Cleanliness is next to Godliness

Uruguay's Alvaro Pereira is helped on to a stretcher during a Group D match against England. It felt like "the lights went out," said Pereira as he described the concussion he suffered after Raheem Sterking's knee had hit his head.-AP

During the games, the Japanese fans waved blue trash bags as balloons to show their love for the national side. Later, these bags were used to collect the trash that had accumulated during the game.

Japanese society is renowned for its dedication to cleanliness. It’s normal practice for the citizens to clean the community area while children are often expected to do so during school hours. Hence, it shouldn’t have been a surprise when Japanese fans cleared the muck deposited by them after matches against Ivory Coast and Greece. Although their national side failed to obtain a win in both encounters, the fans chose not to vent their frustration on the stadium infrastructure.

Instead, the Japanese displayed an innovative way to support one’s team. During the match, the fans waved blue trash bags as balloons to show their love for the national side. Later, these bags were used to collect the trash that had accumulated during the game.

Kei Kawai, a fan who has travelled to Brazil for the tournament, later told National Public Radio, “We have started this tradition a few games ago or a few World Cups ago. We try to do little bit of clean-up to show respect to the host country and just, you know, show off how clean things are in Japan. And we like to make it so here, too. When we come somewhere, we just clean up even better than when we come in.”

While that’s debatable, Brazilians have been left amazed by the generosity of the Japanese. This has led to claims that the Blue Samurai’s fans are the best in the world.

What a contrast!

The Japanese, though, didn’t stop with their stands-cleaning exploits. For their side’s second Group match against Greece in Natal, a few supporters from the East Asian country offered extra tickets at a price lower than market value. The Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo reported that some Japanese fans were willing to sell their tickets valued at $350 by FIFA for only $130. While some were quick to point out that the devaluation may have occurred due to the low profile of the encounter, the reporter wrote appreciatively of the sellers. “They are not trying to profit,” claimed the report.

But some others are. A British tout was detained by tourist police in Rio de Janeiro for attempting to sell 59 tickets from his hotel door. In fact, there have been other cases too. Before the Argentina-Bosnia and Herzegovina clash at the Maracana Stadium, some touts with a London accent were seen offering tickets at a price that was double or triple of their actual value.

Invasion of privacy

In their quest to get an exclusive story, journalists sometimes go beyond desired limits. One such case occurred when two Croatian photographers hid in the bushes and photographed some of the national team’s players lying naked by the swimming pool.

Consequently, the Croatian World Cup playing contingent chose to boycott their media in Brazil.

“I can’t force them to be at your disposal after what you have done to them and their families,” a furious Niko Kovac, the team’s manager, told reporters at their training base in Praia do Forte.

“How would you feel if someone took naked pictures of you? They are adamant that they won’t speak to you lot anymore and I don’t know whether the silence will end tomorrow or last until the end of our World Cup campaign.

“The players are talking about that theme, but we want them to concentrate on the match against Cameroon. If those photos were not published, they would be thinking about Cameroon. Like this, they are distracted by things outside the pitch.

“I respect my players’ opinion and I also know that you have done a very professional job so far but you blew it with this one. The whole world has seen the photos.”

Indeed, after losing its opening match 1-3 to Brazil, Croatia was in danger of being knocked out if it lost to Cameroon. But, those fears were unfounded. A spirited performance saw the Croats thrash the African side 4-0. While it wasn’t certainly one of the objectives of the photographers, those photos seemingly fired the squad up to do better.

Chile fans cause chaos

Before Chile rocked Spain and sent the defending champion packing from the tournament at the Maracana, its fans had already stunned everyone by their intensity and passion. Shockingly, around 100 Chilean supporters breached the stadium security to enter the media centre and wreaked havoc.

The fans in red demolished a glass door and felled two partition walls and three television sets to the bafflement of presspersons and everyone else there. Although police caught hold of some, a few others successfully achieved their original objective of reaching the stands.

Indeed, it was a massive act of daredevilry. The fans initially climbed a 10-metre high wall to breach the first line of security; then, after crossing temporary checkpoints, they passed through the X-Ray security zone for media. Once this major obstacle was cleared, they ran up the escalators while the security guards pursued them.

Panic ensued and this meant that some fans took a wrong turn to enter the press centre. According to the Rio de Janeiro police, 85 intruders were detained but FIFA maintained that nobody reached the stands. This was disputed by some eyewitnesses.

Although none of the claims could be verified, it didn’t seem to be a planned intrusion. However, a minor incident in the previous match at the Maracana may have encouraged the Chilean fans. In the encounter between Argentina and Bosina and Herzegovina, 20 supporters from Brazil’s neighbour had allegedly succeeded in breaching the stadium security. Even though the Maracana is slated to host the final, the supposed intrusion got little coverage in the media.

The missing case of Fuleco

World Cup mascots are expected to symbolise the colours and culture of the host nation. With their jovial appearance, they seem to stand for an atmosphere of fun at the World Cup.

When Fuleco, an endangered Brazilian armadillo, earned the title of the tournament mascot, it was a move that aimed to prop efforts for its survival. Unfortunately, it hasn’t produced the desired results.

From the Opening Ceremony to match venues, Fuleco has been conspicuously missing from action. While there has been no official comment on the reason behind the sporadic appearance of the mascot during the World Cup, certain rumours abound.

One of the theories suggested that FIFA has ensured that Fuleco remains absent to avoid embarrassment. Since the sport’s governing body has failed to sign a deal with various conservation groups for protection of the endangered armadillo, it’s alleged that FIFA wants minimum spotlight on the issue.

This claim is strengthened by another earlier incident. FIFA had proposed to donate $300,000 for 10 years to Association Caatinga but the non-governmental organisation termed the offer as “derisory”, much like many football clubs refuse lowly estimated transfer fees for a player. The NGO has worked for years to protect the armadillo in its savanna habitat.

Concussions and response mechanism

It felt like “the lights went out.” This is how Alvaro Pereira described the concussion he suffered after Raheem Sterling’s knee had hit his head. Indeed, normal medical procedure would have been that he was substituted at that very moment.

Yet, in a state of dizziness, Pereira refused to follow the Uruguay team doctor’s advice. The defender later described it as “a moment of madness.” Indeed, it was so. Bafflingly even the FIFA medical team, which has the right to overrule anyone if it fears for a player’s health, allowed him to return to the pitch.

This has brought the debate over the football world’s inadequate response to concussions in sharp focus once again. Much grumbling had been heard when Hugo Lloris was allowed to continue for Tottenham Hotspur against Everton earlier this season in the English Premier League.

Now, the International Federation of Professional Footballers (FIFPro) has criticised FIFA’s current response mechanism to concussions and called for better protection of players. In fact, the Pereira incident wasn’t the only one in the ongoing World Cup. The USA’s Clint Dempsey was also allowed to play without a concussion evaluation after he had suffered a broken nose against Ghana.

Hence, FIFPro has suggested a modification to the current substitution rule. With only three changes allowed, the union has alleged that this limitation has a bearing on concussion evaluation. FIFPro has said that a temporary substitution should be allowed in case of such an incident.

Indeed, such a move would be welcome. It has been found by many researchers that concussion occurs at a relatively high rate in football than other sports. In fact, some doctors have even traced the origins of the brain disease, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), to concussions. Many former football players have been found to suffer from CTE.

Compiled by Priyansh