Dear Uruguay

Dear Uruguay,

As an honourary South African, may I first apologise for the huge amount of anti-Uruguayan sentiment that has been demonstrated amongst the locals here since Luis Suarez’s last-gasp handball against Ghana. Labeling the whole team as “cheats”, “scum” and “cheating scum” due to the instinctive actions of one player is rather foolish and unnecessary in my humble opinion. Equally as bad are the appalling and unamusing puns around the name of your country: “Ur-a-gay” and “Ur-a-gone”, which of course, you’re not, although last night’s defeat means that you will be exiled to Port Elizabeth for the weekend. I’m sorry about that too.

The popular perception amongst the nouveau riche of footballing knowledge (and by nouveau, I mean “I’ve learnt everything there is to know about soccer in the last 4 weeks”) seems to be that Suarez was at fault for Ghana’s exit. However, this is surely only the view of those who watched that game through African tinted spectacles. When viewed through neutral eyes, Ghana’s defeat was actually due to the fact that they couldn’t score any goals – especially from the penalty spot.
I’ve done some rudimentary calculations and it appears that statistically speaking, 85% of penalties are scored. In that quarter final, Ghana managed to pop a whole 40% in. Quite how that pitiful inaccuracy has been twisted and turned into apparently being Mr Suarez’s fault is somewhat beyond me.

The cheating allegations continue. That your players dive in order to get fouls. Like dear Luis again, for example, when SA goalie Itumeleng Khune tripped him up. Although, in fairness, that one was because he was tripped up by Itumeleng Khune, rather than because he dived.
But anyway: diving. It’s ugly and I dislike it.  We all do. Uruguay are, of course, the only nation whose players do this. Well, apart from Arjen Robben and Robin van Pear-See of Holland. And Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal. So Uruguay, Holland and Portugal, then. And maybe Fernando Torres a bit as well. So add Spain too.
(We’d probably include France, but they weren’t really here long enough for anyone to notice.)
But Uruguay are definitely the biggest cheats at diving, because South African fans say so (while conveniently ignoring Teko Modise’s pathetic 3m springboard antics).

And talking of Teko, we can also add to this growing list of reasons that we hate each and every one of the 3,500,000 inhabitants of your country so very much, the fact that you effectively ended Bafana Bafana’s dreams of World Cup glory by comprehensively outplaying them and scoring three more goals that they did in Pretoria on the 16th. How dare you?
Of course, that’s what you came here for – to win as many games as possible.
But against the host nation? Don’t you study history at all?
Do you not recall how Germany declared war on Italy after their semi-final defeat in 2006? How Japan refused several shipments of rose-flavoured candy after Turkey knocked them out in 2002? Or how France didn’t actually take any action whatsoever after they weren’t beaten on home soil in ’98?
No Uruguay. You got lucky when South Africa just decided not to like you very much after that 3-0 drubbing in Tshwane. We could have gone a lot further, like giving your kids vuvuzelas.
(Note to parents: Just. Don’t.)

And then there’s the personal insults. Mainly about Diego Forlan’s hair. Obviously, none of the other players playing in the World Cup here have silly hair (Siphiwe Tshabalala) (cough) so this makes Diego a prime target. This is exacerbated by his annoying habit of scoring really good goals. Siphiwe only struggled with that goalscoring issue rather briefly way back when.

All in all, it’s clear to see why some South Africans have suddenly discovered this hatred from all things Uruguayan. The spirit of Ubuntu only goes so far and the bottle had obviously run dry by the time we got down to U in the alphabet. Wait til you see what they  have in store of the Zimbabweans next week – a bit of booing and some hairstyle abuse is going to seem like a game against Bafana… er… I mean like a walk in the park compared with what they’re going to get.

All in all, I think you were hard done by. Quite what people expected you to do when faced with opposition football teams in an international football tournament escapes me. I would have stopped that shot with my hand if I’d have been on the line that night. So would David Beckham, so would Lionel Messi, neither would Robert Green.
That’s just part and parcel of football. And that’s probably why so many people here just don’t get it.

