I like football. A lot. Although the vernacular sports – notably basketball and the local variations on cricket and rugby – give plenty of opportunities to enjoy the exploits of the favorite team, there’s something that happens to you when you’re exposed to the thrills of European football for a reasonably sustained number of years, which among other interesting things typically includes a patent inability to use the s-word in reference to The Beautiful Game.
This weekend showed one brilliant instance making the case for football, that contemporary mass equivalent for the Greek tragedies and comedies of lore. The German Bundesliga tournament is not usually the center stage for such life-sized advertisements for the sport, but this Saturday it clearly was. Courtesy of Dutch star striker Ruud van Nistelrooy, the newest attraction playing for Hamburg SV, quite fortunate to nab him while his former team Real Madrid increasingly spurned him as a starting team fixture. That’s another mystery by itself; be that as it may, the striker with an uncanny ability to score goals wanted to sign up with a team that would give him much more play time, arguably also to conquer the undivided attention of the Dutch national football team’s coach, and so secure a ticket to the World Cup tournament played this summer in South Africa.
Well, did Ruud ever.
In what was just his second appearance for his side (his first match for HSV consisted of just a few minutes) he went onto the pitch as a substitute in the 65th minute, and about ten minutes later he scored his first goal already. Boom! Quite an entrance, at the expense of poor VfB Stuttgart that until then seemed to have a lock on the match. But wait, there’s more… Only about ninety (!) seconds later Ruud “van Gol” – as he was aptly nicknamed during his Madrid days – finds another opening and scores, again. Perhaps to his own surprise, but anyone who has seen him in action in his typical, almost clinical ways of a predator can’t be too much surprised, other than by the sheer world class speed of his goals.
It’s pretty good stuff to watch.
Better yet is the following AP sourced photograph, which shows Ruud celebrating his brace against a backdrop of some stunned VfB supports left mouth agape. It’s a priceless snapshot, capturing the threshold moment of surprise and celebration for Ruud, and the major expression of shock and disbelief for the supporters of the other side. In unpolished internet parlance, the appropriate speech balloons no doubt would read “WTF!?”
What a wonderful instance of freezing just that moment, when magic happens on the pitch. Ah, I do sometimes miss those Saturday afternoons… Something which timezones make impossible. Thank goodness for the internet!
PS: I just read in Dutch broadsheet De Telegraaf that Guus Hiddink, the serial miracle working coach of the national football teams of South Korea, Australia and Russia is looking for another job. In his newspaper column, he writes today that he wanted to give the Russian football federation sufficient time to find a successor until he leaves, this summer. Note to the USSF: get him. Now. Seriously, he’s the one you’ve been looking for to build a strong, focused, cohesive and effective team, which no doubt will radiate through to establish a more professional, internationally competitive mindset for the longer term.