Free Kicks

  • Share
  • Read Later
BENGT CHRISTIAN/AP

Fredrik Ljungberg (right) and Olof Mellberg get shirty at a Sweden team practice

There is no 'F' in 'Team'
Hooliganism is not just for fans anymore. Uptight players are resorting to beastly behavior too, and against their own sides. Roy Keane, the potty-mouthed Irish captain (Ret.), led the way with a lurid team-meeting harangue that caused manager Mick McCarthy to send him home. Rising to meet this challenge, Spanish idol Raul exchanged angry words with assistant coach Carlos Lorenzana. Even the icy Scandinavians are surrendering to their primal urges. Swedes Freddie Ljungberg and Olof Mellberg got into a scuffle in front of live TV cameras during a training session. The Danes mounted their own smackdown, a three-way rumpus involving Jesper Gronkjaer, Stig Tofting and Thomas Graveson. Team official Jim Stjerne-Hansen told reporters afterwards: 'These players need a kindergarten teacher to sort them out.' And longer nap times.
—By Aparisim Ghosh

[an error occurred while processing this directive] Doctor, Doctor
A virulent outbreak of gimpy footballers turned sports pages into anatomical journals during the World Cup run-up. David Beckham's tender left metatarsal (that's a foot bone) was first under the microscope, but Beckham's fast-healing foot has been upstaged lately by the inflamed left thigh of Zinedine Zidane. His torn leg muscle, an injury incurred during a friendly against co-hosts South Korea, means the French superstar will sit out his country's first two games. He joins a pre-Cup E.R. crowded with fallen warriors, including Germany's Michael Ballack, Italy's Filippo Inzaghi, and England's David Seaman and Kieron Dyer. By conservative estimates, the total value of damaged goods on crutches for the World Cup exceeds $200 million. Most got hurt on the field, but in a final proof that the foot bone is not connected to the head bone, Spanish goalie Santiago CaNizares was showering in his hotel on the eve of the team's departure for Korea when he tried to catch a falling bottle of cologne with his foot. The bottle smashed, slicing through tendons in his big toe.
—By Aparisim Ghosh and Jane Walker

Illegal Use of Hands
Ghosts of scandals past returned to haunt the World Cup last week, when Senegalese midfielder Khalilou Fadiga was accused of shoplifting a gold necklace worth $240 in Taegu City, South Korea. If the hairs on the back of your neck are standing up, it's because you recall in 1970, en route to the Mexico World Cup, English skipper Bobby Moore was arrested in Bogota, Colombia, for—stealing a gold necklace. Moore, one of the greatest defenders in the history of the game, was arrested, released and endured a two-year investigation before finally being cleared of the charge. Fadiga was not arrested, although the police are investigating the case; the shopkeeper reportedly declined to press charges. Even if they don't belong to you, gold chains must be lucky. At the '70 Cup, Moore shrugged aside the controversy and played some of the finest football of his life. And Fadiga contributed to Senegal's stunning upset of favored France in the opening Cup match.
—By Aparisim Ghosh

Dog Eat Dog
Turkey's team opted during the cup to play keep away from kimchee, kkakdugi and kalbi—the names not of Korean strikers but of Korean foods. Several tons of friendlier fare were waiting for the Turks in their camp in Korea's Kang Dong district, including container loads of onion and garlic. Imported chefs have been offering the homesick lads ladle after ladle of stewed chickpeas and the national dish, haricot beans (thankfully, antacid is not on the list of proscribed drugs). Spain, too, decided to go easy on the local cuisine. Team members rescued a puppy from a dog-meat stall in an Ulsan market. The fortunate canine, named 'Camachín' after Spain's coach José Antonio Camacho, is now the unofficial team mascot instead of a menu item.
—By Andrew Finkel and Jane Walker