CL Final: Cruelty thy name is soccer!

John Terry takes the penalty as his feet give out on the slick Luzhniki Stadium turf. The ball flies wide of the left upright. The Man U faithful who had turned blue with a world record in bottled up breath after the Cristiano Ronaldo miss some centuries ago, breathe a collective sigh of relief that could be heard around the world. As it turned out the better team lost but the team that wanted it more, won. We could certainly say that of Ryan Giggs whose age has not dimmed his competitive ardour. Bobby Charlton well past his bed time was at hand to see his protege and present all time leader slot the ball past Petr Cech. Seconds later, Anelka misses his chance. Man U win.
There can be no crueler game than soccer. Its not theory as much as axiom.
I followed the 2004 ALCS game between the Red Sox and the Yankees as George Steinbrenner’s boys crested 3-0 in the series. Cruel as it was, the demise was gradual as the Sox exerted their will and the Yankees crumbled under the pressure of finding that elusive last win. The Sox’s stirring comeback was taken by John Kerry as a harbinger for the presidential elections. But as it turned out, Dubya had the “mandate.”
The Pats were overwhelming favourites in Super Bowl 2008 against the Giants till Eli Manning’s throw threaded into traffic found an off kilter David Tyree whose wondrous grab sealed their win. Bill Belichik’s sour face was a visage for the ages.
But these deflating moments in other sports are far fewer compared to the number of times that soccer has proved to break hearts.
Time and time again, soccer shootouts prove that there is very little correlation between the way the game is played in regulation time. Chelsea was head and shoulders, the better team. And when Ronaldo missed his penalty, it appeared to be a fitting culmination of how the game was played. We would have applauded the outcome.
Soccer is fickle. Fickleness is another form of cruelty. Ronaldo spread eagled on the field prone, relieved after Anelka’s miss, as eons earlier he was consecrated to eternal damnation for his miss. Before that Terry’s team mates high five him as his timely header glanced off a sureshot Man U goal moments before the end of extra time. After the game ends, Grant could barely console the weeping Terry. One moment we are up; the next, down. And the cycle goes on.
I am back. I have missed my passion as my dissertation kept me away but I will be back to dissect soccer in its every shape and form this summer. Arsenal, keep your chin up!!

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