What a weekend of soccer (futbol, football, etc)!
There was so much to watch (sadly on television only) with plenty of World Cup qualifiers, the MLS in the full swing of Week 2 and the first match of the WPS season (more on that in another post).
It all started (for me) with a look at Iran hosting Saudi Arabia (early Saturday morning, my time). Besides the play itself, these Iranian matches are always interesting to see the crowd involvement (100,000 strong) in Tehran. We rarely get glimpses at Iranians involved in peaceful celebrations, and it wasn’t to be the case on Saturday as Saudi Arabia defeated Iran 2-1.
Between errands and household activities, I also caught glimpses of:
Wales v Finland
Uruguay v Paraguay
Russia v Azerbaijan
Argentina v Venezuela
Northern Ireland v Poland
Japan v Bahrain
England v Slovakia
Germany v Liechetenstein
Netherlands v Scotland
Spain v Turkey
Egypt v Zambia
To add to those matches, I watched full recordings of the Mexico v Costa Rica and El Salvador v USA matches. Throw in the aforementioned WPS debut match between Los Angeles and Washington and the MLS match pitting the Chicago Fire and DC United and you could say I had a full plate of the sport over the past few days (and little sleep).
While it was great fun to watch so many international stars in action for their home countries, it would be remiss to not mention the tragic incident in the Ivory Coast. 19 people died and 132 were injured during a stampede at the Ivory Coast v Malawi match.
While there are conflicting reports that place the blame upon ticket less fans trying to get into the 35,000 seat stadium or upon police using tear gas to control the crowd, it’s clear that this was another terrible situation where there was inadequate planning for such a high profile match. No fan should ever have to fear that death or serious injury will be the price they have to pay to attend a match, not even those thugs who thrive on and seek out violence.
With another round of WC qualifiers taking place this Wednesday (including South Korea v North Korea), I’m sure that fans throughout the world will pray for those who lost their lives over the weekend and hope that this type of tragedy will never be repeated. It’s incumbent on FIFA and all the FAs worldwide to address this issue once and for all.