WITH APOLOGIES to Sons of Ben, most Americans don't give a hoot about soccer. We don't look at it as a major sport and wonder aloud how anyone can watch a game where 1-0 leads are insurmountable.
But in Goiania, Brazil . . . you heard me, in Goiania, Brazil . . . the fans booed the national team after what they felt was a listless 0-0 final in a friendly (that's a game against another country that doesn't count for anything; we call them exhibition games here in America) against the Netherlands. And in Baku, Azerbaijan - you heard right - journalists, during a press conference, threw a roll of toilet paper and a special kind of water at Azerbaijan coach Berti Vogts to, as the Associated Press reported, "express their displeasure with the national team's performance." In Azerbaijan! What in the name of Johan Cruyff is this world coming to?
In Brazil, the fans are not happy with the fact that the team is winless against quality foes under coach Mano Menezes. They were expecting to see a team that was ready to challenge for the upcoming Copa America and avenge its ouster by the Dutch in the quarterfinals of the 2010 World Cup.
"It's sad to be jeered like that," Brazil striker Neymar said. "But the fans came out to see goals and to see Brazil win."
The fans' boos became even louder after the final whistle. The Folha de S. Paulo newspaper, Brazil's largest, said on its front page yesterday that the match put fans to sleep, while the Diario de S. Paulo said Brazil succeeded only in attracting criticism.
By the way, Brazil has won five World Cups.
Back to those toilet paper-tossing journalists in Baku. The journalists didn't stop at toilet paper. They also presented Vogts with a jug of water, the type used in Muslim countries to wash after using the toilet. The Russian newspaper Sport-Express cited Vogts as describing it as an attack and saying he has reported it to the police.
A spokesman for the Azerbaijan Football Federation, however, downplayed the situation.
Can you imagine Andy Reid in Baku, in front of those journalists? Me, too.
- Mark Perner