Fate 1 – Footballer 0

The curse of the world cup has struck again. News today is that with 7 days left for kick off in South Africa, Rio Ferdinand and Didier Drogba, arguably among the bigger stars at the world cup are both ruled out through injury. Ferdinand picked up a knee injury on the first day of training in Rustenberg, that has definitely ruled him out of the world cup.

Meanwhile, a clash with Tanaka of Japan, in a warm up game saw the African Footaller of the Year and the Premiership’s leading goal scorer damage an arm and while it’s not confirmed yet, the chances are he’s out of the Cup as well.

There’s still a week to go, and there’s plenty of time for more shenanigans and awkward twists. Gareth Barry and Fernando Torres are still fighting end of season injuries, though it would be footballing sacrilege to put both of them into the same sentence! Ballack has already been ruled out of the cup. And you can bet there’ll be a few more mishaps.  David James has also been limping. Andrea Pirlo is another one who’s trying to shake off an injury in time for the kick off.  John Obi Mikel has already been ruled out after failing to recover from surgery in time. It’s worth noting that the number of injuries from EPL are significant. This could be, as my friend Ashok says, a result of the all action style of the EPL. I tend to agree with him. Of course, Drogba’s injury is more of a freak injury that could happen to anybody.

While we’re on the topic, let’s remember the patron saint of bizarre pre-world cup injuries – Santiago Canizares. He dropped a bottle of after-shave in his sink, shattered the glass, and a shard fell on his leg, slicing the tendon in his big toe, thereby missing the 2002 world cup.

Also worth noting that David James and Rio Ferdinand both have history in this area. Rio once injured himself “watching television” – he spent too long with his foot up on a coffee table and hurt the tendon in his calf. James, worryingly for a young man supposedly in his athletic prime, sprained his back reaching for the remote control!

Of course, it’s not just injuries, Roy Keane stormed out of the 2002 world cup because he had a bust up with Mick McCarthy! In the process he called Niall Quinn a coward as well.

Of course there’s a long list of players ruled out long before the start of the tournament. Michael Essien, David Beckham, Charlie Davis (US player who had a bad car accident).

One can only imagine the stoicism required to withstand this kind of disappointment. If you have a bad season or are out of form, you know the reason for not being selected. It’s a rational argument. Or if you missed out to a better player. But when you know you’re a confirmed starter, and have done all the hard work, to be undone by fate so cruelly. There’s no logic. Depending on your faith, you might take a fatalistic view “this is how it was supposed to be” or a more causal view and look back on your sins to see if they accounted for this divine retribution.

The song doing the rounds is “His name is Rio and he watches from the stands”. Talk about schadenfreude! At a time when scientists have created artificial life for the very first time, it’s a timely reminder that we are not always the masters of the universe we seek to be. Not even our own tiny little universes.

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