Ruud Gullit, the dreadlocked Dutch star who is one of international soccer’s most recognizable and charismatic figures, has allowed his ego to ruin his reputation and, possibly, the World Cup hopes of the Netherlands.
On Monday, three weeks before Holland’s first World Cup match, Gullit quit the team.
The reason, albeit unspoken, was Gullit’s continuing feud with Dick Advocaat, the Dutch coach.
That squabble appeared to have been patched up last week when Gullit ended a 13-month self-imposed exile from the Dutch team and agreed to play against Scotland.
The Netherlands won, 3-1, but Gullit, 31, was taken off at halftime and later criticized the team’s style of play and its tactics, something he had done before.
Little more than a year ago, after being substituted for in a World Cup qualifying game against England, Gullit quit the Dutch team in a huff, saying he would never again play for Advocaat.
But with the World Cup around the corner, Gullit, the European and world player of the year in 1987, relented and Holland’s already good chance of winning the tournament improved considerably.
So why did Advocaat take Gullit off at halftime against Scotland? Did he do so intentionally to test Gullit’s willingness to bow to his discipline? The answer might never be known. The effect, though, was clear.
“He has hurt us by leaving this way,” said Ronald Koeman, the Dutch captain. “It’s a slap in the face. The players were amazed.”
Holland might still win the World Cup, but the absence of Gullit will make for a less exciting team and a less interesting tournament.
And if the Dutch fail, it will be Gullit, not Advocaat, who will be blamed.
Germany’s surprise loss to Ireland on Sunday in Hanover has not been met with wild hysteria in either country. The defending world champions are not about to panic and the Irish are, well, the Irish.
“We wanted to leave Germany on a positive note, but the Irish showed how you can be successful with basic tactics,” said German Coach Berti Vogts, taking a not-so-subtle dig at Ireland’s unsophisticated kick-and-run style.
“It was not a good match. I expected the midfield to be better and to create more chances. But I’m happy that the defeat came today rather than on June 17 (when Germany opens the World Cup against Bolivia at Soldier Field in Chicago).”
Ireland’s coach, Jack Charlton, was equally calm about his team’s 2-0 victory, one that followed similar successes against the Netherlands and Bolivia:
“We’ve enjoyed the win, but we won’t make too much of it. It was a friendly and the game is 10 yards quicker when you get down to the real business.”
But at least six other coaches will have taken note of the result. Germany’s first-round opponents, Bolivia, South Korea and Spain, will have taken heart that the Germans can, indeed, be beaten.
Meanwhile, Italy, Mexico and Norway, Ireland’s opponents in the opening stage of the tournament, will be thinking twice about taking the Irish for granted.
That pathetic squabble about fences at three of the World Cup stadiums has taken a ludicrous turn.
Today, FIFA President Joao Havelange and General Secretary Joseph (Sepp) Blatter, along with Alan Rothenberg, the chairman and chief executive officer of World Cup USA 1994, will make a courtesy visit to the White House for a meeting with President Clinton.
According to reports, they will ask Clinton to intervene in the dispute that has pitted World Cup organizers against police and security officials in Washington, Dallas and Palo Alto.
All three cities insist on erecting fences--around the fields at RFK Stadium, the Cotton Bowl and Stanford Stadium--as a means of keeping fans from “invading the field.” Police in the three cities apparently regard all soccer fans as potential hooligans.
FIFA, on the other hand, wants this World Cup to be an example to the rest of the world that soccer can be played in peace if fans are well treated and not, to quote Blatter, “put in cages.”
The bottom line is that this matter, like so many others, should have been dealt with and resolved by U.S. World Cup organizers before the cities were awarded the games.
But World Cup organizers dropped the ball. Or couldn’t find it. Or lost it.
Given the multitude of other mistakes they have made over the past few years, this is hardly surprising.
Among the plethora of soccer magazines in the world, the one that stands out head and shoulders above the rest is Italy’s Guerin Sportivo.
Featuring more than 120 pages each week and covering the sport on a global basis, the magazine is one of the most widely read and respected in the world.
