Now that World Cup 2006 has almost finished the first rounds of group tournaments, I can hardly conceal my disappointment over the performance of the so-called strong teams, which have taken with them the high expectations of countless fans from home and abroad.
Don't get me wrong - I'm not talking about the result. There are so many uncontrollable variables that determine whether a team should win or lose. All I am looking for is respect - respect your opponent, respect your fans, respect the game, and respect yourself.
Sadly, most of the strong teams out there have not demonstrated this essential element of fair play - the motto of World Cup and Olympic Games. Die-hard fans may remind me that the most outstanding members of the strong teams are often over-drafted by national leagues or regional championships. But as far as I could see, there should be some other reasons for their poor performance. Arrogance and complacence are undoubtedly among the most obvious. Tell me which top team in the premier leagues would be satisfied with one sheer goal in the first few minutes and then retract to a defensive strategy for the rest of the game?
Korea was as disappointing as many others in their first appearance in World Cup 2006, especially in the first half. Yet, fortunately, they managed to return to the never-give-up Korea Reds mode in the match against France, which dramatically ended with a 1-1 draw.
Japan was even worse. I watched the Japanese playing against the Croatians last night. Words can't really tell how disappointed I was. Japan was no longer Japan of Kazuyoshi Miura some 10 years ago, when Japan was still struggling to become a prominent team of Asia. J-League was only fledging at that time, and no one really saw Japan as a world-class team. Now that Japan was clearly a football leader in Asia, their performance was bitterly disappointing. Everyone seemed indifferent and refused to run as energetically as they should have. Only goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi managed to keep up his standard and spared a Croatian goal from a penalty kick.
Ironically, some of those from more humble origins gave their very best to enjoy the game, and made each of their appearances a dignified and unforgettable moment for not only the players themselves but also the football history of their country.
One good recent example was Ghana. I just managed to watch the tournament on and off, but their two goals against the Czechs were really impressive. One can hardly hold back their applause having witnessed Ghana's fantastic team efforts.
Another example would be Trinidad and Tobago. They lost one game to England, and had a 0-0 draw with Sweden. But their impressive performance and dedication in turn earned them respect and recognition among football fans across the world.
Come on, guys - Show your respect to everyone by giving your very best. It is as simple as that. Otherwise you will soon find yourself abandoned in contempt and remorse, just like the French and Ronaldo.