Saturday, December 17, 2005

World Club Championship – Part 4: Football a la Everton


Sydney V Al Ahly – Tokyo

Match Preparations
Match Preparations


I don’t know who to pity more, the two clubs involved in last night’s laughable
contest – which was played out somewhat laboriously in Japan’s national stadium – or the fans who had paid to sit through it. The representatives of Oceania and Asia were playing their final game, with each bidding to avoid the label of the worst team in the competition. On the basis of this, it's a shame they couldn’t share title, for they both seemed worthy of such an accolade.

Even before the match got underway, you couldn’t help but think that surely no
good could have come of this game; for to lose serves as the ultimate humiliation, whilst victory barely elevates your position beyond such lowly status. As a consolation, at least we can guarantee next year’s event will not adopt the same cruel and saturated format. For if there’s one certainty with any competition organised by FIFA, it’s that change is regular and inevitable – they like to remind us exactly who’s in the driving seat of world football.

The FIFA Flame
The FIFA Flame


It was a bitterly cold evening in North West Tokyo, with the vast majority of spectators present evidently requiring little more than a metro to transport them from their home to the stadium. Those who had traveled from Egypt were unquestionably outnumbered by the playing staff they came to support; whilst the only Australians on show appeared to be the small band of nuggets who clearly think the chant “let’s go Sydney, let’s go” is acceptable at a football match.

The Japanese contingent scattered around the ground filled roughly a quarter of the 45-odd thousand seats (yeah, I know what you’re thinking …I’ve done my research). They appeared unconcerned with the distinctly apparent lack of quality and desire from the players on the pitch, seemingly content with the fact that they were afforded the opportunity to see one of their national heroes Kazu, together with Dwight Yorke, both of whom were playing for Sydney. The local fan base went delirious when the latter opened the scoring, with the former Aston Villa and Man United striker finding the net ten minutes before the interval, momentarily breaking the monotony.

Dwight Yorke... Row Z
Dwight Yorke... Row Z


With the African champions responding with a goal of their own on the stroke of half-time to even the scores, some may argue that you could have been forgiven for thinking the game had some life in it. This highly subjective observer would of course not have been so merciful. Make no mistake, this was one woeful game of football, which in truth you could have predicted having seen the ‘warm ups’ of the respective teams. They might as well have had a quick ciggy followed by a quick game of ‘red arse’ (a highly technical game that originated in Liverpool, which involves severe and hilarious punishment for under-par performance). The match was so bad in fact that I won’t even bother naming the Al Al goal scorer. Let’s just say his name was Mohammad …er Cairo. No, wait, that’s too obvious, let’s go for Mustapha Nile.

The second period of this inspiring encounter was equally electrifying, notable only for the fact that one of the Australians, who went by the name of Carney, grabbed his moment of fame by striking a second and ultimately decisive goal for Sydney. Now this might be a World Championship, with equal opportunity with regards to continental representation the order of the day; however I think the Ozzies should stick to what they do best. I won’t name these characteristics however, for I’m fiercely opposed to stereotypes. According to the official match programme though, “football is on the rise in the land of rugby and cricket.” On the basis of this performance, I see little evidence of that. You would expect more from a team of such history and tradition to be honest. They were founded back in 2005 after all.

As for the Egyptians, well, despite a decent local record, as with all teams nicknamed ‘The Red Devils’ they came equipped with customary delusions of grandeur – and as with their more famous compatriots, when reaching a level of competition that actually counts for something, they get exposed for what they really are, which in this case was the weakest team in the competition. What is more, any team that loses to Sydney really needs to rethink their very involvement in the sport. I’ve made the mistake of watching them once, and if the chance came about to witness a repeat performance, well in the words of Bill Shankly, “If they were playing at the bottom of the garden, I’d shut the curtains.”

Japanese Fans
Japanese Fans

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