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The Unlikeables

Now that the first round has ended, let’s talk about a topic that’s dear to my heart. Of course, by the term “let’s” I mean “let me,” as in let me unload this off my chest. You, my dear delightful readers, can add your input, but first, allow me.

Does it seem to you that with every tournament, the number of footballers who are unlikeable—or as my grandmother would say “slightly disagreeable”—seems to increase?

Oh, why am I putting this in the form of a question? I’m venting here.

I dislike quite a few players in this tournament. My dislike is quite non-discriminatory, spread across a number of teams/countries.

It might be my problem: I’m getting old and grumpy. When I was younger, I used to find stories about divas charming. Not much anymore.

There could be many reasons and explanations.

It might be that with such ubiquitous coverage of soccer, we’re getting more information, more details and gossip about each player.

Take John Terry (insert Henny Youngman joke here, please). For all I know, any of the players I idolized growing up could have been a racist who had an affair with his teammate’s girlfriend and then made it up to his wife by buying a bigger house in that repository of high culture known as Dubai. Maybe Bobby Moore had and I didn’t know about it. Beckenbauer, Carlos Alberto?

I worshipped Billy Bremner, and apparently he was slightly disagreeable, so maybe he would have done it. But . . . but . . . Bremner was likable. If he kneed Alexis Sanchez in the back, he wouldn’t pretend that he didn’t. He’d glower and curse and say he’d do it again. He wouldn’t be stupid enough to do it so blatantly anyway.

I’m not talking jerks here, just unlikable.

Maybe George Best burned his house down by lighting fireworks in his bathroom and no journalist reported it. But then George scored some of the finest goals I have ever seen and he never once ‘celebrated’ by glaring disdain at his coaches, television cameras, and audience, because heaven forbid, he was not included in the starting lineup.

How is it that Cassano now seems like a nice guy compared to Balotelli?

Maybe we can blame high definition cameras. We can now see every frown on Ronaldo’s face whenever a teammate fails to live up to his exalted expectation. Maradona played with lesser players in Napoli, and say what you will about that coke-addled, Mafiosi-loving homophobe, he never ever did what Ronaldo does. Maradona is a dork, but he’s likable. Can’t say that about Ronaldo.

The camera is not kind to Robben. That pout when things aren’t going his way is simply insufferable. Does anybody like him?

I gave up on the delusion that these players enjoy soccer as much as I do, that they play for the love of the game. I’m no longer as naïve, but really, do the ‘unlikables’ have to look like they’re suffering, that they deigned to interrupt their summer vacation for this tournament? Look at Ibrahimovic’s body language. I’ll pass the ball to you this time, but don’t bet that I’ll do it again.

The continuing soap opera that’s Sniejder vs. van Persie is too sad to mention.

Nasri’s “Ferme ta gueule”?

Definitely not having fun.

Imagine this: Toni Morrison wins the Nobel Prize and the first thing out of her mouth is: “Shut your mouth, Michiko Kakutani.” Actually, never mind, that’s lovely to think about!

And lest we forget, we have Bendtner, he of the over-inflated ego. He drops his shorts to show his underwear that advertized a betting company. Now I wholeheartedly approve of soccer players showing me their underwear, for aesthetic reasons of course, but to show the name of a betting company? Come on. A classy player would drop his shorts to show the logo of UNICEF on their underpants, thank you very much.

What’s going on here? We all know the reasons really. Money, coddling, adulation . . . whatever. Enough, enough.

I’ve gotten this off my chest. I feel much better, much lighter.

Now I can consider all the things I’m enjoyed this tournament so far: Pirlo’s passing, Gomez’s scoring, Iniesta’s fabulousness, Torres’s first goal, Modric being amazing, Shevchenko’s momentary reminder of his greatness. I can go on and on.

Think happy thoughts: the title of an Irish fan’s blog as he follows the team in Poland, “The Lord of Gdansk”. God, I love that.

How about Danish fans chanting Lionel Messi’s name every time Ronaldo touched the ball? He ended up missing two easy goals. Lovely. It is so very mean, yet lovely!

And the picture of the Irish fans with the riot police. How magnificent is that!

How fun!

Remember fun.