And elsewhere, some real soccer, on green grass ...

For those of you who stumbled into the mess that was the USA-Costa Rica World Cup qualifier, let me assure you that the sport of soccer still lives, in something like its intended form.  Elsewhere, on other TV channels on Friday, there were real games to be watched.
In particular, there were several South American World Cup qualifiers featuring green grass, with recognizable lines on it, a ball that could be distinguished from its background, and plenty of players who knew what to do with it.
Nice stuff from Argentina in its 3-0 win over Venezuela. Lionel Messi in action, not quite the spectacular Messi of Barcelona, but very much involved in Argentina’s goals. Also the recipient of plenty of rough tackling and body-blocking from Venezuelan defenders. But there were two delicious assists to savor -- Gonzalo Higuain turned both of them into goals (though he was offside on the second) with perfect finishing touches. Messi scored himself from the penalty spot, it all looked pretty straightforward for Argentina. But it will have to face tougher opponents than Venezuela.
Colombia slammed five goals past Bolivia for which it was the same old story -- neat soccer, but no goals and a heavy loss. No problem scoring for Colombia -- five splendid goals from five different players. And another offside goal here -- the crucial first goal, from Macnelly Torres, on which Juan Cuadrado was so clearly offside. But this was Colombia playing at home in Baranquilla, so maybe -- just like Argentina in Buenos Aires -- a few calls like that are to be expected.
Later, Colombia’s coach Jose Pekerman (an Argentine) remarked that it was sometimes hard for his team “to keep up the rhythm,” an interesting comment, for one always suspects a fatal fragility to surface in this dynamic Colombian team whenever its high speed play seems to outstrip the players’ ability.
Uruguay and Paraguay, traditionally the two most defensively conscious South American teams gave us what was to be expected -- a 0-0 tie for 80 minutes -- though it was 80 minutes with plenty of activity and chances. Then Luis Suarez struck a sweet volley for Uruguay for a lead that lasted all of four minutes before Paraguay’s Edgar Benitez pounced on a loose ball in the Uruguayan defense (a rarity, that) and tied it up. A game with a twist in its tail then, though for me it ended with a shock when the standings flashed on the TV screen -- and there was Paraguay, dead last.  Just a couple of years back, Paraguay, playing excellent soccer, was a quarterfinalist at the South Africa World Cup.
Late dramatics, too, in Lima, with an 88th-minute goal for Peru from Jefferson Farfan, who did it all himself. His first, unconvincing, shot was stopped by Chilean goalkeeper Claudio Bravo -- stopped but not held. The ball bobbled loose and Farfan reacted quickest, spinning around to get off a shot -- and this one was totally convincing, hard and straight into the net from six yards.
Closer to home, and later at night, you could have watched Jamaica taking on Panama. An early (23rd minute) lead for Jamaica came from an absolutely text-book classic corner kick play: over came the ball from Demar Phillips, and there was the big defender Marvin Elliott, sent forward to do just this -- to jump higher than everyone else and to neatly nod the ball home from the edge of the six-yard box. Panamanian goalkeeper Luis Mejia barely moved as the ball sailed into the net. Truth be told, Mejia had little to do in this game anyway, and it was fitting that Panama tied the score some 40 minutes later with a low, long-range, left-footed shot from Luis Henriquez.
I’ll admit to missing the Honduras-Mexico game -- this was one I especially wanted to watch, but something went wrong with my meticulous taping arrangements.
Finally, then to Denver and the blizzard and a game that should never have been started, never mind played for a full treacherous 90 minutes. So, just a few words on that encounter. Here they are:
Embarrassing. Shameful. Fraudulent. Ridiculous. Scandalous. Pathetic. Dangerous. Absurd. Outrageous. Forgettable. Brutal. Insulting. Degrading. Ludicrous. Disgraceful. Pitiful. Unwatchable. Laughable. Dishonorable. Preposterous. Senseless. Farcical. Abject. Unbelievable. Horrendous. Regrettable. Dumb. Dreadful. Spurious. Grotesque. Catastrophic. Reprehensible. Woeful. Distasteful. Ugly. Demeaning. Monstrous. Derisory. Painful. Comical. Puerile. Shocking. Unbearable.
And no, I did not think much of this prank, this snow fight. Everyone involved in allowing this travesty to go ahead should be thoroughly ashamed. Starting with referee Joel Aguilar who, in theory at any rate, had the final say.

44 comments about "And elsewhere, some real soccer, on green grass ...".
  1. Doug Kieffer, March 23, 2013 at 5:17 p.m.

    Sorry man. Loved the thesaurus impersonation but I'm thrilled with the 3 points.

