I should preface this by saying that every sports town, and in this case, country, may have their own unique traditions and ways of voicing their pleasure/displeasure, but unless what the South Africans have displayed over the past month is exact opposite of what we are accustomed too, they should be ashamed of themselves. They have, in fact, embarrassed their country.
I could pinpoint several examples from what I have seen, but I am going to focus on three things, for simplicity's sake. They are also listed in order from least offensive to most offensive.
1. This is more of a nit-pick than anything else, but it seemed like attendance could have been better at some of the games. Granted South Africa is a mainly poor country and these World Cup tickets have to be quite expensive, but I still expected to see better than some half-empty stadiums. Granted not every game is an eye-catching thriller, but one would think that Slovakia and Paraguay could at least draw better than 28,043 fans. Just because it is Slovakia and Paraguay, does not mean it is any less important of a game or it should be ignored just because those 2 teams don't play the most eye-catching soccer in the world. Most games drew well, but for others like Slovakia and Paraguay playing in a barely 2/3 full Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein, it was frustrating to watch. This is the freakin' World Cup. Any match should draw better than that.
2. South Africans are fair weather quitters. Like it or not, when Bafana Bafana were not doing well at all, most notably in their affair against Uruguay, the fans embarrassed themselves by the thousands by leaving the game in the 85th minute when it was only 2-0 Uruguay. This is the World Cup and even though South Africa was not playing their best soccer that night in Pretoria, that team still deserved better than to see their fans by the shitload walk out on them in a game that was not yet fully out of reach. It's not like it was a 7-0 stomping. 2 goals is manageable in the period of 5 minutes plus, especially if you get the first one right away. It may not happen often, but it can happen. Maybe I am in the minority here, but I was quite disgusted that so many fans would walk out on their home team in the midst of a World Cup game that they were not yet fully out of. Have some faith for goodness sakes. Believe in miracles. Don't just tuck your tails in and walk away like most American fair-weather fans would have done in that situation. Not for nothing, but in other games involving African teams on the losing side of the game toward the end, I noticed the fans leaving those games early as well. This is bad, but the worst came today in the 3rd place game.
3. "Africans booing Suarez shows complete lack of understanding of the game"
Those were the words Ian Darke used to describe the fans' treatment of Luis Suarez in this game. And quite frankly, he has never been more right in this World Cup. We all know what Luis Suarez did in the semifinal against Ghana, but the fact of the matter is he should not be vilified the way he has been wrongly vilified on that continent. Whether it was instinctual or not, only Luis Suarez knows for sure what he was thinking during that controversial moment, but the fact of the matter is he only did what just about any other professional soccer player would have done in that situation. He could not reach it with his head so he used any means necessary to prevent the ball from going in. Luis Suarez was rightly punished for that act with a red card and a penalty kick was rightly awarded to Ghana. Suarez is a complete after thought if that shot goes in. How on earth should Suarez be booed for Gyan's ineptness? But that did not even end the game. No, it went to PKs. How should Suarez be blamed for Mensah taking the worst run up to a penalty kick the World Cup has ever seen? How should Suarez be blamed for Richard Kingson guessing too soon and helplessly watching as Sebastian Abreu kicked the cheekiest penalty right down the middle to win the game for Uruguay? How is that Suarez's fault? Oh, but "he cheated." NO! Cheating is what you do when you get away with it. Suarez was given the appropriate punishment. Ghana was given the appropriate reward. Gyan choked. Mensah choked. Kingson choked. Ghana choked. Somebody tell me how that is Suarez's fault? Guess what, you can't. Because it's not. Suarez may have saved a goal by doing what any other professional would have done in the same scenario, but Ghana had every chance in the world to win it afterward. And they choked.
But the silliness of the booing does not even end there. Let's step back for a moment and journey into the Land Of What Ifs. What if this whole mess was completely reversed. Uruguay got the last free kick of extra time. Gyan's handball off the line prevented a winning goal for Uruguay. Diego Forlan inexplicably missed the subsequent penalty. Ghana won the game in extra time. Then what? Asamoah Gyan would be a hero all across Africa, that's what. Because guess what, he would have done it by doing what every other professional would have done in the same situation. He would have been properly punished for it. Uruguay would have been properly rewarded for it. And Ghana would have won it anyway. And the continent would celebrate Gyan like he was Nelson Mandela himself. It would have been because of him that Africa would have seen it's 1st ever World Cup semifinalist. And no African would have denied him his glory.
And the African fan idiocy in this situation does not even end THERE. Let's trace our steps back to the Ghanaian Round of 16 game against the United States. Let's re-visit extra time shall we, and all the events that happened after Asamoah Gyan's goal. Players laid on the ground much longer than they needed to, one guy even started to get up before embarrassingly going back down to lie on his back for another 2 minutes, Milovan Rajevac used a substitution to stall for time by bringing out the guy farthest from the Ghanaian bench who proceeded to stall even more by taking a leisurely walk to the bench rather than the much more traditional and sportsman like job. Now am I complaining about this, no. I understand it is part of the game, however cowardly it may be. But what African fans should understand is that they are essentially accusing Luis Suarez as an underhanded cheat when in the last round, they themselves were employing similar tactics! And for those of you who think I am barking mad for my above scenario in which Gyan would be a hero for the handball off the line, guess what, Ghana was met with nothing but love and support in South Africa after they "cheated" to beat the United States. But because the shoe is on the other foot, Luis Suarez is labeled the devil. It is, as Ian Darke said, disgraceful, embarrassing, and it completely illustrates a lack of knowledge and understanding on the part of these fans. And it's not that they booed Suarez once and that was it. They were booing him the whole damn match in Port Elizabeth! Suarez touch in the 3rd minute...BOO! Suarez touch in the 27th minute....BOO! Suarez touch in the 65th minute....BOO! Suarez touch in the 77th minute...BOO! If I did not know any better, I would have thought that Montreal Canadien fans had invaded the World Cup. Yes, it was that hypocritical. Yes, it was that embarrassing. Yes, it was that disgraceful.
When the moment first happened that fateful night in Johannesburg, I felt bad for Ghana. I was putting their tactics in the Round of 16 game behind me and hoping they would make African history. Looking back, I no longer feel remorse for them and that incident. The fans showed their true colors in that 3rd place game. And they were not the best colors South Africa has shown.
World Cup Finals Prediction: Because I correctly predicted the scoreline of the Germany-Uruguay game on Twitter, I figured to put myself out there on the blog this time and predict a 1-0 win for Spain in the championship on Sunday. You heard it here first.