It is hard to be an Argentina fan when the World Cup rolls around. Not because our team is not up for the job (hey, we do have Lionel Messi, even if he hasn’t had his best season and some people think he’s more Spanish then Argentine), but because Argentina has a reputation.
From Maradona’s infamous handball to the theatrical fake fouls that the Argentines—among many others—like to perform (though not Messi, it should be said), Argentina is thought of by some as a manipulative and melodramatic team, at least here in North America. This melodrama is the reason why some North Americans don’t like soccer.
“Americans may generally be arrogant, but there is one stance that I stand behind, and that is the intense loathing of penalty-fakers,” writes Dave Eggers in The Thinking Fan’s Guide to the World Cup.
For Eggers, what he calls “flopping” is a mixture of “acting, lying, begging and cheating” and he finds its theatricality distasteful. It is hard to disagree. (Just ask Croatia how they feel about their recent match against Brazil.)
But there is also something appealing about this performance. It’s as if the players are acknowledging that the game is not only about skill and sportsmanship, it’s about chance and spectacle. It’s about winning your audience over, feinting and faking to trick your opponents, and then dancing down the field with the ball magically stuck to your foot and sliding it past the goalkeeper.
I find games decided on penalty shots frustrating and dull, but the diving itself seems part of this sleight of hand and foot on the field, an attempt at distraction, a moment of melodrama that cries out “hey, I’m dying down here, just give me a chance, a moment to catch my breath in this otherwise crazy nonstop game,” followed by a wink and a nod, and, hopefully for the diver, a goal.
It seems to acknowledge the importance we place on winning, especially during the World Cup, while showing it up as an illusion. What is winning if you can win on a penalty shot awarded by a fake foul? It is, after all, just a game.
Maybe I’m trying to redeem the irredeemable, but when it comes to the World Cup, I’d rather see some melodrama out on the field, than watch 90 minutes of goalless and soulless soccer, where the main objective is to not lose.
What, you ask, does this have to do with the Spring – Summer Issue of carte blanche?
Just this: we ask you to suspend your stoicism while you read this issue, vent your spleen with Beaudelaire, catch an emotional hand grenade, throw yourself down on the ground and cry foul on bad days, and dance in the street on good days.