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Back in the heady days of the Republic of Ireland’s “glorious” run at Italia ’90 — fair enough, the team reached the last eight but did so without winning a single game in 90 minutes — it practically amounted to treason to question the side’s approach or not to be fully supportive of “the boys in green”.
The one pundit who did go against the national zeitgeist, Eamon Dunphy, was temporarily banished from his role with the state broadcaster RTÉ. He dared to criticise the Irish performance after a drab 0-0 draw with Egypt.
He wasn’t really wrong with what he said but the country didn’t want to hear such harsh truths in the flood of bonhomie and giddy excitement that a first-ever World Cup appearance swept in.
Don’t rock the boat, baby!
This was pre-Celtic Tiger Ireland. Much poorer and, it could be said, more innocent times. The nation badly needed a pick-me-up and Jack Charlton’s heroes delivered that (some people have even attributed it to playing an important part in the economic boom that was to follow). Clear-headed, unbiased analysis wasn’t wanted.
Nowadays, however, it’s pretty much a national pastime to be critical of the Republic of Ireland soccer team. It could even be said that some of it is over-the-top.
Nonetheless, as a nation matures, its people, in most cases, are better equipped to carry out some introspection, as difficult as it may be.
Looking at Colombia from a self-governing perspective, it’s older than the Republic of Ireland. Yet in many aspects, it hasn’t quite mastered the art of self-criticism.
This can be seen clearly enough in the soccer (or football if you will) world, for the beloved Selección. Now I’ve never really believed in the impartial reporter malarkey, especially when it comes to sports commentary, but you’d like to think that such professionals could at least try to bring a semblance of balance to proceedings. Not here in Colombia.
The lads and lassies commentating and analysing on Colombian games see things solely through yellow-coloured (or blue or red when the side is playing in its alternative strip) glasses. Their heavily-biased approach only adds further fuel to the fire of an already highly-strung watching public. Win, lose or draw, all sense of realism is lost.
“It was the euphoria that led me to stab you. Que pena!”
Take the opening, and fully merited, Copa América win over Argentina. Yes, the Argys have a number of individuals of truly world-class standard. Yet, the reality is, the collective has been much less than the sum of its parts for a couple of years now.
Their form of late against fellow South American teams, for one, has been patchy to say the least. That should be factored into any proper analysis of Colombia’s victory. However, on the whole here, it’s not.
This isn’t to say that it was a “nothing win” for Colombia, not at all. You can make a case for them to go far. Colombia’s performance was as solid as what we’ve seen thus far. But let’s just take it game by game for now, keep things in perspective.
Going backwards, at speed
Of course, a country losing the run of itself over football “success” is harmless really, save for the odd violent incident that happens post-match. (“Oops, it was the euphoria that led me to stab you. Que pena!”).
In politics and the general running of the country, on the other hand, overlooking facts, ignoring certain obvious signs that things may not be as you’re saying they are, that’s a recipe for disaster. For more balanced commentators on Colombia, there’s a feeling that the country’s on the slide (two years ago, in Colombia’s comedown?, I touched on some of these challenges).
The right-leaning president, Iván Duque, not quite a year in the post, hasn’t done much to steady the ship. On the contrary, for many observers, things are in reverse.
There is a theory that keeping the country on the precipice suits certain powerful interests. One wouldn’t want to unlock Colombia’s great potential for the masses or those of a different ilk. A “jobs for the boys” kind of approach. Considering this land’s history, you’d have to say there might be something to that.
But hey, as long as La Selección keeps on winning, everything’s wonderful, isn’t it?
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