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Last Updated: Monday, 24 July 2006, 07:35 GMT 08:35 UK
Tim Vickery column
By Tim Vickery
South American football reporter

From the other side of the Atlantic the English obsession with pouring scorn on the practice of diving looks like an excess of moralism.

In South America diving is hardly a talking point. A little bit of gamesmanship is widely accepted.

Portugal winger Cristiano Ronaldo
Portugal's Ronaldo was accused of gamesmanship at the World Cup

Indeed, some would argue that the possibility of occasionally tricking the referee, of getting away with something, is a minor factor in the game's popularity in this part of the world.

It all goes to highlight one of the most fascinating aspects of football.

Different cultures see the game through different perspectives. Football is a universal language which is spoken with many accents.

But the game does not always get the credit it deserves for bringing people together.

In the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland, Brazil were worried when they came up against Hungary in the quarter-finals, because they were playing the best team in the world.

By way of motivation the players were whipped up into a nationalistic frenzy in the dressing room.

Each of them was ordered to kiss the country's flag, and they were told to go out and avenge the deaths that Brazil suffered in Italy during the Second World War.

Quite what Hungary had to do with this was not clear, but it certainly made the Brazilians go down fighting. They initiated the infamous 'Battle of Berne', with tackles flying on the pitch and fists flying at the final whistle.

When two top teams meet nowadays such a level of ignorance about the opposition would be impossible.

Members of both sides are team-mates with major European clubs, and have frequently forged firm friendships.

Amongst the most striking images of the recent World Cup were the scenes of opposing players chatting happily in the tunnel before taking the field.

In the event, the most powerful image from Germany 2006 turned out to be Zinedine Zidane's attack on Marco Materazzi.

Perhaps, though, this says as much about the power of today's media as it does about standards of behaviour on the field. A few years ago, before there were more cameras than players, the incident might never have been picked up.

In the 1970 semi-final Pele threw an elbow which laid out a Uruguayan defender - even his strike partner Tostao said that he should have been sent off.

But he got away with it - which would almost certainly not happen today. The incident would be shown from hundreds of different angles, the press would kick up a fuss and Pele would be forced to miss the final.

Paraguay keeper Justo Villar limped out of the World Cup after 10 minutes
Paraguay's Justo Villar suffered an agonising injury against England

The modern media delight in discovering that the global stars can also have feet of clay. But there are so many other stories that are not given the emphasis they deserve.

England's first opponents in Germany were Paraguay, whose keeper Justo Villar suffered an injury inside the first 10 minutes which ended his World Cup there and then.

Years of dreaming, months of preparation were cruelly interrupted by the rip of a muscle.

But at least he went home with a souvenir.

After the game, England goalkeeper Paul Robinson sent his gloves over to the Paraguayan dressing room as a present for his opposing number, a gesture which left Villar deeply touched.

Those gloves are a handy symbol of all the international friendships which football has helped forge.



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12 Jul 05 |  World Football


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