10 Things we’ve learned from the World Cup so far…

It’s been almost 3 days people. Nearly 72 hours. Our moon has traveled approximately one eighth of its way around this spherical watery rock thing we dwell on since there was last any football on the telly. And in this cruel but thankfully brief break in the otherwise nonstop quadrilennial football fest we’re currently knee (or possibly balls) deep in, lets look back on what we’ve learned so far, from the FIFA 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

The hosts are bloody lovely! – Despite early Daily Mail/Fox news like doom laden prophesizing, South Africa turned out – unsurprisingly – to not be a crime ridden AIDS cauldron complete with crumbling papier mache stadiums and teams of urchin gangs ready to shank Ross Kemp at any opportunity, but instead a joyous, vibrant, beautiful, excited place full of exuberant people bursting with pride at the chance to welcome hoards of drunken shouty people onto their soil. There is obviously still appalling poverty in South Africa. For a country with such abundant wealth in some quarters, the ever present sight of shanty towns is a stark reminder of how disproportionate it’s dispersion still is – and there are even rumors that many of these have been scaled down to appear less sprawling to the wallet flapping tourist – but despite these horrors – and in fact in spite, and partly because of them – the fact that the divisions of wealth, class, race and politics that still run through both country and continent have been smothered so humbly by the pride and unity of it’s eclectic peoples is so enchanting and heart warming that it puts the petty divisions of provinciality in not just our home nations, but Europe as a whole to utter shame. Ayoba South Africa, you have been brilliant….apart from the horns.

South Americans are very good at football – Well strike me down with a paper toothbrush, I’d never of guessed. A theory proposed by the first ever World Cup – won by Uruguay – continues unchallenged as the seemingly one ever consistent area of football producing genius continues to spew out players and teams who not only win, but play with a dynamism and flair even when faced with elimination. As European, African, Asian and North American sides fell away, all the South American teams qualified from their groups, and the only teams who did so with 100% records were the standard bearing giants of Brazil and Argentina. I wish I was South American.

The English are rubbish at football – And how. What an unadulterated shower of sh**e we were. Over paid, over hyped and over there. Why if I ran the country (and it’s a constant gripe of mine that I don’t incidentally) they’d all be made to live in South African shanty towns and perform their way back to fame and fortune, if they could. All their riches, cars, houses and WAGS (and other peoples in John Terry’s case) would be given to the under hyped, lower paid, deserving German team. Bastards!…I’m not bitter.

Footballers don’t like balls – Apparently balls are horrible things for footballers. Despite a lifetime of playing and practicing with a variety of different and eclectic spheres, they become completely rubbish for a whole week whenever they’re given a new one. After a good solid week of hoofing conversions into the road however, they apparently return to normal. Unless they’re English.

Asia has overtaken Africa at football – Despite 20 odd years of debating when an African side would finally win a World Cup, the Oriental contingent have quietly trundled passed them unnoticed, or certainly unfetted. With only Ghana progressing from the six available African sides, the continent remains stuck on one representative in the round of 16, a figure it has as yet failed to improve on in World Cup history. Yet for the second tournament in three, both South Korea and Japan have made it through to the knockouts. Both failed to get any further of course, but for an area bereft of marquee names compared to the megastars of Drogba, Eto’o et all, it’s some achievement to have already twice surpassed the milestone of the continually assumed future of football. This can only be explained by the greatest football cliché of all time…..

No one man is bigger than the team – The mantra of every manager who has ever lived (except possibly Diego Maradona) has never been more evident than at the 2010 FIFA World Cup. As the efficient Swiss shocked the star laden Spanish, the super efficient Asian teams surpassed the star laden Africans, and the ultra uber efficient Germans thrashed the pampered English, whilst the Ronaldinho and Pato-less Brazilians soldiered on to possibly (though now thwarted) glory, the 2010 World Cup was cemented as a great one for team solidarity, and a fiasco to forget for many a famous face. This has never been more typified by the progress of the one solitary African side, shouldering the expectations and hopes of a continent on it’s broad, dancing frames. Algeria aside, Ghana contain less star European performers than any of their brethren, and the one truly World Class talent they possess (Mickey Essien) hasn’t even been available. The exception that proves this rule of course, is Argentina, who despite inexplicably bringing along two Newcastle players, and being managed by a certifiable mental gnome, are storming through the competition with their alarmingly abundant collection of amazing forward players. Even despite this though, and contrary to nearly all expectations, San Diego has in fact formed some kind of unwavering team camaraderie in their camp, which is typified by their bizarre but brilliant training exercise of forcing all late comers to stand in the net and be pilloried by shots mercilessly. The England team should undoubtedly instill a similar routine, but for entirely different reasons.

All aboard the gamesmanship – The only significant blight on this World Cup so far (once it had stuttered out of it’s nervy and appallingly dull first week) has been the shocking amount of play-acting and gamesmanship, combined helpfully with the woeful standard of refereeing. As the second round of games rolled round, an invisible outer layer of tender nerve endings apparently formed around many of the players, causing them to feel tremendous pain without actually being physically touched. Some of these nerve endings evidentially seemed to connect to the wrong bits, as being touched lightly in the chest apparently caused massive agony to the face in some. Being in Africa, I felt compelled to root for all their home nation teams, something I found incredibly hard to do in the case of the Ivory Coast, whose entire game tactic for the first two matches seemed to consist of trying to break peoples legs and then get them sent off for it. Charming. Or embarrassing utter nonsense.

Atmosphere innovation– In the early stages of this competition, attending football fans trialed a new and innovative idea. This idea seemed to be the ceasing of any kind of human reaction to anything, and replacing it with the long and constant drone of an electric bee stuck in an early 90s modem with a loud dial up connection and poor signal. Thankfully, human noise is starting – albeit slowly – to return.

Inequality reigns – For anyone unaware of the economic goings on in the host country, and don’t read the left wing press, FIFA have been slowly and surely shafting local businesses by refusing to let anyone cash in on the World Cup who isn’t a pre-paid for member of their sponsorship troupe. Even using the term World Cup on ice-lollies or sandwiches down the local café is stomped out with shady Men In Black type ruthlessness and local airline Kulula air where reprimanded for declaring to be the “unofficial carriers of you know what”. Why I thought part of giving the competition to Africa was to help the place help itself on the world economic stage? Obviously not, the big, rich, established multinational brands clearly need the help far more. Silly me. Shame on FIFA.

Football creates withdrawal symptoms – Suddenly stopping after days of continuous double football doses is like having your crack taken away. Thank God it’s back, I’ve almost scratched my tan off.

You can follow Oscar on Twitter here; http://twitter.com/oscarpyejeary, where magical stuff will quite possibly happen….but don’t hold me to that.