MICHAEL MOYNIHAN: Fifa’s dizzy attitude to concussion danger

Sorry about that World Cup jinx, everybody.

No sooner had I mentioned last week that it was a very good tournament than the whole thing just swirled away down the plughole, didn’t it? I mean, Argentina-Netherlands? Yuck. Not exactly 1978 all over again.

Apologies again. I didn’t know my voodoo powers were that strong these days.

On the plus side, there was some good emerging from Argentina-Netherlands: Javier Mascherano’s injury.

Not that one: Twitter almost exploded with the delight you associate with pre-teen schoolboys when it emerged that the Argentina player had suffered an injury to his anus. As Alan Partridge would say, we’re better than that (though maybe not a lot better). I refer rather to the visible distress Mascherano suffered during the Dutch game after a fair clash of heads with Georginio Wijnaldum.

Mascherano didn’t look too healthy afterwards, which led a very high number of Twitter diagnoses of concussion.

Though clearly Dr Twitter is as reliable as Dr Google, and a certificate from either wouldn’t cover a few days off work for you, the substantive point was well made by quite a few people about Mascherano’s injury, namely that he shouldn’t have continued.

The fact that he was able to contribute pretty significantly to Argentina’s eventual victory isn’t conclusive proof of anything. As has been said before, Michael Schumacher was able to talk away to his companions after suffering his skiing accident a few months ago — it was only later that the damage became apparent and he went into a coma.

Although there’s clearly some dissatisfaction with some of the rugby protocols for dealing with concussion, it’s equally clear that it’s a sport which takes the issue seriously — witness the outrage over the Florian Fritz controversy recently in Toulouse-Racing Metro game, when the centre seemed unfit to continue.

That’s one of the issues with Fifa’s treatment of concussion, though: that it’s seen as more of a rugby issue, perhaps, and such a rarity in soccer that there’s an inclination to see concussion as so occasional an issue that across-the-board legislation may seem unnecessary.

But while it’s true that a game of percussive impact like rugby — or American football, come to that — needs to deal with concussion because it’s a recurring problem rather than a once-a-season consideration, there’s potential for trouble when a sport is largely ignorant of the seriousness of concussion.

Soccer isn’t the only sport with that attitude, and Mascherano’s case should serve to concentrate in minds on the matter. Not with Fifa, as at the top level the assortment of creeps and corner boys who run the organisation can’t be trusted to lie straight in the bed.

However, for team coaches and trainers all over the world, at all levels of the game, the message is a good deal clearer: concussion is a good deal more serious than a pain in the bum.

Di Stefano the doyen of dual citizenship

I had only mentioned Inverting the Pyramid last week when one of the players mentioned in it passed away, at the age of 88.

Alfredo Di Stefano died during the week to huge mourning in Real Madrid, the club with which he was deeply identified, and kudos to the person who suggested during the week that the 7-1 scoreline between Germany and Brazil was an homage to the goalfests of Di Stefano’s playing career.

For me, though, Di Stefano single-handedly sums up a whole era of dapper South Americans throwing in their lot(s) with a variety of European nations, probably puffing on a Balkan Sobranie even as they signed their Spanish/Italian/French contract, agreeing to swap nationalities as part of the deal, brushing the cigarette ash from their double-breasted zoot suit as they headed back to the suite in the hotel to ponder what to do with the Argentinian/Colombian/Brazil currency they brought along in that alligator-skin valise...

The irony is that even while I see Diego Costa is being maligned as emblematic of the problems with Brazilian football, by decamping to play for Spain, the centre-forward is only following the template set by Di Stefano all those years ago.

PS — if this were a school assignment I’d be demanding extra credit for not describing the player once as Giuseppe Di Stefano...

Making an entrance on big stage

Did we miss an obvious trick with our Páirc Uí Chaoimh supplement last week? (What’s this ‘we’ business — everyone else who worked on same).

In the old bowl yesterday, observers saw a decent Munster minor hurling final, with Waterford refusing to go gently in the face of a stern challenge from a Limerick side surfing the early good vibes coming from their supporters in the stadium.

It brought me back to one of the great displays in the stadium, by a teenage Paul Flynn back in the 1992 Munster minor final.

Sometimes a minor comes to prominence because he’s a bit bigger, or a shade maturer, than his peers.

Not so with Flynn, who sprang forth fully-formed as a top senior forward — but not as a giant among 18-year-olds. Come to think of it, only four years earlier Maurice Fitzgerald gave a bit of an exhibition for Kerry in a Munster final while just out of minor ranks, getting into double figures from frees and play.

Great displays by those yet to reach the age of 20.

Maybe for the commemorative supplement to open the new place?

Losing my train of thought

Every now and again, I get the train to Dublin, and it’s a tricky proposition in one regard: getting the appropriate reading material.

You need something interesting, but not too involved, because there’s always a nice old lady who wants to know when LIMERICK JUNCTION IS COMING UP, MY DAUGHTER IS MEETING ME THERE AT ELEVEN O’CLOCK.

You’re gripped by some narrative or other and then she, or someone else among the hundreds of fellow travellers, intrudes, you look up like the Good Samaritan that you are, and your train of thought is gone.

One book I enjoyed on the train a couple of years ago was The Fermata by Nicholson Baker, and over the weekend I learned that he has a couple of new books out.

I leave it to yourselves to head out and purchase The Fermata, as to give you any inkling of what it entails would only curtail the huge enjoyment that lies in your near future. I include my fandom here on the basis that just as there are quite a number of sportswriters you’d wish never again picked up a pen, Baker is definitely one scribe I would dearly love to read on any sport under the sun.


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