UPDATE: Some more posts on this, from Jacques Rousseau and Jeremy Nell.

UPDATE 2: More – Incoming from Jacques:
From a good football blog I’ve just discovered:

Then, Ghana. This is my sixth World Cup, and I have watched a lot of football over the last 20 years. (Time I’ll never get back, Isuppose.) And I’ve never seen an ending weirder, more arbitrary and more cruel than the freakshow of missed penalties and evil-doing rewarded that brought the Black Stars’ inspirational, continent-uniting underdog run to an end. I loved it.
See, Ghana distinguished itself by becoming the only African team that knows how to get a result, come what may. Dating back (at least) to their cold-blooded 2006 elimination of the United States, they’ve always been willing to do the business. Dive in the box? Waste a little time with a fake injury? Why not? It’s a Man’s Game, after all.
Football’s message to Ghana: “Oh, you think you’re hardboiled? Meet Luis Suarez’s hand!” I’ve been wracking my brain for a Hand-of-God-style sobriquet for Suarez’s last-second “save”—someone will get there, I’m quite sure—but in the end, it was just the kind of bizarre intervention that twists history one way and not another. Plan all you want, and you cannot plan for Suarez’s hand.
Sorry, Black Stars—but you had 120 minutes to win it, and you didn’t, so fare thee well.

He’s right, you know?

18 thoughts on “Dear Uruguay

  1. Oh my hat. I may disagree with you about many things, but on this you are so so right. It’s like South Africans have lost all ability to reason or be rational when it comes to the football. They just see the could of hair, and the alice band and they go nuts.

    I thought that Suarez’s tactics were crappy and horrible and that they shouldn’t be proud of a win, but it was all within the rules, and yes, it was clever.

    Anyway, Forlan is so hot I can’t really focus on anything else when I watch them.

  2. You forgot Henry! He loves a good handball. Sigh, everything you say is true, but still I can’t forgive. It’s not HOW they put SA and then Africa out (mostly fairly, by playing better football), it’s the mere fact that they did. The same little team from a little country, TWICE!
    @Po Hot? Forlan looks To me like a frozen demon from the icy depths of hell (I like heat, so must think of hell as icy to stay good) – that composure and precision just turns my stomach.
    It’s completely irrational and unfair but yeah, I have no love for the Uru’s.
    (Quintessential nouveau soccer fan!)

  3. Since when did rational thought have anything to do with being a football supporter?

    I remember the outrage when West Ham ‘cheated’ by fielding Tevez. I mean, all Sheffield United had to do was beat Wigan at home on the last day of the season and they’d still be a premier league team. LOL.

    Suarez is a pillock. And ur a gay.

  4. I am GLAD to see you are still alive!!! Whew… I was convinced Helen would’ve “taken care of you” by now! I must admit I am decidedly nouveau riche but it aint all bad !

  5. Po > It’s instinctive (Suarez’s handball, not thinking Forlan is hot). Anyone would have done it, but anyone wasn’t there. Suarez was.

    Jeremy > Yeah. It is. Sorry about that. 😉

    Modelmental > It was never meant to be this way. Football is meant to Unite, not divide. And this from an Englishman whose team was put out by a Uruguayan linesman.

    Roni > You’re right, of course. And Jacques and I were discussing that very point (being rationalists who were irrational about football).I think it’s absolutely fine to be irrational about football as long as you are aware that you are being irrational.
    Many of the new band of “soccer””fans” don’t seem to have realised that yet though.

    Heather Mills > Nah! No issues at all. She would never d… hang on – shadowy figure at the door – be right back…

    *tumbleweeds*

  6. wooo, it sounds rough over there…I’ve noticed a plethora of venomous tweets regarding all of the matches in the world cup and sadly social media have ensured all this venom and bile makes it out of the living rooms and bars and onto a very public soap box! There is a big difference between a bit of healthy rivalry and downright unjust slurs – and sadly we get to see it all now.

