|Portugal’s forward Cristiano Ronaldo collapses after losing out to Morocco in the World Cup quarter-final on Saturday. Photo AFP|
The quarter-finals stage of the World Cup may be the cruelest time to go out of the competition.
Those teams that are packing their bags came tantalisingly close to a historic achievement, as any side that makes it to the last four will feel they’ve had a good tournament and had a real shot to win it.
So no wonder the four quarter-finals were emotionally charged affairs from beginning to well after the final whistle, especially as every game was decided either by penalties or just a single goal.
We saw Cristiano Ronaldo sulk off the pitch with few handshakes for Morocco, bitter complaints about refereeing from the England players, handbags between the Netherlands and Argentina, and devastation from Brazil.
Emotions have even run high for those on the winning side, with the best example being several Argentinian players goading the Dutch after their penalty shootout win.
The great Lionel Messi was even captured on camera insulting a Dutch player well after the final whistle in the wake of a stormy game.
Argentina and Ronaldo’s actions in particular generated a big reaction on social media, with many bemoaning the lack of sportsmanship from both.
More than a few times I’ve seen posts comparing how these footballers have reacted to the internet’s high priests of sportsmanship: rugby players.
If you were to believe everything you read, these saintly scrummers, ruckers and hookers meet every setback with class, a handshake and a toothless smile.
I’m sorry to break it to the lineout and dropkick aficionados still reading, but it would be incredibly dull if every athlete acted with #respect at all times.
I think I’ve watched the 73-second long video of Ronaldo walking off the pitch in tears dozens of times since Saturday, it’s simply glorious.
So too is the fantastic Reuters photograph of Argentina’s players goading the Dutch as they sink to their knees after losing the penalty shootout.
Like it or not, these moments of emotion after the high stakes of a World Cup knockout game are the memories most likely to stick with us long after Qatar’s stadiums have fallen silent.
The most memorable moment from the 2006 World Cup wasn’t anything to do with the ball, it was Zinedine Zidane’s headbutt.
South Africa 2010 had the explosion of emotion after the host nation’s opening goal. It also had Luis Suarez’s handball.
The 2014 edition had the devastation across the crowd as Brazil were humbled by Germany in a 7-1 thrashing.
Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of sportsmanship. The images of Croatian captain Luka Modric consoling his Brazilian club teammates after they lost out were moving.
But I don’t want to exclusively watch #respect robots fight over who can give the most sincere handshake at the end of a match.
I want the full range of human emotions, people at their rawest, most authentic selves, as that’s when it’s easiest to relate to these multi-millionaires and actually feel connected to what modern football has become. VNS