Poor James and his cooks

LANDON DONOVAN WAS QUICK TO CRITICISE Jurgen Klinsmann, the USA coach, after the team was knocked out by Belgium in the Round of 16.-AP

Colombia’s James Rodriguez was kicked, fouled and scratched by Brazil and the tactics proved largely successful as Colombia lost 1-2 in the quarterfinals. Some tears were presumably shed in the Portuguese restaurant owned by the Monaco star as well. Workers there were promised a bonus of Euro 5,000 each if Colombia won the World Cup.

There are easier ways to leave a tournament. James Rodriguez, though, treaded a path that brought one painful moment after the other.

The way the Colombian had rose to the occasion in this World Cup, it wasn’t a surprise that Brazil chose to target him in their quarterfinal. Consequently, James was kicked, fouled and scratched by the host and the tactics proved largely successful as Colombia lost 1-2.

Yet, there was more to his suffering. Sure, James scored a goal, but as he walked back to his half, he was accompanied by a massive grasshopper on his arm. The playmaker remained oblivious to the insect’s presence.

After the match finished, James was found sobbing in the centre of the pitch and consoled by Brazil’s David Luiz. While it could be regarded as a welcome gesture, it was tough not to feel uneasy at the way Luiz demanded that the home fans applauded the youngster. After hurting James all match, it seemed a patronising act.

At least the pop star Rihanna had a few words of genuine sympathy for James on Twitter — “I shed a tear for you, Rodríguez.”

RAY WHELAN, A LONGSTANDING DIRECTOR AND PROJECT MANAGER of the MATCH group, arrives at a police station after being arrested in Rio de Janeiro.-AP

Some tears were presumably shed in the Portuguese restaurant owned by the Monaco star as well. Workers there were promised a bonus of Euro 5,000 each if Colombia won the World Cup. Before his dreams were busted, waiter Arlindo Sa informed the media, “I’ll buy a new car, mine is too old. I really want a new car.”

Unfortunately, those dreams were driven away! No love lost

After claiming that Jurgen Klinsmann had left him out of the United States of America World Cup squad due to personal reasons, Landon Donovan wasted no time in criticising the manager once the team was knocked out by Belgium in the round of 16.

Sit back, people. We need only Donovan to speak now.

“I think we’re all disappointed in what happened. I think the most disappointing thing is we didn’t seem like we gave it a real effort, from a tactical standpoint. I thought the guys did everything they could, they did everything that was asked of them, but I don’t think we were set up to succeed, and that was tough to watch.

“It’s a results-oriented business and so, results-wise, you can hold your head high. If you really look at the performances, there were some good performances by guys, some not-so-good performances by guys. (But) as a whole, I think tactically, the team was not set up to succeed.

“They were set up in a way that was opposite from what they’ve been the past couple years, which is opening up, passing, attacking — trying to do that. And the team’s been successful that way. Why they decided to switch that in the World Cup, none of us will know. From a playing standpoint, I think the guys will probably be disappointed in the way things went.

“Hindsight is 20/20, so in hindsight you would say we should’ve been more attacking. Maybe if we had been more attacking, we would have gotten four counterattack goals scored against us. So you never know… But my feeling as a player, if I’m in that locker room before that game — before the Germany game, before the Belgium game — and the coach walked in and said we’re playing a 4-5-1 and Clint (Dempsey) is up top by himself, I would have been disappointed. Because I would have said let’s go for it.

“Michael Bradley was put in the wrong position. He was put in a position that he’s not used to playing. He does a better job being in a deeper position. And having someone in a front of him, someone to help Clint also, makes him that much better because he’s got more opportunity to pick out different passes, more attacking options ahead of him. I think that was clearly an error,” he said

By the way, Donovan also acknowledged that “everyone’s an expert when they’re watching at home.” And bitter too, it seems.

The perfect adjectives

Stereotypes always bear a grain of truth; but nothing more than that on a lot of occasions. A Cambridge University study revealed the three words most used by the media to describe national sides at the World Cup. The results were insightful.

