the third goal controversy and cable in tanzania

Today is “Football Day” on aliens and strangers.  Welcome to my scattered thoughts on the game of soccer.

Cable in Tanzania

Christie and I have owned a TV and DVD player the entire time we’ve been in our house here in Geita, but we’d never had cable, satellite hook-ups, or the like.   Prior to the start of the World Cup, I had inquired at the cable company here in Geita about installation and pricing.  The monthly fee of $10 wasn’t bad, but installation at $100 was more than I was willing to pay.  Three days after the World Cup began, though, we discovered that our Tanzanian neighbors were having cable installed at their house.  [Did I mention the World Cup is really big here?]  Because we’re neighbors, and the cable company was able to use one wire to feed both our houses, the price of my installation dropped to $55.  So we did it.  I am really excited about it, too, let me tell you.  [I had figured that, without cable, I definitely would have considered a drive to Mwanza to watch any US match beyond group play — and the championship game.  The diesel for a trip to Mwanza, two tickets to put the truck on a ferry, and a meal at Tilapia, where I enjoy watching matches, would have cost around $100.  So I figure I’m making 45 bucks by installing cable…]

Match Times

Living in Tanzania allows us to watch the World Cup matches at decent hours.  The USA match started yesterday at 5:00 pm here.  I know many of you are jealous.  As well you should be.  For us, watching football doesn’t involve playing hooky from work.

US Play

I can’t remember the last time I saw the US team play well in the beginning of a match. And I’m thinking back years, not months.  That being said, I appreciate a great deal that our team never gives up, playing hard to the end of every match.  We’ve been in every game I’ve seen us play in recent years.  I was especially happy with Italy having to play us for a tie in the last World Cup.  [Can I pause to tell you how much I dislike the Italian soccer side — bunch of divers, divas, and complaining whiners who play for ties and desire nothing more than to win matches in PKs?]

The Third Goal Controversy

And the third goal the US scored last night to put them ahead of Slovenia with only four minutes remaining in play — how about that whistle being blown?  A clean goal disallowed.  Here’s a video in case you didn’t catch it:

My thoughts on the situation are that many people are (wrongly) leaning to either one extreme or the other:

1.  “The US deserve to lose or tie. Who cares about a third goal that should have counted — the Americans should stop whining; it’s their own fault they didn’t play well the entire first half. Stop blaming the referees.”  [This is generally a European take on the match — Europeans if you don’t know, need to put the US down when it comes to football and politics, because it’s all they’ve got on us.  If we pass them in “their own” sport, bad things will happen — the US would rule the world.  And that means European men would stop wearing capri pants, their women would start shaving their pits, and the Euro would drop like a brick — wait… one of those is already happening.  I hope the other two follow shortly.]

This line of thinking makes no sense whatsoever. If you don’t start a game well, or if you miss opportunities to score goals (or to defend against them), the referees are no longer responsible for calling a fair match?  Only teams who play up to, or above, their potential deserve decent referees and accurate calls?  That’s a bunch of crap.  This is what haters say, because they enjoy watching the US fail.  No fan of the game would ever say this if it were his own team hurt by poor refereeing.  And no honest and objective fan of the game would say this… ever.

2.  “The whole world is out to get the US. All the referees are against us.  The match was rigged; they always are.”  [Generally, this is the American take on things.  If we’re not champions of the universe in every sport, we were obviously wronged.  It doesn’t matter that our best athletes don’t play soccer, that our soccer programs are funded at a much lower level than most other big sports, and that our lower-level coaching in general is probably sub-par.  We believe a British accent equals soccer knowledge and skill.]

While I’ll give you that most of the world IS against US success in football, we shouldn’t jump to this conclusion every time there’s a bad call.  Bad calls are a part of sports — it’s either that or hours of referees standing under black sheets watching replays.  Soccer’s not a game of timeouts; we don’t want that.  Referees make mistakes.  A ref may be inexperienced (more on this in a bit), but I doubt there are many referees willing to put their jobs and reputations on the line just to make a bad call against a US side.  [Or a German side — did you see the call on Klose?]