  2. Derek Dunmire, March 23, 2013 at 5:22 p.m.

    nothing makes you happy Paul...what a shame to go through as a crabby old dick

  3. Gus Fernandez, March 23, 2013 at 5:45 p.m.

    So, you ok playing in San Pedro at 104 and 100% humidity wich is more danger that snow? What a jk

  4. Power Dive, March 23, 2013 at 5:51 p.m.

    Paul, I'd use those same adjectives to describe your article. It's rather scary that you are so emotional and angry at an outdoor game being played in the snow. You come across as a soccer snob, not a soccer purist. For what it's worth, I'd agree with you if your argument was something to the effect of: in a game of this importance, it's too bad that the game couldn't be played under "normal"/less extreme weather conditions.

    Adjectives I'd use to describe the game: fair, amazing, monumental, memorable. Both teams were playing on the same equal pitch. When the USA plays Mexico on Tuesday, I hope you post a similar article after we play in Azteca where our players are routinely doused in urine, have lasers pointed at their eyes, etc. Those conditions aren't "fair" because both teams aren't subjected to the same conditions. I'm optimistic that you will post a similar article, but remain doubtful.

  5. John Burns, March 23, 2013 at 5:51 p.m.

    Some times Paul has to search for just the proper word to properly convey his inner most thoughts. There may be a few negative English adjectives in existence that he omitted but no one can accuse him of being wishy-washy.

  6. John Soares, March 23, 2013 at 6:24 p.m.

    So Paul... tell us how you really feel??!!
    I'll go along with ...should never have started. Even though I wasn't there, but once started...finish it.

  7. R2 Dad, March 23, 2013 at 6:28 p.m.

    As far as I know, we got 3 points, no one got hurt, and the media/fans aren't screaming for Klinsmann's head, Jozy got the call, Guzan didn't concede. So we survive to fight again. Win-win?

  8. Chance Hall, March 23, 2013 at 6:30 p.m.

    Paul, as usual you have missed the point of last nights game completely. It was about players from two countries who played their hearts out trying to earn points for their country. It was one of the most exciting and entertaining games of soccer I have ever seen, and I will be 69 years old this year. Boy, when you're wrong, you're really wrong... :( By the way, here are a few printable words for your pitiful article: Embarrassing. Shameful. Fraudulent. Ridiculous. Scandalous.

  9. David Mont, March 23, 2013 at 7:09 p.m.

    Is this article a joke? How is playing in snow worse than playing in the rain, or at high altitude, or in the heat, or on a plastic pitch, or having bags of urine thrown at the players, or... the list could go on and on. And as far as one of the adjectives used -- dangerous -- the game was actually one of the safest I've seen for the players.

  10. Power Dive, March 23, 2013 at 7:46 p.m.

    Not sure how much supporters mean to Paul. Beginning to think he is the Howard stern of soccer. I forget the exact statistics, but it's something like supporters of stern listen for 15 minutes while haters of stern listen for 45 minutes. Paul purposely writes controversial articles to get attention and SA employs him because his vitriol gets clicks and comments.

  11. Bryce Anderson, March 23, 2013 at 7:56 p.m.

    If Paul wrote this broadside to get traffic then well done. But his snootiness is getting very tiring. Makes me root for Juergen's boys to succeed even more just to irritate him.

  12. Kent James, March 23, 2013 at 10:13 p.m.

    PG, you define the word curmudgeon. I generally appreciate your analysis, but to say the game should not have been played is demonstrably wrong. Given the conditions, I was amazed at how much real soccer there actually was. Yes, occasionally somebody slipped (Beasley seemed to have the most trouble), but it was far from a farce. And the goal that was scored was not created by the conditions, nor were goals that should have been scored denied by the conditions (and the Costa Rican goal that was called back for offside was an excellent call, so the officials seemed to be able to see well enough that the conditions did not affect them). And as Gus said, playing at altitude in 104° temperatures is much more dangerous for the players. Maybe you're unhappy that it was not a "beautiful game", but there's more to soccer than just good skills.

  13. Joe Bailey, March 23, 2013 at 10:19 p.m.

    Paul was unhappy because he felt the conditions didn't give the 'Latin' team the upper hand... Of course a lot of that Costa Rican team plays in Northern Europe so I don't think they were on some sort of shock. Mr Gardner is soooo predictable.

  14. Cathie Currie, ph.d., March 23, 2013 at 10:19 p.m.

    Snow happens. Precedence?

    How many other World Cup qualifying matches have been postponed or terminated in-game for snow?
    How many have been played in snow?
    Anyone know?

    Having played soccer games in snow, it is different. Fun, uncontrolled, injury-inducing, silly, exhausting . . .

