Heart-Shaped Box (Inside: Another Heart)
By Hua Hsu
I'm watching ESPN and Alexi Lalas, whose velvety scolds must surely count among the World Cup's lowlights, just invoked a distinction between his "human heart" and his "soccer heart." A true Jeffersonian, that dude. The former American defender and rocker inna Toad the Wet Sprocket stylee was commenting on this morning's matches, which could have seen South Africa go through at Mexico's expense. South Africa may have been the people's choice, Lalas' proper, heart-shaped heart admitted, but that Jabulani in his chest, slowly inflating and deflating, wanted to see just what this talented Mexico side could do in the knockout stages.
In the end, Mexico is moving on, which is probably just about right. But Bafana Bafana proved today that their dour showing against Uruguay was an aberration: this was a team with skill (at least when Steven Pienaar was properly deployed...), a bit of creativity and heart. How far can this last, intangible quality take you? How does this passion serve you in a sport that occasionally resembles geometry? It might seem a ridiculous underestimation to those weaned on American sports, where spirit alone seems to summon teams from the edge of abyss, or so we're told. When described by experts, the raw materials for footballing success all seem so tangible by comparison. A successful team is well-trained; it has good organization in the back, width on the pitch, pace; it maintains its shape; a manager obsesses over tactics and squad selection; etc. (In contrast, I was amused when match commentator Ian Darke observed that the French team resembled "characters in search of a plot." Of course they did.)