LAY OFF KAITA Jo
How do we get to death threats on Kaita? It was a Colombian player, Andres Escobar that was killed when he got home in Medellin because he accidentally diverted a ball into his own goal post in 1994 FIFA World Cup. A Nigerian was also killed over an argument over a foreign soccer club match. We have some British hooligans that cannot attend soccer match anywhere because they are noted by INTERPOL for their behavior. We have gone way beyond showmanship to displaying our instinctual crude animal behaviors. No cultured African fan kills anyone because of soccer.
Usually, it starts from the frenzy generated by crowds that were disappointed over the loss of a game by a favorite team. Like unreasonable mob justice, the satisfaction of the loss of life for some stupid mistake made by an individual when emotion is high never justify that end. African football is always intense even between sister countries. In some cases security has to be tight for regional matches within the same African country.
Soccer is one of the most beautiful games in the world. The amount of dexterity, skill, style and intelligence it takes cannot be equally duplicated in any other sport. It is even more addictive than alcohol but without the painful withdrawal of drugs. It is like sensuous dancing without sex. More important, it brings people from all walks of life, race or ethnicity, countries and classes together. When we have such a sweat sensation, some unsavory elements creep up in our fun.
We have to do everything to keep football clean so that it does not turn to boxing, wrestling or hockey and the other US “football” match. The officials have tried to make it sportsmanship so that soccer does not go the way of other sports. Unfortunately, some opportunistic players have taken advantage of that by trying to take a fall on the field in order to score a penalty.
African players have endured the crudest form of racism, not only from their fellow players but from other fans in Europe. There were some fans of an opponent club displaying banana. A young African player even cried on the field once. These insults are not easy to absorb and players must be sensitized to expect them. In fairness to international football clubs, fines and other penalties have been meted out to show low tolerance for such uncivilized behavior.
Though Kaita was not a novice to international soccer, unprintable epithet may still catch us unguarded and our gut reaction may be unpleasant in that moment of temporary leave of our decorum. There are certain words you do not use to a black man unless you want to get him to blow his cool. If you know that is what he is trying to do, deflect him in a dignified manner.
Nobody said Nigerian player Kaita was right in his reaction, no matter what unprintable abuse he got from an opponent, especially after the French captain Zidane was shown a red card for head-butt in the 2006 World Cup final. He could have approached the linesman or the referee if any of them was close by. His reaction could have been wagering his finger or fist in anger to draw attention without touching the crude mutterer. A warning could have been worst penalty.
Elizabeth Lambert was a US University of New Mexico soccer player suspended for punching or pulling opponents' hair each time they poke her, predicting her reaction. Cameras have been able to show that she was not as violent as her opponents wanted to portray her because they actually poked or pulled her subtly first, before she reacted. Apart from trying to depict her as violent on the field, they wanted penalty against her team so that they could win.
It all depends on how individual referee wants to handle an infraction because it is difficult to second guess a decision they have to make on the sport. While we have seen a red card for similar behavior as Kaita, we have also seen many yellow cards. Kaita apologized profusely. We may have seen harsher punishment for some players than others because someone has it in his mind that one type of skin bruises more easily than the other.
However, it is unacceptable for players to take a fall or provoke another player in order to fool the referee. We witnessed so many fake falls and holding of body parts when players were simply touched, you sometimes think some players were old grandmothers with fragile bones playing on the field. They cry and roll for any little contact. As soon as they get their penalties, they are suddenly made whole and grinning like a little kid.
Since officials are playing catch up with these fake falls and twisting, punishing such behavior can be difficult. A yellow card has been given in a few cases to a pretender. Even those who are clearly the perpetrator of mischief sometimes behaved as if they were the victims. Kaita might be wrong and the French captain might have over reacted with head-butt, some receivers deserved what they got. It does not make it right but do not cry as if you are an innocent player.
The best part of it all is the joy and the unifying spirit of the games that must linger, not the disappointments. Indeed, unexpected loss can be channeled into better preparation next time around. All African players tried their best and it was disappointing to see Ivory Coast lose to Brazil by 3 to 1 after playing so well. Ghana played so well, many of us were expecting that with Kaka out like Kaita, Ghana would capitalize and win. But the 2 – 2 draw was enough to move on.
The US is still discussing their struggle from 2 nil to 2 – 2 draw. They think the Mali referee denied them their third goal but forgot that the same referee penalized their opponents heavily before the controversial third goal. On the Other hand the England team cannot forgive their goalkeeper because the ball slipped from his hand into the net, giving USA a 1 – 1 draw.
Its sports, not war.