  15. Jogo Bonito, March 24, 2013 at 3:37 a.m.

    all PG is pointing out is that the south american qualifiers are a great watch for true lovers of this greet game. it's very under appreciated in the USA soccer world where everything British is cool and people actually think Taylor Twellman is an acceptable commentator (he was a damn good player btw) Twellman ranks up there with Ricky Davis, Ty Keough and Marcelo Balboa as the worst ex-USA commentators. As far as the game is concerned, I agree with PG. that game of course should not have been played. And to make matters worse USAs white jerseys and no orange ball made it even more unwatchable

  16. Gary Levitt, March 24, 2013 at 8:38 a.m.

    Paul, I stopped reading your columns a long time ago but unfortunately wasted my time again with your silly remarks regarding Friday night's match. I assume your editor has tasked you with being controversial to promote readership? There is no way that you can be that stupid unless you are part of the CR Soccer Federation. The venue was selected to give the USA advantage from both climate and fan support. To suggest the match should not have been played is naïve. We achieved our goal of 3 points heading into the match at Azteca. Please go away and write about something relevant. Your editor should be embarrassed.

  17. Jogo Bonito, March 24, 2013 at 8:58 a.m.

    Gary, you should be embarrassed my friend. Any respectable news outlet has columnists that provide opinions that give a point of view that is designed to make you think. People agree and disagree with columnists all the time. It's not SA's role to be cheerleaders for the USA. I'd assume that, being Americans, they (even PG) want to see USA be successful, but as responsible journalists they provide an unbiased reporting of soccer. This is how the journalistic world is supposed to be. Maybe you need to watch less FoxNews my friend. It's bad for your brain.

  18. Ronnie j Salvador, March 24, 2013 at 9:08 a.m.

    I'd assume the article was written to solicit a strong reaction. I find it difficult to believe that PG really thinks the game conditions were that bad. It doesn't take an astronaut to see that the game wasn't dangerous at all. Hard rain with mud puddles would be more dangerous. The author knows that soccer [football] is a winter sport in most countries. I grew up in one of these foreign countries and we played year round outdoors; when the field was covered with snow, no one batted an eye. We just played.

    On the other hand, the article does immense disservice to what, imho, is an issue with youth soccer in northern areas: the need to play indoors when it gets cold or conditions aren't ideal. The rest of the world doesn't play like that. What does it tell our kids that they can't play soccer in snow, rain, or if it's too cold? They play and practice outdoors even in areas within the arctic circle. Play everywhere!

  19. Charles O'Cain, March 24, 2013 at 9:14 a.m.

    Jogo, you have opened my eyes: clearly, Paul Gardner is the very personification of unbiased journalism. I had it all wrong before.

  20. Gus Keri, March 24, 2013 at 10:10 a.m.

    Thank you paul for this wonderful article. That is until the last 3 paragraphs where it became, how should I describe it? Yes, I know. It became this: Shameful. Fraudulent. Ridiculous. Scandalous. Pathetic. Dangerous. Absurd. Outrageous. Forgettable. Brutal. Insulting. Degrading. Ludicrous. Disgraceful. Pitiful. Unwatchable. Laughable. Dishonorable. Preposterous. Senseless. Farcical. Abject. Unbelievable. Horrendous. Regrettable. Dumb. Dreadful. Spurious. Grotesque. Catastrophic. Reprehensible. Woeful. Distasteful. Ugly. Demeaning. Monstrous. Derisory. Painful. Comical. Puerile. Shocking. Unbearable.

  21. Edgar Soudek, March 24, 2013 at 11:18 a.m.

    Plain and simply speaking: Paul Gardner is an over-the-hill couch-/behind-the-desk potato, who has completely lost
    touch with the real soccer world...
    I played soccer in Detroit, on Hamtramck's Jayne Field way back when, as a player with the Bavarian FC, with snow coming up to 5 inches - we NEVER cancelled a game!! The Ticos didn't complain, and could have won as well; they lodged a protest only after they lost - no way would the USA have done anything like that.
    Armer Paul, pobrecito Pablo, voce e uma vergonha pelo jornalismo honesto -escondese detras da sua mesa!!!!!

  22. Bill Anderson, March 24, 2013 at 12:21 p.m.

    Paul has become tiresome at best, but at least this time he gets to rage against the weather (and US Soccer by proxy) which is a fresh take on why he is not happy that enough Mexicans didn't get to play. I'm about to turn 50. At what age do I become the "crazy old uncle" that everybody has to be nice to during the holidays?

