I was going to wait until after the first round of matches to publish this, but the Weekly wants something for print this week, and now that USA has played its first match, I’m like, “OK!” The big news before the tournament started was Gianni Infantino’s cotton-headed ninny-muggins press conference where he slammed Western nations as hypocrites for criticizing Qatar just because the country killed four digits’ worth of migrant workers while building those stadiums. This alone would be appalling, but the Swiss-Italian FIFA president lost his marbles, stating, “I feel gay” not as a way of coming out (which would have been truly awesome) but to say that because he was bullied in school, he knows what it’s like to be a woman or disabled or one of those dead migrant workers. He also called himself “200 percent in charge” of the tournament. Then he put on a pair of dark glasses, said, “You will respect mah authoritah!,” and clubbed a sportswriter in the knee. I may have imagined that last bit. Let’s get to the questions.
Where does Infantino’s speech rank on the list of unhinged soccer press conferences?
It breaks the meter. The sport has given us Louis van Gaal (“We’re fucking shit”), Kevin Keegan (“I would love it if we beat ’em! Love it!”), Luciano Moggi (“They have murdered my soul!”), Joe Kinnear (“Which of you is Simon Bird? You’re a cunt”), and Dmitry Piterman (“In my dreams, I see a giant water buffalo charging endlessly through a vast wilderness”). Meanwhile, American sports have produced Jim Mora (“Playoffs?”), Rick Pitino (“Larry Bird is not walking through that door”), and Dennis Green (“They were who we thought they were!”) Infantino’s speech beats them all and even zooms past Kyrie Irving’s recent self-pitying, anti-Semitic pressers. Infantino is minimizing actual deaths, twice as many as killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks by some counts. But don’t worry. He understands how they feel because he used to have red hair and freckles. The worst thing I can say about this is, Infantino should have worked for the Trump administration.
Is he being roasted?
Is he ever! Even Infantino’s über-crooked predecessor Sepp Blatter is saying it was a mistake holding the World Cup in Qatar. When Ecuador’s early goal in the opening match was ruled out for the most marginal offside call I’ve ever seen, their fans rubbed their fingers together at FIFA executives, accusing them of taking bribes. Later, those same fans chanted, “¡Queremos cerveza!” in that direction. (On a related note, I think I like Ecuador’s fans.) The BBC has taken a lot of deserved flak for employing axe-grinding former players as commentators, but Gary Lineker, Alan Shearer, and Gary Neville all laid into the host nation for their human rights abuses. Also, Dua Lipa denied performing at the tournament’s opening ceremony — between her and Taylor Swift breaking Ticketmaster, female pop stars are our moral conscience now. Their male counterparts? Not so much. Jungkook of BTS did take the blood money and premiere a new song in Qatar. Morgan Freeman delivered a speech there, too. Infantino has promised that gay people will be safe there, but fans are having their rainbow gear confiscated and American soccer journalist Grant Wahl was arrested for wearing a rainbow T-shirt. To top it all off, Qatar’s actual soccer team looked like crap in a 2-0 loss to the weakest opposition in their group.
What is the moral of the story?
Don’t be a spokesman for a dictator, because eventually everyone will want to take a crap on you, and you’ll only have yourself to blame.
How should we feel about Team USA’s 1-1 draw to Wales?
Go ahead and feel let down. The Welsh introduced 6-foot-5 Keiffer Moore in the second half, and his height caused USA’s defense some problems, but our guys could well have escaped with the win if not for Walker Zimmerman’s needless foul on Gareth Bale that conceded the late penalty that gave the Dragons their equalizer. Granted, Bale generates fear in opposing defenses even in his diminished current form, and because USA has the youngest team at World Cup 2022, we should expect some errors and loss of composure. Still, this is two points dropped, and we’ll see if the Americans have reason to rue that come the end of the group stage.
When’s the next match?
It’s this Friday, when USA take on England, which knocked six goals past Iran in their opener. On the other hand, the Iranians scored two goals themselves, so our offense should be able to gain some traction against the Three Lions. Glass-half-full types will say, correctly, that England has never beaten USA at the World Cup. They’ll ignore the fact that the two countries have only met twice: USA’s historic upset win in 1950 and Rob Green’s howler gifting the Yanks a draw in 2010. Fox has had to divert resources from their NFL coverage to broadcast this winter World Cup, but the good news is that you won’t have to. The match takes place the day after the Thanksgiving football games. Enjoy the holiday!