The Last Airbender
By Subendran Ravindran
The World Cup is over and the soccer season is about to start in England and the rest of Europe are also preparing. Lets face it, we would love to say it was a wonderful World Cup and I was craving for it. I had great expectations, I was still having hopes of getting back the holy grail of soccer glory that Brazil served up in 1970 in Mexico or the last spectacle of a fantastic World Cup that we have yet to see in my eyes since ironically in Mexico too in 1986. 1982 the sweet summer of Spain would have been romantic too…God I would even settle for a vintage 1998 France or 1994 USA World Cup which threw up some excitement, but no nothing came and on July 11 2010 I waited for a better serving and a last one. I was hungry so I expected something to fill my guts, but though Spain were the better team (we hear that a lot now days when we see a boring match) nothing spectacular happened apart from the Dutch turning into Mr. Hyde in the final.
There was one last hope, a semblance of dignity and pride that soccer belongs to the good guys, it came when a certain Diego Forlan (photo) showed that in quiet confidence you can still do the business and show the world what you are made of, Cristiano Ronaldo please take note. Forlan could have been a tennis pro and I guess soccer is glad they have him, Forlan could have been a Wimbledon winner if he took up tennis, but we will never know.
What is incredible about the Diego Forlan story is that from humble beginnings he rose up to play for Manchester United and after a not so successful two seasons he was declared a flop and was loaded off to Spanish club Villareal. In Uruguay he played for Penarol and Danubio before going to Argentinian giants Independiente and from there lots of glory was expected of him when he was signed for Manchester United.
He played there for two seasons 2003-04,04-05 though he was not so prolific for the Red Devils he scored some vital goals for United. He scored in the last few minutes against Chelsea a stunning volley that made the United fans go wild and who can forget the stunning two goals he scored in the 2-1 win against rivals Liverpool at Anfield?
He did not deliver the goods or goals regularly for United and was even nicknamed Forlorn he signed for Villareal in 2004 and what happened after that baffles and still baffles United fans all over the world. Forlan did not go to Real Madrid or Barcelona, but Villareal a small club. He won the top scorer award that season in Spain and also won the European Golden Boot award where he shared this with Thierry Henry of Arsenal at that time.
This eventually led Manchester United to do some soul searching and when they sold Giuseppe Rossi to Villareal, they had a stipulation in the contract that they can buy him back and United were given the first option to do so. Meanwhile Forlan was set for bigger things and everybody expected him to move to Barcelona, again Forlan made a surprise move and this time it was Atletico Madrid in 2007. Observers thought this is where Forlan will slowly retire and go away quietly instead in 2008 Forlan struck gold again winning the Spanish league top scorer award again and the European Golden Boot award again.
It got sweeter this year just before the World Cup when he scored the winning goal for Atletico to win the Europa League beating Fulham in the final. In this World Cup he picked up the Golden Ball as the best player. He went on about his business without complaining and he showed character unlike his team mate Luis Suarez who made Uruaguay the villains when he used his hand and stopped the ball from crossing the goal line against Ghana for the Ghanians not to score.
Forlan was not just a goalscorer, but he was the play-maker rolled into one and his stunning goal against Germany for the third place play-off brought some magic back to the World Cup. In the last kick of that match he nearly scored from a free-kick and many neutrals were cheering for him.
He stood out in this Uruguay team and in some ways he reminded me of that great Uruguyan player Enzo Francescoli who was that lone marvel of a player for that disastrous Uruguayan team in that 1986 World Cup. They were shamed by Denmark 6-1 and played listlessly against Scotland and Germany.
He was still a shining light for a player called Zinedine Zidane who mimicked his style and even called his son Enzo after the Uruguyan icon. Perhaps it is unfair to compare that Uruguyan team in 1986 with this team that reached the semi-final, but Forlan mastered the ball the famous jabulani that was the talk of the town in South Africa. While many players are bought and sold and news about them come and ago and even their babies get the coverage, Diego Forlan just came and went like a shooting star, but sweet smell of success is still with him and this trail, my guess is he will still stay at Atletico Madrid and in some ways it will be nice to see him not touched by the commercialism of the soccer world, he still manages to elude the big clubs after Manchester United and yet deliver success at the highest level. The master of the Jabulani, the last airbender will after all be playing in the home of the world champions if he still stays in Spain and
Diego Forlan has definitely come full circle and there just might be a “Zidane” watching somewhere.