  23. Carl Walther, March 24, 2013 at 12:48 p.m.

    It seems like most of the comments were posted by people who live to disagree with and put down Paul's opinions. And they accuse Paul of being a mean grumpy old man. Maybe they should look at themselves.

  24. Edgar Soudek, March 24, 2013 at 1:33 p.m.

    No Carl, if you go back over all of Gardners commentaries...HE is the grouch!!! We that disagree with him see the POSITIVE in most everything, while Gardner is 90% negative.I am still teaching at 75, and if you were to ask my students, I am the most positive and good-humored person around - even my wife thinks so!!! I am just tired of negativism all around in journalism! If you had asked any of the 19,000+ spectators, they had a good time, they have a story to tell for many years to come! NONE of the interviewed players complained - at least on camera - and in fact both teams gave their very best, something that is sadly lacking in Gardner's sad-sack comments...

  25. Eric R., March 24, 2013 at 1:51 p.m.

    Wow! This feedback is pretty bad. I will just say that I enjoyed the match. Was it messy? Sure. But at its core, this is a game when to groups of 11 people, run around kicking a ball, and enjoy doing it. So whatever.

    I was questioning whether the game should be played but honestly, I'd rather play on Friday than Saturday, considering is in Azteca on Tuesday.

  26. Michael Haltom, March 24, 2013 at 2:25 p.m.

    He may have gone overboard with his adjectives, but I agree with Paul: the game should not have been played. Were we so desperate for 3 points and so lacking in confidence that we could get them under decent playing conditions?

  27. Frank Cardone, March 24, 2013 at 2:37 p.m.

    I enjoyed reading all of the preceeding comments except those of Jogo Bonito's cheap shot at FoxNews. How pathetic that you are just can't resist keeping politics out of this soccer debate. And so classy and courageous of you to not post your true name. Everyone beware of Jogo Bonito, whoever he (or she) may be!

  28. Teresa Buffington, March 24, 2013 at 4:09 p.m.

    I had fun reading these comments. I wish I would of read them earlier. Spent time with several non soccer minded friends defending Joel and the idea that the game play-on. They started the game..what did they think the snow was suddenly going to stop? Even my non-soccer neighbor stayed for the last 10 minutes..completely entertained. 3 points. YES!

  29. David Mont, March 24, 2013 at 6:06 p.m.

    2 Michael Haltom: please tell me why you think the game shouldn't have been played.

  30. john davies, March 25, 2013 at 7:56 a.m.

    I never agree with Paul but on this one I think he is right. The game was a shambles from the commentators to the officials to FIFA once again. As was the case and as been for many years now FIFA continue to try and make the game global, and no disrespect to the officials they put guys and gals out there who have nowhere near the experience or control they should have in the game. When the centre line was invisible the game should have been called, for people to coming running on the field with shovels at dead balls, is that not against FIFA rules IE people coming on the field of play. Then to let players and coaches seemingly sway your decisions about the field one way or the other is disgraceful. Then being a Fulham fan it was Dejavu all over again with Ruiz, against Stoke a player pushed him in his face right in front of the ref, in that case the ref gave the free kick and a yellow card, On Friday the same thing happened the ref gave the free kick for the infringement but in this instance no card. For all you refs out there explain this to me, is not a hand to the face a straight red card in both instances, and if you give the free kick for the infringement are you not bound then to administer the card. I would love to know what the call was on Friday when the US player so stupidly did that.

  31. Bill Anderson, March 25, 2013 at 8:01 a.m.

    John Davies, referees discretion. If I were an official I'd Red Card Carlos Ruiz for putting on the uniform. Wonder why it is always happening to him?

  32. Bobby Bluntz, March 25, 2013 at 9:09 a.m.

    David, games are postponed all of the time for unplayable field conditions. If that didn't meet the definition of unplayable, especially in the second half, I don't know what does. PG could have stopped at "embarrassing" to sum it up. It has definately made us look bad. Colorado in March? Somebody said earlier that it's no more dangerous than playing in "104 degrees with 100 percent humidity". I just want to add that it is impossible to have even 95% relative humidity at even 100 degrees. I hate when people say "it was 100 degrees and 100% humidity". Ignorant!

  33. Charles O'Cain, March 25, 2013 at 11:13 a.m.

    The field conditions were not "unplayable" (the match was played, after all, and in the second half the "poor" Costa Ricans actually seemed at times to have the upper hand). Ideal? No. But many matches are played in less-than-ideal circumstances. The referee must determine whether or not player safety is irredeemably compromised, and it was not. A non-frozen field with some snow on it is less dangerous than a wet, waterlogged one (though it might be argued that players are actually at much greater risk of injury -from themselves and other players- when conditions are "perfect", hence no need for caution or restraint). The main risk that night was to those brave souls who came to view the contest ... later, on their way home. I hope they all made it safely.

