Stereotypes still alive and kicking in football

BERNE - Major clubs like to present themselves as multinational melting pots where Ivorians, Argentines, Brazilians, Germans and the Dutch live in perfect harmony but, as Sir Alex Ferguson's "typical Germans" remark showed, national stereotypes live on in football.

The British still believe that diving and badgering the referee are foreign inventions, judging by the Manchester United manager's view of the incident which led to his Brazilian full-back Rafael being sent off in Wednesday's Champions League match against Bayern Munich

"Young boy, bit of inexperience. They got him sent off," he said, apparently forgetting the number of times under his stewardship that United players have run into media criticism at home for seemingly bullying referees.

"Everyone sprinted towards the referee - typical Germans. You cannot dispute that, they are like that."

The Germans may have been the victims of stereotyping this time - Ferguson having overlooked that Bayern's line-up included an Argentine, Frenchman, Croatian and two Dutchman - but last month, they were dishing out similar comments.

Germany captain Michael Ballack made no secret of what he thought of Argentine players the day before the two countries met in a friendly in Munich.

"They know all the tricks and secrets," he said. "Together with their quality, it's the way they understand football. They have the full repertoire.

"In character, we're very different from the South Americans and that's no secret. Perhaps it's something they learn from their childhood, it's part of the game and you have to take it into account when you play them."

Last month also saw Gerardo Pelusso, coach of Universidad de Chile, label the Brazilians as schemers.

"They know when to laugh, when to give a little kiss to the cameras, how to make your life impossible when you play in Brazil, how to make themselves out as the nice guys and how to be afraid when it suits them," he told Chilean media.

It was all prompted by Brazilian club Flamengo's reluctance to visit his team for a Libertadores Cup match in Santiago, three weeks after the massive earthquake that shook southern Chile, killing hundreds.

Pelusso felt Flamengo were trying to use the situation to their advantage and get the game switched to a neutral venue.


Pelusso is Uruguayan - a country whose players still have to live with a reputation for being hatchet men and injury-feigners thanks mainly to the antics of their team in the World Cup 24 years ago.

The Brazilian media, in particular, openly talk about Uruguayan "catimba" - a combination of gamesmanship, time-wasting and provocation all rolled into the same word - whenever the two sides meet.

Yet if the same tactics are employed by Brazilian teams, which they often are, the more complimentary term "malandragem" or "cunning" is used.

The British media also like to take the moral high ground, even today harping on about Diego Maradona's Hand of God goal from the 1986 World Cup and portraying Scotland as victims of Uruguayan savagery at the same event.

Yet they overlook the brutal treatment Maradona received during the tournament, including the England match, when he was frequently stopped in his tracks by ferocious and ruthless tackling.

Scottish memories seem to somehow stop at a point in time nine years before the Uruguay match with their team qualifying for the 1978 World Cup with the help of a handball which was arguably even more blatant than Maradona's

Replays clearly showed Scotland forward Joe Jordan punching the ball in the opponents' penalty area during their decisive qualifier against Wales, yet the Scots were awarded a penalty which they converted and set them up for a 2-0 win.

Unlike Maradona, Jordan, who kissed his fist as the referee pointed to the spot, escaped with almost no criticism.

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