The Other Final

It feels like centuries ago, but it actually wasn't in the too-distant past where soccer was maybe my 5th or 6th favorite sport. I could actually name more than 2 people on my favorite American football team. I knew waaaaaay too many batting averages in baseball. Hockey was far and away my favorite sport, two labor battles ago (assuming the inevitable this offseason). Why the change, then?

Well, besides the action and strategy and all the rest of that, this is a pretty compelling reason. Well, not the documentary itself, but the simple idea and spirit behind the friendly match in question. As corrupt and vile as FIFA can be, sometimes it manages to step back from that, and really grasp firmly the whole idea behind this game. Let me explain.

In the summer of 2002, Brazil and Germany were about to face off in the World Cup Final. However, not too far from Japan, "The Other Final" took place before that. The world's two worst teams, 202nd-ranked Bhutan against dead-ass last 203rd-ranked Montserrat . I was able to see parts of this movie during commerical breaks on Raw (and, if I didn't do a match report of that very show for Wrestleline, I would have skipped Raw entirely. And, it was basically what you'd expect -- a profile of a poor Himalyan country compared to a profile of a poor Caribbean country devastated by a major volcanic eruption (if you follow the link, you'll see that their freaking CAPITAL is abandoned).

Bhutan won the game 4-0 (that had to have been a nightmare trip for the visitors...my theory on why it was so lopsided, anyway), and from the bits I saw, the quality of play was shockingly bad (not surprising given the contestants, but man, the 1st Bhutan goal was the worst effort from a goalkeeper I've seen in my life). Make no mistake...the best player on the pitch (Bhutan striker Wangyi Dorji) could *probably* make the subs' bench for an English Third Division side. But, none of that matters. Because of this sport, a mountain country in Asia can connect to a small Caribbean island, despite tremendous gaps in distance, culture, religion and skin color. Not only that, but officiating the match was the EPL's own Steven Bennett, adding a third radically-different element into the mix.

Many of the above sentiments have admittedly become somewhat cliched, especially given the fact that FIFA, while sometimes managing to find the point, are never afraid to pat themselves endlessly on the back for it. That said, call it silly or cliched or sacchrine, but the idea of Bhutanis and Montserratians connecting in any meaningful fashion -- just the sheer randomness and level of difference -- is something that I think is good and important and MEANS something. I feel sorry for someone who can't see the good in that.


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