No, what happened was poor refereeing. [Warning:  I’m about to spew a great deal of conjecture, speculation, and personal opinion.]  Koman Coulibaly (or is it Coulibalu) is from Mali and, I would assume, has never reffed anywhere close to the level of World Cup matches.  I’m sure he does a great job in some Malian “professional” league, and he’s probably called many a match between Mali and Niger, Burkina Faso, or Algeria (our next opponent).  But these are not high level matches.

Let me use my current home of Tanzania as an example.  A few months ago I was able to watch Tanzania and Uganda play (for about $4).  While still fun to watch, these are not respected football teams, nor was there anything important riding on that match.  A few weeks ago, Brazil came to play the Tanzanian side; they are an extremely high-level football club.  BUT, Tanzania has no chance of winning that match, regardless of how good or bad the referees are.  My guess is Malian Coulibaly’s experience is limited to matches similar to these.

I think we have a case of an experienced, but lower tier, referee deciding one of the 40 most important matches in the world. I’ll bet Coulibaly had his whistle in his mouth, expecting a foul, and blew it prematurely.  It seems clear to me that, if there was a foul, it was committed by a Slovenian player.  Generally, it’s become acceptable (something I deplore) for defenders to push, pull, and grab a great deal on set pieces in front of their own goal.  But if the call were on a Slovenian defender, there would have / should have been a penalty kick.  Coulibaly blew his whistle on accident because his inexperience allowed the pressure of a big match to get to him.*
I assume the World Cup Committee (or whatever they’re called) want to get refs from all over the world, so as to show no biases.  Herein lies the problem:  They can choose between having the best and most experienced referees in the world OR having refs from a number of nations, allowing some smaller and lesser-respected football countries to be represented.  They can’t have both.  I’d love to see a really diverse group of officials, but that’s not the option I choose if I’m in charge.  Get the best referees in the world for the most watched sporting event in the world.

* I’m not suggesting there is no such thing as bribery and corruption in Africa.  The two are very well-known here.  But I don’t think that’s what happened — nor do I think we should jump to conclusions like this.  It makes us sound like a bunch of whiny Italians…

[For USA Coach Bob Bradley’s take, see this article.]

Maradona and Messi

Just because it was interesting to me, I want include this unrelated video.  [I saw it first on this blog.]  While Maradona’s “Goal of the Century” was scored on a much bigger stage (World Cup semi-finals vs. England), there are some pretty amazing similarities between it and Lionel Messi’s long and winding run to score against a lesser known Spanish club. Both Argentineans took 13 touches in 13 seconds to weave through six opponents and score from nearly the same spot on the field. Have a watch:

I’m not a Maradona fan, though I greatly respect the skills he once had.  It’s integrity that I believe he lacks.  And I think Argentina would be better off without him at the helm.


Later today, several of my Tanzanian friends are coming over to watch the Netherlands / Japan match.  I’m cheering for the Netherlands right behind the US.  I love their creativity and overall style of play.  I enjoy watching any team who plays control and possession, but especially if they do so with artistry and imagination.  I’m hoping they really put on a show versus Japan.  I’m calling it Netherlands 4, Japan 0.

Michael Bradley as…

Just wondering — does anyone else think Michael Bradley looks a lot like Smallville‘s Lex Luthor on the field?



Filed under sports

19 responses to “the third goal controversy and cable in tanzania

  1. It may be that the rest of the world is against the US’s success in soccer, but it certainly seems that all Tanzania is rooting for us. Where I watched the game last night, the entire crowd went wild every time we scored or came close to scoring. Tanzanians were buying drinks for Americans. When that third goal got taken away, there was loud dissent and a group of people ran up to argue angrily with the television.

    Last week after the England game, people would stop me on the street to ask if I was American, and then congratulate me enthusiastically.

