Who’d have thunk it – a million column inches, hundreds of hours of airtime, 45m anguished fans and all for one young man’s broken foot. No ordinary foot of course but a foot nonetheless. In the seven weeks since Wayne Rooney fractured his fourth metatarsal, collapsing in agony on the Stamford Bridge turf, World War III would not have remove Rooney from both the front and back pages of the nation’s newspapers.
The foot has healed, the machinations have finally come to an end (baring a refracture or related injury) and Rooney finally stepped out for his first start since the April 29th last night. His return to fitness so soon may be something of a surprise but the true miracle has nothing to do with physical rehabilitation at all. Indeed, the agonizing and debate over Rooney has been not just about any player but a Manchester United player no less. No, the real surprise in all this comes because of the traditionally strained relationship between United and England supporters in recent times.
In the not too distant past United players have been roundly jeered by England supporters, when playing for the national team – at Wembley in particular. In return Manchester United fans have held a long-standing antipathy towards England. The perceived unfair treatment of United players by the FA and the media has intensified this divide from Bandarqq Reds’ supporters point of view. Think about Cantona’s ban in 1995, when the FA went back on a promise to honour United‚’s self-imposed sanction. Then there was Keane’s suspension in 2004, when the FA punished the Irishman twice for his tackle on Leeds’ Alfe Inge Haarland . Think also of the length of Ferdinand’s sanction for missing a drug test when so many other players had simply been fined for the same offence. Then there was the treatment given to David Beckham by the England-supporting public in the wake of his red card against Argentina at the 1998 tournament.
Paranoia it may be, but United fans – led by the manager Sir Alex – have long held the governing body in contempt, with the England team as their principal puppets tarred with the same brush. Many England fans, in the meantime, would be happy to see a United-free national side.
Yet, last night Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and many other traditionally anti-United fans cheered more loudly for a United player than any other on the pitch. A nation, United? Now that’s the real wonder of Roo!
Japan football team … not as great as its goalkeeper’s ego
“I made some saves but it didn’t appear to help us change the tide of the match and I don’t think we were able to get over giving up the equalizer at the end of the first half. On a personal level I feel I have done everything that has been asked of me but I can’t do everything on my own.”
So said Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi, Japan’s goalkeeper in the World Cup. This quote really bothered me. Kawaguchi really bothers me, and has done since he first set foot on the Japanese football scene.
In the early days he was all hair flicks and gel (anyone spot the jealousy of a bald man, here?). Always the last man off the pitch, so that he got significant camera time. His gestures were exaggerated. The trademark wince of pain to show just how much he cared. The concentrated stare to show just how much he … well, concentrated. Everything he did was designed for the cameras, like the ekiden relay runners who insist on falling over in exhaustion after they’ve run their leg, just to make sure everyone knows they have given their all. Kawaguchi made everyone know that he had given his all. Every wince. Every stare. Every flick of the hair. It was designed to tell a story. The story of a man with an incredible ego.
Unfortunately he hasn’t grown up in the intervening years.
“… I can’t do everything on my own.”
Now who would you normally hear saying that? A harried mother at the end of her tether berating a family of World Cup watching couch potatoes? A boss snarling at incompetent underlings in the office? Or a person with an inflated ego belittling his comrades?
What Kawaguchi is basically saying here is that he is wonderful and the rest of the Japan team are just not up to scratch. He might have something with the latter half of that assessment – Japan were clearly outclassed in Germany. But he is by no means wonderful. A wonderful goalkeeper would not have been third choice for Portsmouth when they were a second-tier club. Nor would a wonderful goalkeeper have been released by them. A wonderful goalkeeper wouldn’t have flapped awfully at the cross that led to Australia’s equalizing goal, the goal that led directly to the change in Japan’s fortunes in this World Cup.
Yes, he did make some fine saves, including a penalty save against Croatia. But he also screwed up on a number of occasions. He, like the rest of his teammates, just weren’t up to the job. Simple as that. He was quite right about not being able to do everything on his own. He contributed significantly to Japan’s World Cup demise with help from the rest of his teammates.