Thursday, April 11, 2013

Regarding the Sudan-Poland Quarterfinal Chaos

I haven't been doing any posting this tournament for my own reasons, but I will address last night's brawl.

So what happened? (Anyone who has a different viewpoint, feel free to voice it) Poland and Sudan met last year in the quarterfinals, and it was a scrappy game. This year was quite similar. This year's quarterfinal had a lot of emotions running high, as the Poland fans were out in full force with songs and chants, while the Sudan fans were as passionate as ever. At midway through the second half, Poland was up 3-1, and that's when the game really took a turn for the worst. A very hard slide tackle on a Polish player in front of the Poland bench set off their team, who proceeded to shove the Sudan player out of the way. This set off the Sudan team, who rushed over to defend their player. Both teams then started pushing back and forth, and then the chaos started. Refs being pushed, punches being thrown, I was even told there was flying ninja kick. I'm surprised no one walked away with worse injuries. The coaches, the referees, and the players were all involved in some way. The Sudan coach was livid at the referee, and had to have his team hold him back. Multiple players on both teams were extremely angry, and have to have their calm players settle everyone down. Eventually, both teams went back to their benches. The referee gave two red cards to Poland, and two red cards to Sudan. The ejected players made their way out, and the ref decided to resume the game at that point. Bad idea. Tensions were sky-high, and with about four minutes left, it was clear that this game wasn't going to end quietly. Poland scored one more goal to make it 4-1, and it didn't take long before another Sudan player put in an extremely hard tackle on a Polish player. It was inevitable. The ref, in an effort to assert his authority, held up a third Sudan red card. At midfield, and not a millisecond later, the Sudan player knocked the referee out cold. Officials and volunteers rushed to his side, and the crowd was on its feet. Fans were screaming at Sudan, and fans were getting into arguments in the crowd. Sudan left the field soon after, escorted by volunteers and security. Fans booed Sudan to their dressing room. They were yelling at the players, antagonizing them, and understandably some Sudan players yelled back and got into tussles with obnoxious fans. It was then clear that Sudan had gone from tournament darling to scourge of soccer...quite the turnaround. Once Sudan was in, Poland left the field to their dressing room for a very quiet victory celebration. Police were called, and were reviewing pictures and video to determine what the next steps will be. It was very unfortunate, because soccer fans at the facility received a great night of soccer that ended with nothing soccer-related whatsoever.

Poland and Sudan played a very good game for the most part, but it devolved into mockery of a soccer game. It was a shameful way to end the night. Fans also have to take accountability for their actions, and there were many awful comments directed at both teams. Not just in the last quarterfinal, but in all the games. This tournament is supposed to be a multicultural celebration of soccer, and on an Anti-Bullying day like yesterday, it devolved into a disgrace. So what happens next? Long-term suspensions will happen, but for who? These are the questions the organizing commitee will be dealing with for awhile, and rest assured that disciplinary action will be taken.

Last night was, and always will be, a bad mark on the tournament. But all is not lost. It's up to the fans, the remaining teams, the volunteers, and the cultural communities to bring the respect back to the remainder of this tournament. Be supportive of all the teams, regardless of their skin color,  their language, or their skill. Hatefulness has no place in this tournament. For years, the WCP Cup has brought cultures together fantastically. I've met tons of great people from different communities, and I've had a blast sitting in the stands surrounded by fans of different countries. This tournament is an amazing event. Last night is over, so let's make the best of the remainder of this tournament. It won't be forgotten, but we need to learn from this. Cheer loud for the team you support, talk to the people beside you, and have some fun. Don't forget what this tournament is about, and do your part to make it great.

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