There’s an old adage in the US – There’s no crying in baseball. Every kid hears it somewhere. I don’t necessarily agree with it, but it’s widely accepted around American sports culture. Now I’ve never heard it applied to soccer. Just last month, in an intramural futsal game I was playing in, the other team’s best player took himself out of his team’s 7-3 semifinal loss and started crying. His team had beaten mine 27-6 in the season opener (How about that improvement huh?) so naturally he was disappointed, but crying over a intramural futsal match seems rather stupid.
However some tears are beautiful. During Ivory Coast’s national anthem today before their match with Colombia, the camera showed Ivorian midfielder Serey Die overcome with emotion. Tears were streaming down his face while the anthem was playing. And you could here the crowd erupt. These tears were all that is right about the international game. It was a display of national pride that showed why the World Cup is so special. For it’s not about the money right now for the players. It’s about national pride. I’ve heard he was thinking about his late father, and how proud he’d be to see his son represent their country.
I don’t know much about Die as a player, but I immediately admired him. He was clearly playing for all the right reasons. Lining up for Ivory Coast had to be a life-long dream of his, representing his country halfway across the world. I doubt he wanted to cry on the field, but he couldn’t help it. He just cared too much.
But all went wrong for Serey Die in this game. He struggled to contain the pace of Colombia’s midfielders, and it was his poor giveaway that led to Colombia’s second goal, one that seemed to have all but killed off the game before Gervinho’s brilliance got Ivory Coast back into the game a few minutes later. He lay on the ground after Colombia’s goal, having sprinted back in vain to try to atone for his mistake. It was heartbreaking to watch him lie there, as he clearly felt like he let his country down. He was substituted shortly after, and his day was over. For a player whose passion represented everything right with the game, it was a cruel twist.
Cynics will say he let his emotions get to him today, negatively affecting his play. They’ll say his crying was a sign of weakness for his opponent to see. They might be right. But nobody should fault Serey Die for caring too much. In a world of sport where players are increasingly driven by money and fame, this display of national pride was simply beautiful. There might be not be crying in baseball, but international soccer has a place for the emotional.
On another note, I remain extremely happy to see Gervinho do well in Brazil. His goal was classic Gervinho, except with a stunning finish. If only he had been able to do that regularly at Arsenal. And Serge Aurier continues to look like a strong option as a potential Arsenal right-back. Here’s hoping Arsene Wenger is thinking the same thing.