While Germany was ‘powerful,’ ‘focused’ and ‘committed’, its final opponent Argentina was ‘confident,’ ‘unconvincing’ and had ‘flair.’ Host Brazil was described as ‘emotional,’ ‘popular’ and ‘desperate,’ deposed champion Spain received ‘defensive,’ ‘poor,’ ‘humiliation,’ England was ‘exciting,’ ‘inexperienced’ and ‘disappointing,’ and the Netherlands evoked ‘rampaging,’ ‘strategy’ and ‘stunning.’

Uruguay earned the strange but expected tags of ‘bite’, ‘disgrace’ and ‘do-or-die’ while Costa Rica was ‘dynamic’, in addition to possessing ‘pace’ and ‘battle’. The list of mentions would be incomplete without a couple names here, though. Bosnia-Herzegovina was most described by the word ‘injustice’ due to Edin Dzeko’s disallowed goal against Nigeria and the second most used word for Portugal was ‘ego’. Cristiano Ronaldo must be fuming!

And now a movie

The Cambridge University study also found that Ghana was about ‘money,’ strike’ and was ‘powerful.’ No surprise, as detailed by the diary in a previous issue, since the Ghanaians held their participation in the World Cup to ransom for an advance sum of three million dollars.

The amount finally arrived in cash to avert the trouble to some extent. The Ghanaian government operation was carried out in such a dramatic way that it has inspired a Hollywood film now.

Writer-director Darryl Wharton-Rigby has earned Bugeater Films’ permission to press ahead with his film titled “Wall Pass.” The plot is inspired from the unedifying events that transpired around Ghana’s World Cup campaign.

The film script will follow a courier who’s tasked with bringing three million dollars to an African football team, which refuses to play until it’s paid in cash. The courier, however, is ambushed on his way to make the drop, leaving him less than 12 hours to recover the stolen money.

If you didn’t think of this before, you would do well to realise that Ghana courted a major international crisis when its players took their adamant stand.

“The world has soccer fever and Hollywood has caught it,” explained Wharton-Rigby when asked about his motivation for the project. The film will be co-produced by Barry Hennessey, who is a four-time Emmy winner for “The Amazing Race.” “I've shot extensively in both Ghana and Brazil, and this is a perfect project to capture the raw energy that both countries have to offer,” said the co-producer.

This isn’t the only football film slated to come out of Hollywood, though. The Michael Caine-starrer “Escape to Victory” is set to be remade for American audiences by Warner Bros.

Touting row

Ticket touting is a problem that organisers regularly battle at tournaments; it becomes tougher when an insider joins forces with the touts. Considering FIFA’s illustrious history, perhaps, this shouldn’t surprise us.

Ray Whelan, a senior executive with FIFA’s ticket and hospitality partner Match, recently earned the label of a “fugitive” from the Rio de Janeiro police. Allegations stated that Whelan escaped through a service exit upon facing re-arrest over touting accusations.

Interestingly, The Guardian’s Owen Gibson reported that, “A company run by the FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s nephew is one of the minority shareholders in Match Hospitality, which has sold 300,000 hospitality packages for the World Cup in Brazil and has a USD300m contract with world football’s governing body.”

The touting ring under investigation is said to be worth USD100m dollars as the accused have illegally sold VIP tickets and hospitality passes. Whelan, a former agent to Sir Bobby Charlton, was originally arrested on July 7 before being released on bail the following day.

Match, however, rubbished the claim that Whelan was a “fugitive” since it believed that he was with his lawyer. “We understand that any accused in Brazil has the fundamental right to resist a coercion that he believes to be arbitrary and illegal.”

While adding that Whelan had not fled the hotel, Match asserted, “Ray Whelan has not yet been granted the due process of a fair trial. Match remains absolutely confident that any charges raised against Ray will be rebutted.”

Investigator Fabio Barucke, though, claimed that Whelan left the hotel through the service exit an hour before the police arrived. “He's now considered a fugitive. We have security camera images of him exiting the hotel through a service door.”

This issue has also revealed an Indian connection. In the week that saw Whelan’s arrest, “Match blocked hospitality packages held by companies including the Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries and hospitality firm Jet Set Sports after their names were featured on some of the tickets seized by police,” according to The Guardian report.

Considering the complexity of the issue, it shouldn’t be a surprise if a Hollywood producer chooses to make this story into a film too.