Before we leave the World Cup behind...before we forget the Uruguayan bite...the broken back...the boring Netherlanders...the German rampage against Brazil...the record saves by American goalie Tim Howard...the majesty of the French passing game...the grace and power of James (pronounced Ha-Mez) Rodriguez...the underdog Costa Ricans...Messi's magnificent failure (will he ever equal Maradona?)....
Before we leave all that...or perhaps because of all that, I offer two questions this week from a great new book by George Vecsey, a New York Times Sports columnist for 30 years. It's entitled, "Eight World Cups--My Journey through the Beauty and Dark Side of Soccer".
One need not be a football (soccer) lover (I admit I am) to appreciate this book. One need only love great writing.
Vecsey takes us on a personal tour of the eight World Cups he covered, beginning in 1982 when the Italians, his admitted first love, defeated the West Germans 3-1.
Along the way, we not only learn a great deal, the good and the bad, about soccer and why any American could very easily fall in love with the sport, but we also get to explore the culture and unique character of the eight host countries.
I could come up with a hundred questions, but let's settle for two.
I was going to ask what a vuvuzela is, but that would perhaps be too esoteric, so allow me to explain that it's a horn (as pictured above) and ask you in which World Cup it (they) were constantly heard. Would that be?
Brazil in 2014;
South Africa in 2010;
South Korea/Japan in 2002;
France in 1994;
Italy in 1990;
Mexico in 1986; or
Spain in 1982.
While that's rather whimsical, producing far too much noise for author Vecsey as he journeyed to South Africa in 2010, here's a more serious question.
What happened to the Colombian defender (pictured above) Andres Esobar, two weeks after he scored an own goal (a goal against his own team) providing the United States with a 2-1 victory over Colombia in the 1994 World Cup hosted by the U.S.?
He committed suicide, hanging himself in a hotel room in Bogota;
He was actually honored with a parade since he scored a hat trick leading Colombia to victory in the World Cup finale;
He was driven from his home country, never to return;
He was murdered, perhaps by a drug cartel, in Medellin; or
His wife divorced him.
For the answer, listen to Vecsey from page 106 of this great book.
"Colombia had been the overwhelming favorite in this match; now it was out of contention because of the loss. But something worse would happen. Two weeks later, on July 2, Escobar was shot dead outside a nightclub back home in Medellin. There were rumors that major drug dealers had bet heavily on the national team and were angry at their losses. A driver for one syndicate was convicted and sentenced to 43 years in prison but was released after 11. To this day, fans carry photos of Andres Escobar to matches of his former team."
The dark side of football (soccer) indeed!
Back to history next week.