or, “Football without hacking is no fun” as my friend Manolo Vilches used to say. Or maybe it’s “Football without hitting isn’t sexy” ?
Hard to translate better, the word “hostia” was one of the first ones I learned when I went abroad. Common slang in Spain, it literally means “host” as in the wafer that’s given at communion. From there to ‘give someone the host’ evolved to mean to strike someone. Imagine a Brooklyn “you want the host? I got your host, right here” type of translation. And “mola” was 70s slang for appeal. If you said it to a person, it meant you found them attractive. Maybe like our old term “dig”?
What Manolo meant is that football is a physical game, a contact sport. The edge between a solid tackle and a violent foul can be so thin that it becomes imperceptible for the officials. In any hotly disputed game, that means there will be some good tackles that will be whistled as fouls and some fouls that defenders will get away with. Is it fair that some of these calls and non-calls will go against you?
It isn’t fair, but it is equal, and it makes the game exciting. As a player, nothing gets your attention better (and blood hotter) than a good kick in the shins. And, per Manolo, that was where the excitement lay. A hard slide tackle, banging bodies competing for a header, shouldering someone off the ball: that’s game on. That’s exciting football. Pain is soccer’s wasabi.
This is where another PCA concept comes in, identifying controllable and uncontrollable elements of the game .
Today the USA made an incredible recovery in the second half of their match against Slovenia, a tiny country with some very big players. As with almost any match with a big team against a smaller one, the refereeing becomes a critical factor. The USA players were pushed, held, tripped and kicked all through the game and the Malian referee chose to overlook the majority of it while nullifying what would have been the USA’s winning goal for an invisible infraction.
Where our boys fell short is in handling their reaction to the events of the second half. By allowing themselves to be pulled into the unjust calls and railing against them, I think they lost opportunities to take control of the game. It’s easy to keep your cool when things are going your way and the true challenge is during moments like today’s.
The second half had an atmosphere normally seen in the WWF. The USA, as good guys, played small and cleanly. The tall, burly Slovenians played the bad guys and did everything short of hitting Landon Donovan with a folding chair while the ref’s back was turned. It was violent, hotly contested and filled with injustice as the officials let the Slovenians get away with murder.
There were hostias. The game was exciting. Manolo must be rubbing his hands together and chuckling somewhere.