  34. Ronnie j Salvador, March 25, 2013 at 12:29 p.m.

    The field was absolutely playable. The players didn’t complain. Didn’t both teams play and finish the game without injury or serious mayhem? Sure, it wasn’t ideal. Ideal would be sunny, 60’s, perfect natural grass. But it was certainly playable. Would this even be a conversation if this was American football? Would you cancel a Green Bay Packers home game because the wind chill was past 20 below? Or postpone a US Open tennis match because it was too windy? Golf’s Ryder Cup because it was windy and rainy? No way. It’s part of the sport. In my experience most soccer postponements for ‘unplayable field conditions’ has more to do with field preservation than safety concerns. This tends to happen a lot with high school ball, as schools are loathe to have fields damaged.

  35. beautiful game, March 25, 2013 at 4:37 p.m.

    We should play more games in this type of weather since the simplicity and efficacy is missing otherwise. As for the TV commentary, it's obvious that Mr. Twellman et al were clueless about who has the sole authority to stop the game. According to them, the players influenced the ref and that is total nonsense.Also to verbalize how "great" some players performed is quite simplistic.

  36. Chris Sapien , March 25, 2013 at 5:46 p.m.

    C O'Cain, Thank you brother, as it was a night and experience I will never forget!! Conditions were perfect, and all of us behind the South goal will tell you the same. Believe me, once you were surrounded with die-hard American fans within the stadium, the weather was the least important thing on your mind. The four hour pregame party, and seeing dozens of people I have traveled with and met-up with at US away games was priceless! Bottom-line haters, the ball moved fine, the players were not at risk and the referee's authority was never questioned. Read the laws, no where does it refer to conditions effecting a subjective level of skill be considered, only conditions relating to player safety are instruction given to referee's. Don't judge the decision to play this game on someone's "beautiful game" misgivings. The players were on the softest powder I have ever felt, there was virtually no slipping and the house was rocking!! If you had been there Paul, versus watching the game from a TV camera's distorted image, you would be saying the same. NO, I take that back, you would just replace your nonsense with something else.

  37. soccer talk, March 26, 2013 at 8:58 a.m.

    Really PG, topics hard to find for your column. It's an outdoor sport for crying out loud! What about your next article on the inhumane Azteca heat that was endured as well. What about the plethera of fair weather games that came prior to this quite interesting from the mundane games from the past? Change channels and let the MEN play!

  38. Ramon Creager, March 26, 2013 at 9:47 a.m.

    Dishonorable is probably the best word. For those who will complain about heat, altitude, etc., not even in the same ball park (ha, ha) as this when one can't get footing, let alone even see. I can imagine a game in the heat and humidity in the World Cup Finals themselves (it will be in Brazil after all). I can also imagine a game in cold weather--without snow. But this? Can anyone here honestly say that if these conditions had occurred in the Finals themselves, that this game would have taken place? If you can, I have a neat bridge for sale. Also, this thought came to mind: the USSF has for some time now resisted the FIFA holy grail of international schedule alignment, claiming weather as a primary factor. (For what it's worth, I agree with the USSF on this.) Then it goes and undercuts its argument by scheduling a WC qualifier in Denver. In winter.

  39. Ramon Creager, March 26, 2013 at 11:57 a.m.

    The latest is that the Tico protest to FIFA and request for a replay is disallowed on a technicality. It's a pretty important technicality, thought: FIFA claim that Costa Rica did not protest the conditions in real time, in the way the rules require. If they were unfamiliar with these rules, for THAT game, this is on them.

  40. ROBERT BOND, March 26, 2013 at 2:50 p.m.

    how about playing all the games in domes? how bad is the air pollution in mexico city today? can't say more, got to get ready for practice-in the snow......

  41. Power Dive, March 27, 2013 at 11:58 p.m.


  42. Don Woodman, March 28, 2013 at 5:15 p.m.

    Paul is correct when he says the game shouldn't have been played in the driving snow storm. The commenters are correct in that Paul is a generally negative curmudgeon.
    Paul used a variety of adjectives to describe the US vs Costa Rica match including forgettable. That is simply stupid. The match may have been many things but it was far from forgettable; more like unforgettable.

  43. Rick Potts, March 29, 2013 at 11:05 a.m.

    You are such a "half empty" wanker.....

  44. Chris Sapien , March 31, 2013 at 12:02 a.m.

    I seriously wish those who keep saying the game shouldn't have been played, would, just once, cite any Law/rule indicating you don't play soccer in weather. Get over it.

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