Guerin Sportivo’s articles and polls, therefore, are taken more seriously than most as an accurate indicator of trends in the game.
The latest poll will be particularly well received in Rio de Janeiro. According to the magazine, Brazil is the overwhelming favorite to win the World Cup. No fewer than 52 of 100 sportswriters surveyed chose the Brazilians as winners, 27 chose Italy and 11 selected Germany.
The rest of the votes were split among several countries.
After losses against France and Germany, Italy managed to get back on a winning track when it defeated Finland, 2-0, in Rome on goals by Giuseppe Signori and his Lazio teammate Pierluigi Casiraghi.
The Italians were never likely to be troubled by the Finns, who have not beaten them in 82 years. Look for Signori to have an impact in the World Cup. He has been the top goal scorer in the Italian League each of the past two seasons.
Gullit isn’t coming to America, but Roger Milla is.
Milla, the star of Cameroon’s surprisingly successful 1990 team in Italy, was included Monday on Cameroon’s World Cup ’94 squad.
At 42, he will easily be the oldest player in the tournament. He scored four goals in Italia ’90 to lead the Indomitable Lions into the quarterfinals.
FIFA will add 14 national federations to its ranks at its congress in Chicago in June. The additions will bring FIFA’s membership to 191 nations.
The 14 newcomers include seven former Soviet republics--Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan--as well as Djibouti, Dominica, the Cook Islands, Tonga and the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia.
The Czech Republic and Slovakia, formerly a single member as Czechoslovakia, will be granted separate affiliations to FIFA.
Colombia’s World Cup defense will need to be better than its World Cup security.
The team lost $30,000 worth of its World Cup uniforms while in transit through Cali. Some of the equipment allegedly already has begun showing up on the shelves in local stores.
Portuguese international midfielder Rui Barros, 28, has left Olympique Marseille in France and signed a four-year contract with his former club, FC Porto in Portugal. . . . Dutch defender Marciano Vink, who was traded from Ajax Amsterdam to Genoa for $2.7 million last year, is negotiating a return to Holland, where he will play for PSV Eindhoven. . . . Eindhoven, a former European champion, also has signed Belgian international striker Luc Nilis, 27, from Anderlecht. . . . Swedish defender Roger Ljung might sit out the World Cup after suffering a concussion and broken cheekbone in a collision with Denmark’s Thomas Helveg during a match in Copenhagen. . . . Ukrainian-born striker Sergei Yuran, who will play for Russia in the World Cup, has left Benfica in Portugal and signed a four-year contract with Arsenal of England. Terms were not disclosed. Earlier, the London club also signed Benfica’s Swedish midfielder, Stefan Schwarz, for $2.64 million.
More than 120,000 turned out in Lisbon’s Stadium of Light to celebrate Benfica’s 30th Portuguese championship. . . . Belgium’s World Cup goalkeeper, Michel Preud’homme, 35, will leave his Belgian club, Mechelen, and join Benfica next season. . . . Marco Antonio Etcheverry, the injured 23-year-old star of the Bolivian national team who has been sidelined for six months, has returned to play for his Chilean club team Colo Colo and still might make Bolivia’s World Cup roster. . . . Former Brazilian World Cup star and national team coach Paolo Roberto Falcao is now coach of the Japanese national team. . . . U.S. midfielder John Harkes missed the opportunity to return to England’s Premier League when his first division team, Derby County, lost to Leicester City in the promotion playoff final on Monday.
Ireland’s coach, Jack Charlton, has been given the Freedom of Dublin by city officials. Previous recipients of the honor include President Kennedy and Nelson Mandela. . . . Diego Maradona visited the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem Monday along with other members of the Argentine national team. . . . Scotland’s Glasgow Rangers lost their bid for an unprecedented second consecutive “triple” of Scottish League championship, Scottish Cup and League Cup victories when they were upset, 1-0, in the Scottish Cup Final by Dundee United. Rangers, who won all three competitions in 1993, had won the League and League Cup again in 1994 but fell at the final hurdle in the Scottish Cup. In a recent edition of this column, it was reported that Rangers had never won a European trophy. In fact, the club won the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1972.