    Once again, all I can say is keep doing what you do – educating the masses with your passionate and humourous blogs…

    …Go Holland… I’m happy for any team to win after the ups and downs of this world cup – the winning team richly deserves its prize…but for my Dutch Mother-in Law, a Holland win will simply make her day and likely her year 🙂

  7. I was going to come and kak on you and tell you that football is an emotional sport, but then I read the other comments and this is 100% true, Mr 6000.

    “I think it’s absolutely fine to be irrational about football as long as you are aware that you are being irrational.”

    I think that’s some nail on head stuff.

  8. I hate to admit it, but you are right. I count myself amongst the nouveau riche of footballing knowledge. It is easy to get caught up in the hype and the anger when a team you are supporting loses to another (superior) team. We are also used to watching rugby. In rugby, we don’t see the fouling as much as one does in soccer. This isn’t because it does not happen, but because it happens in the scrum and at the bottom of the loose mauls.

    I think it offends our newly acquired sense of justice when someone is penalised appropriately (in our minds) for an obvious foul. Of course that “save” was instinctive – there is no way that could have been pre-planned. And yes, we have vilified Suarez and the entire team unfairly. They played well. Their opposition didn’t score the required goals, and they progressed through to the semi’s.

    The whole thing highlights a trait amongst those of us who call ourselves African – we hype our teams to levels beyond their capabilities and then turn our anger on anyone who is cheeky enough to prevail over our puny efforts. Let us not forget that Bafana would not have been in the World Cup Finals had we not been hosting. They should not have won a single match, and we should not have been surprised that they didn’t progress to the next round. But we put on our African tinted specs, and we hope and dream. And then we turn on our conquerors, and magnify them to be the source of ALL EVIL.. But it is all (one hopes) in good fun – I don’t seriously believe that Luis Suarez’ life is in danger at all.

    But perhaps we all need to watch more soccer and get used to the way it is played in the real world, not in our dream world. Because the more I watch, the more I realise that it is not Rugby. Nor will it ever be. And we can’t apply rugby logic to a game like soccer…..

  9. Lan > Yeah – things got a bit out of hand last night, I felt. Hence the blog post.
    I can write stuff like this all day long – simply for the reason that I don’t actually care what those I’m writing about think about me.
    Thick skinned Yorkshire bloke ahoy!

    ctguy > Oh stop it now. 😉

    Simon > Yes – meant to put that in the post. Thankfully, Roni was there to remind me.

    Mike > Good points all round. You can’t blame people for wanting Bafana to do well – even if they were poor prior to the tournament. But things got a little silly with the whole supporting Ghana thing and then even more idiotic with the whole hating Uruguay thing.
    Interestingly, I have the opposite problem to you. I enjoy watching rugby, despite only having really started a few years back, but I can’t get passionately excited about it. It’s just not football!

  10. Okay, so this is months late. But I only saw this now due to the goodness of the SA blog awards… 😛 so here goes:

    I disagree.

    Well, to be more precise, I disagree with the sentiment that is echo’ed in the blog and comments that in that match Uruguay was the better team. They weren’t.

    But the beauty of soccer is that the better teams do not automatically win – and the adage that “the better team won” holds little water in the game unless taken in context of a league season of 40+ games for each team. And even then there may be little more than luck that keeps the top teams apart. Even if Brazil would face a team of the caliber and ranking of Bafana in the quarter-, semi- and finals – they’d have a less than even chance to take home the trophy.

    To pre-empt a beautiful statistical analysis, up to the loss the quarterfinal game between Ghana and Uruguay was largely and more convincingly dominated by Ghana, while Uruguay appeared tired and unable to respond well for the game at large. This did not culminate in a winning goal for Ghana – even though that required a rule-breaking “save” – and ultimately Ghana couldn’t keep their game together in the penalty shoot-out. But given the performance of the two teams in that specific game – if the game had been played 10 times instead of just once – it is likely that Ghana would’ve won 6 of those meetings.

    Unfortunately/fortunately for the game of soccer, the world cup finals contend themselves with a knockout round of 16. This does little to give credit to the truly best team competing. But it does give us highly emotional and heart-pounding edge-of-your-seat kind of excitement. And maybe that is what really counts.

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