.
And then, after that, came the fractious England v Colombia horror show as we lurched from the narcotic to the antagonistic. It was an ugly game, again low in quality, and peppered with gratuitous baiting and posturing, diving and acting, head-butts and pulling and stamping, and all manner of in-your-face conflicts, be it with the referee or an opponent.
There were so many interruptions that neither team could find any rhythm and, with the limited playing quality on show, there was no spark, no inspiration, and, as expected, it degenerated into the bland yet hostile fare we were subjected to. Making matters worse, the referee’s inconsistency and loss of control added to the bedlam, while, watching on television, the one-eyed commentator made the experience even more excruciating.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Peter Drury, the voice who called the England-Colombia match: during the English Premier League season, his ebullience and poetic turn of phrase are a delight - but, as soon as he commentates on an England match, it’s as if a mist of bias descends on his eyes and it spoils the whole viewing process.
Overall, though, for us as passionate football followers, we’ve raved about the beauty of what we’ve seen at this World Cup. We’ve revelled in the fact that football’s global attraction remains intact. But, remember, there are just as many people out there who always wonder about the sport’s strange appeal: why it continues to captivate us?
For the football detractors Tuesday’s games would have added a great deal of ammunition in their argument that football is just a sham, filled with actors doubling as athletes and hooligans dressed in football kit. And, with the obscene amounts of money these players earn, it buys into football critics’ premise that, with limited ability, you can get far in this sport.