Wa is Hell; or, In Our Country There is Problem, and that Problem is Transport
Posted on August 2, 2012 7:31 am
It’s not the biggest news in the women’s soccer portion of the Olympics, thanks to…oh, what’s her name…tip of my tongue…goalkeeper for the US. Tall woman.
Ah, I’ll remember it later. The big scandal this week is that Norio Sasaki ordered his team not to try to score against South Africa, to the umbrage of many.
Pia Sundhage, whose U.S. women’s team performed “the worm” after scoring a goal at Old Trafford says she would never instruct her team to try not to win – as Japan’s coach did in its final group game – out of respect for the sport.
Well played, Frank Isola.
Many have held this up as a disgrace to the Olympic ideal.
See, that’s me trying to be as droll as Frank Isola. The Olympic ideal has been a punch line since before most of us were born. I know I’m offending Beau Dure, but for the most part I really dislike the Olympics.
Even FIFA, though, has let roar a mighty “meh,” atypical of an organization that rarely resists the temptation of self-righteousness mixed with rampant control-freakery.
I hate to agree with FIFA, but I think they made the right call here.
No, it wasn’t elegant. And if Sasaki had simply said something along the lines of “We wanted to stay defensive at all costs,” or even lied about how disappointed he was in his ineffective offense, this would never have been a story.
There’s also the problem of FIFA kicking a team out of a tournament it doesn’t run. While a showdown between FIFA and the IOC would have been awe-inspiring, it’s not surprising that Sepp decided this was not the hill to die on. The hideous precedent of the 1982 World Cup would have loomed terribly large. Come to think of it, Oleg Salenko’s 1994 co-Golden Boot doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, but Cameroon was never sanctioned.
This was also a victimless crime. Japan didn’t take the place of a more deserving team. It would have been nice if South Africa had been able to punish the champions for their arrogance, but since that didn’t happen, there’s no one with any room to complain. Except for the few remaining believers in sportsmanship.
And even then, despite Sasaki’s confession, it’s not an open and shut case. Sasaki’s job isn’t to put a touchdown past South Africa, it’s to add a gold medal to his World Cup win. He’s playing a long game. Pia Sundhage has every right to denounce Sasaki, but no team goes full throttle every game. Sundhage has never had to fill out a lineup for a midweek Open Cup match between weekend road games.
I don’t think that Sasaki was trying to get a weaker opponent – there weren’t any weak opponents available, except for New Zealand. They would have gotten Brazil in the next two games anyway, or someone equally talented. France doesn’t strike me as a significantly easier challenge, either, to say the least.
So why did Sasaki do it? To avoid going to Glasgow. Because who would want to leave Wales? It’s a lovely place.
On paper, that’s the weakest of excuses. The world champions are afraid of a plane ride?
Apologies to the good and humble citizens of Glasgow, but Sasaki would have chosen to stay in Scotland and avoid Cardiff if that had been the option. A two hour flight sounds pretty small to us MLS fans, but that’s a blown day of either practice or rest.
Even then, it would be hard to sympathize, except it’s still possible to get this story when you Google “Japan women’s soccer coach.“ More plane rides are probably the last thing Japan needs, even comparatively short hops.
And isn’t this supposed to be the “London” Olympics? I realize there aren’t many soccer stadiums in London, which is why they had to rent a Welsh rugby field. But countries host World Cups, cities host Olympics.
And Sasaki, as it happens, was not paranoid about avoiding travel hassles:
Members of the Brazilian side were infuriated when they were stranded by the side of a highway for five hours as their team bus broke down on its journey to London the night before the Group E clash at Wembley Stadium. Britain won the game 1-0.
“It was a disgrace,” head coach Jorge Barcellos said. “I wasn’t impressed; a tournament of this size, and the delay in taking any initiative to resolve the situation was absurd.”
Brazil left its base in Cardiff, about 150 miles to the west of London, for its journey to the capital, but the trip was quickly disrupted when the bus pulled over to the side of the road with mechanical trouble.
At worst, Norio Sasaki should be fired. Oh, he won the World Cup for Japan last year? I meant fined. Talk of tossing Japan out of the tournament over this is just jive-turkeyism. If we want Japan out of the Olympics, then beat them.
It’s certainly no excuse for something as drastic as cheering for Marta.