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World Cup

Zidane for president
Looking back at the 2006 World Cup


July 19, 2006

So yeah, maybe it’s too late to talk about this, but the World Cup this year was pretty disappointing.  I mean, the soccer was great, the passes, the goals, the passion in the air and all the Corona commercials and intelligent model-reporters on the Spanish channel ... I’m not ungrateful for the event, as it always makes my summer to see teams tear it up at the international level. 

What I’m really trying to say, I suppose, is that Iran was pretty disappointing.  Iran and Tunisia.  I don’t know how big Tunisia is for everyone else, but I happen to think that they are an awesome team.  By the way, in case you didn’t see him play, Trabelsi is a brilliant player, as good a defender and passer as most anyone else in the past two World Cups. 

I bring up Tunisia because they made the same mistake that Iran made: hiring a foreign coach.  I’m no nativist or xenophobe, but I happen to believe that somewhere in Iran, there is someone out there, in Hamadan probably, who knows how to coach a football team well and can speak and be understood in Farsi.  I am sure that this concept applies to Tunisia as well -- besides, hasn’t it already been established that there is no need for the French to give orders to the North Africans? 

One can notice in the Iran-Mexico match as well as the as well as the one between Tunisia and Spain that these coaches made foolish, albeit predictable decisions.  Iran tied, and Ivankovic went with a strategy that screamed, “Let’s play defensively for an entire goddamn half against one of the best teams in the world in the hopes that we won’t LOSE this game”, as opposed to actually playing to score another goal and maybe WIN.

The same thing happened with Tunisia, which actually dealt a beautiful first blow to Spain in the first ten minutes of play.  Instead of playing for the win, the coach ordered his team into a damage-control formation in the second half, and of course they lost, predictably, and badly.  These European coaches who are contracted for Asian and African teams obviously have no faith in the talent or potential of their players, coaching the way they do.  The whole attitude is, “be grateful that you made it this far, don’t get your hopes up too much past this point.  If you score, consider yourself lucky, and play completely defensively for the rest of the game.”

So that’s something I hope will be different in tournaments to come.  Back to Iran ... Daei gets respect, but he shouldn’t have started.  He is 37.  Rezaei and Mirzapour are the two most useless players that I have ever seen, ever.  Rezaei actually turned away from his man while defending, and he did it at least twice in two games.  Even uncoordinated little kids, no, even dogs don’t turn away from someone who is trying to dribble a ball past them. 

And Mirzapour ... oh man, where do you begin with this guy?  A towering mountain of hair gel with a vertical of five inches, about as quick and as agile as a cadaver.  A ball whizzes by the goal and his first instinct is to fix his hair, and then yell at others for not paying attention ... wow.  I am still wondering how he made it onto the team.  And who was it on the team who had two wives?

Anyway, I am sure that once Team Melli starts taking more coaching sessions with Doctor Ra’is Jomhur Ahmadinejad, then we will advance in the tournament, just as we have advanced in our nuclear capabilities.  Until then, the only thing we’ll win at is out-Italianizing the Italian team, both in hairstyles and in our superb injury-acting abilities.

There is, however, that one true victory, the 2006 version of the ’98 Iran-US match, the one thing that I really celebrated in this World Cup: Zinedine Zidane’s incredible chrome dome leveling Marco Materazzi, like a meatball crashing into a bed of hot spaghetti.  Everybody talks about how he lost France the game, how he set a bad example for the children, how he made Middle Easterners look bad, how he made Muslims look bad.

Let me be the first to say, what does it matter that Zidane wasn’t there to take a penalty kick for France?  If they needed a sure goal, then they shouldn’t have taken out Henry and Ribery, as they could’ve closed the deal just fine.   The least the coach could’ve done was not put the game in the hands of a reserve that had been in the game all of 10 minutes.  Zidane lead France to World Cup glory in ’98, in a 3-0 spanking of Brazil no less, and they should be eternally grateful for that.  He owes France nothing.

Second, he set an awesome example for the children.  The whole theme of this World Cup was “Say no to racism” or something like that.  Zidane did just that -- he said no to racism and a whole lot more, he stood up for his mother and his sister!  What, I ask of ghairati Iranians worldwide, is more noble and worthy of emulation?  Some people who never stood up for themselves as children might say that his action encourages violence among kids. 

Correction: getting humiliated as a child and not doing anything about it all but guarantees passive-aggressive, irrational, and sometimes violent behavior in the future.  I can’t remember how many potential Columbine cases I’ve seen throughout my years in public education, kids that got picked on when they were young, did nothing, and just got WEIRD later on.  Standing up for oneself and one’s family, however, is positive for a boy’s development, even if it sometimes leads to a scuffle.

Third: Saudi Arabia makes Middle Easterners look bad, not Zinedine Zidane.  And he’s not that religious for Muslims to claim him and start getting let down too.  Let the man stand up for what he holds dear -- out of everyone I was rooting for, he was the one walked away with something he could call a victory.  I hope he runs for President.

Maziar Shirazi is a graduate from Rutgers University and holds a B.A. in Spanish. He is currently a medical student at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway, New Jersey. Features in

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