    • wow, james. that’s awesome. and i would agree, tanzania seems to pull for us — until we play an african side. and maybe even then…

      i’m pretty sure a lot of that has to do with george bush’s efforts to give so much money here, working to supply the poorest with mosquito nets in attempts to overcome AIDS. i don’t think those moneys were advertised much in the states, but i think it was the most money any country’s ever given tanzania (or maybe even any african country… not sure). not that i, personally, agree that pouring money on a country will ultimately answer any problems — but i think part of the football support comes from there.

      how is dar treating you? have you come this way yet? where is it you’ll be again?

  2. If/ when the US plays an African team, I’d have divided loyalties myself!

    Hadn’t thought about support for the US team being connected to our country’s very good efforts here, but it makes sense. People love to point out the hotel that Bush stayed in when he visited.

    Our current president is also quite popular, and I’m inclined to agree that both American presidents have done a lot for Africa materially and symbolically. This makes Tanzanians more pro-American than Americans themselves: how many US citizens do you know who are proud of both Obama *and* Bush?

    Dar is treating me well enough. I’m continuing language study here until going to Mwanza in August probably.

  3. innocent until proven guilty. first assumptions should be — someone made a mistake, not “it’s an evil conspiracy!”

    when i got married i thought i would have someone to watch football americain with, like my dad and i did while i was growing up (my dad passed away when i was 19 and i married at 24) but hubby hates to watch american sports, he’d rather be playing them. THEN we were in a chinese restaurant and they had a european football game on, and hubby really go into that. of course he was paying attention to the teamwork they demonstrated in playing, something you don’t really see much of in professional american sports. so if we could get the “soccer” channel and watch european games, we would have a sport we could watch together. maybe if the world cup is still going on when hubby gets back from drill, we can watch a game.

    • i do hope your husband will get back in time to watch some football with you. the championship match is on july 11 — so you’ve got some time. we’re not even into the brackets yet…

  4. JMF

    Brett said:

    “…supply the poorest with mosquito nets in attempts to overcome AIDS.”

    So is that what the kids are calling a prophylactic these days?! 🙂

    Ah, soccer. Definitely the un-gayest sport in the world. I mean, you have a perfect storm of euro-trash, men wearing capris, swarthy guys with greasy mullets, and I’d assume there are an abundance of man-purses. I’m getting a testosterone rush just thinking about it.

    • uhm… that’d be a huge typo. i apparently, without thinking, typed AIDS meaning malaria. i can’t believe i did that. i can’t think of any real way a mosquito net could help out with the HIV thing…

      but dude, what about their legs? have you seen their legs?

  5. The most important thing for the U.S. football team is we can insure moving on when we beat Algeria. It is time for the Yanks to play two brilliant halves and not give the ref an opportunity to mess up the outcome!

  6. daniel

    I agree with John. The ref made a terrible call, but I hate blaming referees for losses (or ties). Strong play will normally offset bad calls in any sport. And yes, Bradley does look like the young Gene Hackman.

    • i’m with you fellas. i don’t like blaming referees. i’m more concerned with what we can do to make the future better. placing blame helps no one. objectively looking at mistakes and determining their causes, though, can prevent the same problems from occurring again in the future.

      my answer: bring the best referees in the world, who have been on big stages before — leave less experienced refs at home. sometimes there are grounds for bias.

  7. David Robinson

    I’ve never seen Brett Harrison get upset at a referee and get kicked out of a game in Bell Buckle, TN.

    But that guy was terrible. I believe he lectured me once on offsides during a free lunch.

  8. i think, in general, you got in more trouble with referees than i did. or is that just a convenient memory?

    and then that referee got suspended for a few weeks because of his actions in that very match. sweet justice.

  9. Landon Donavan made the interesting comment that the controversy has heightened interest in the U.S. in what is going on in South Africa. So maybe it was a good thing after all.

    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

    • tim, i’d love if more americans were interested in the world cup — though i probably wouldn’t give up goals to make them so. how is it there, anyway? is it at least in the news? are people watching?

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