I watched most of the Greece Russia without much attachment. I had no dog in this fight, not even a flea.
I’m an Arsenal fan and couldn’t even sustain enough animosity toward Arshavin. I didn’t really blame him. He hadn’t shown any inclination to cover an opposing player or tackle anyone since 2008, maybe 2007, so it was my fault that I kept expecting him to. He had cost us many a game but it was Wenger’s fault that he kept faith with the Russian. One of these days, an epiphany and Arshavin would track back. Nope. Never happened.
I usually enjoyed rooting for the underdog, but the novelty of parking Greek buses in front of goal dissipated in 2004. I cheered for them then, but please, no more.
Luckily, the Greeks are less cynically defensive than Chelsea during the Champions League.
The game was interesting, even entertaining and I watched dispassionately. Karagounis scored, and I figured the Greek team would now throw the ignition key away.
I began to answer emails.
Karagounis dribbled by the Russian defender Ignashevich and went down. Penalty? No. The referee booked Karagounis for diving. Ho hum, but then I saw Karagounis’s reaction.
Oh. My. God.
His face moved me, awakened something dormant. I was now involved. I was home. Back in Beirut, or back in the Lebanese mountains, in the small village where I’m from. Among my people.
That look. It is ours. Greeks, Lebanese, Southern Italians, Palestinians. Children of a capricious God.
The horror. How could the referee do this to us? I was now rooting for the Greeks.
Now there are many players who are stunned every time the referee doesn’t call a foul whenever they are tackled. Notice Ronaldo or Robben when a defender takes the ball away. They look at the referee with utter disbelief. They pout. They’re disgusted. I can’t believe you, a referee, didn’t see this. Who was the idiot who gave you a whistle?
That wasn’t Karagounis. Oh, no. For him that was a conspiracy. The powers that be were out to get him. I could identify. He knew who gave that referee a whistle: His Horribleness, Red Satan. Beelzebub gave that referee a whistle and specifically told him to go after Karagounis. Maybe it was God himself who’s out to get him. I mean it was a penalty. Someone must have put a curse on Karagounis, the evil eye.
Malocchio, or as Google would translate it: κακό μάτι
Why him? Why him? Because he’s Greek and all these things happen to them, to us. It was the same with his father and his father’s father all the way back to his ancestor Acteon. She turned him into a stag? What did he do? He was minding his own business and no, no, no, they’re doing it to him again.
Remember Abraham and his son. Why?
You want to see that look again. Rent any Pasolini movie with Anna Magnani. Oh God, how could you do these things to her. Attend any Palestinian funeral. Look at the face of an Italian’s husband caught philandering. How could God do this to him? A Lebanese man stuck with the bill at lunch. Che disastro! My aunt breaking a nail.
You would know exactly what I’m talking about had you watched with an Italian when Baggio missed that penalty—hell, Italians believe Satan was involved every time Italy exited the tournament.
Yes, life is so not fair.
I cheered for the Greeks. Ecstatic when they won.
Yeah, kick those Russians out.
Take that Arshavin. I bet it was you who was supposed to cover Karagounis when he scored. I put a curse on you.
Rabih Alameddine is a novelist. His most recent is An Unnecessary Woman.