A game of two halves

It’s the first match of The World Cup. Team A and Team B are playing.

Within the first minute, a player from Team A does a spectacular dive in the penalty area and rolls around in apparent agony, holding his foot.

The Ref approaches.

“What happened?” He said

The team A player said: “He tried to break my ankle with an illegal sliding tackle!” as he pointed to a player from team B.

“But I was a hundred metres away from you!”protested the Team B player.

None the less, the referee awarded a penalty to Team A. The crowds in the stadium howled, it was so unfair.

Team A scored and ran behind the goal to enjoy the reaction of their ecstatic fans. The player who had been awarded the penalty, approached the Ref again.

“If that happens again, you’re going to have to deal with it MY way”

“Um…OK” said the Ref.

He knew the player was not only rich and influential, but his father was in charge of FIFA.

The match carried on, but a few minutes later, a player from team A was rolling on the pitch as if his entire leg had been severed without an anaesthetic.

The Ref approached, nervously.

The agonised player sat up, blinked through his tears of pain and said:

“He tried to break my leg and I didn’t even have the ball.”

The player concerned, spread out his arms, looked up to the sky (as they always do), gathered his team-mates around him as witnesses and said:

“I was no-where near him.”

The fans were whistling and getting angry at this delay in the game, the physio was fussing around the injured player with his magic sponge and, as usual, the suspected broken leg was miraculously healed and,with a slight grimace, the team A player ran off up the pitch.

“See! I didn’t touch him!” protested the accused player from Team B.

The Ref was about to blow his whistle so the game could continue, but the captain of Team A tapped him on the shoulder.

“It’s MY rules now” he growled.

“Remember?”

He was right in the referee’s face. The Ref looked to his linesmen for support, but they had turned away.

“What do you want?” He whispered.

“I’ll deal with it.” Said the Captain.

He went over to the accused player, wrapped his right leg around his, then pushed him forward. There was an audible crack as his shin bone broke.

Nobody could believe what had just happened. But they did nothing.

There wasn’t a physio to come on for the player, so his team-mates carried him off the pitch as a substitute was hurriedly readied.

As you can imagine, the first half continued in such a fashion and Team A annihilated Team B while constantly accusing them of cheating.

The Ref was so shocked and in awe of Team A, that he turned a blind eye (it’s an important skill they teach at the Referee academy).

The half time whistle was a relief for everyone. Especially Team B and their fans.

They discussed how they were going to deal with the appalling behaviour of Team A and whether they could get FIFA to ban them from the tournament. Surely people all over the world could see what they were doing?

The Players from Team B reluctantly returned to the pitch. Due to the high level of injuries, they had used up all their substitutes and knew that they couldn’t lose another man, especially as Team A were 4 goals up.

They switched ends. As Team B tried to get in position for kick-off, each were approached by Team A players.

“This is OUR end of the pitch” the Team A players said.

“But it’s the second half, we change ends, it’s the rules!” The Team B players replied.

“Not any more, you don’t” said the players of team A.

Team B, excluding the goal keeper, were corralled into a corner of the pitch by their own goal and surrounded by menacing Team A players. They couldn’t move.

The Ref was now nowhere to be seen. He had left the pitch.

The Linesmen watched from the sidelines.

The Team B fans were silent.

The Team A fans shouted threats at them and began throwing things.

The Team A striker took shots at goal again and again, but rather than scoring, he aimed the ball at the goalkeeper’s face.

Eventually, the final whistle blew. On the dot of 90 minutes. Not a second allocated for injury time.

The score was Team A 36 – Team B 0.

Team A was Israel, Team B, Palestine. The Ref was American and the linesmen were Europeans.

Think of Gaza as you watch the World Cup Final tonight. They’re playing for their lives.

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