Rooting for the underdog

By Alex P. Vidal

“If you’re an underdog, mentally disabled, physically disabled, if you don’t fit in, if you’re not as pretty as the others, you can still be a hero.”

—Steve Guttenberg

IT’S a natural tendency for sports fans to root for the underdog in any competition and close rivalry.

Saudi Arabia’s recent 2-1 conquest of Argentina in the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar was considered as one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history.

But the “one or the books” (the exact words used by Saudi coach Herve Renard to describe the gigantic soccer upset) defeat by a highly touted team that produced Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi, and Gabriel Batistuta was not the first earthshaking event in the World Cup.

Let’s consider it as soccer’s version of Mike Tyson’s scary KO defeat from slow-moving Buster Douglas in Tokyo in 1990, or Rafael Nadal’s embarrassing 2012 Wimbledon loss to unknown Lucas Rosol.

In the 1990 FIFA World Cup or the 14th FIFA World Cup, Cameroon also pulled a dramatic shocker in the opening match, 1-0, over Argentina, the defending champion and the most feared soccer team in the world at that time.

Upsets and shockers are part and parcel of the World Cup. They aren’t new. World Cup is not known as the most beautiful game in the universe for nothing.

François Omam-Biyik, who now works as Cameroon’s assistant manager, scored Cameroon’s lone goal, a downward header, that shocked the world.

Omam-Bitik, who also scored against Sweden in the first round of the 1994 World Cup, and brother Andre, helped Cameroon to the quarter-finals.

His appearance in the 1998 World Cup was his third. In his 73 appearances, had Omam-Biyik scored a total of 26 goals. He is Cameroon’s record World Cup player with 11 matches in three tournaments.

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We don’t know what will happen next to Saudi Arabia, which is in the company of intriguing group of teams in Group C composed of Mexico and Poland, both known to have very little styles of play.

ABC News has reported while everyone else in Saudi Arabia was having a great old time, Saudi booter Yasser Al-Shahrani was facing the prospect of emergency surgery.

The defender copped a knee to the face after colliding with goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais in a sickening clash in the dying moments of the game, it was reported.

With Al-Shahrani laying unresponsive on the ground, referee Slavko Vincic reportedly made the bizarre call to allow play to continue, in another controversial moment after Iranian goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand was allowed to play on despite his own sickening head clash in their match with England.

Meanwhile, after the loud shellacking of Argentina in 1990, Cameroon had cruised to a Cinderella run.

It earlier bested Nigeria and ousted Tunisia in the final playoff, Cameroon qualified for the 1990 World Cup. Cameroon were drawn into Group B with Argentina, Romania and the Soviet Union in the final tournament.

Cameroon later defeated Romania 2–1 and lost to the Soviet Union 0–4, becoming the first side to top a World Cup Finals group with a negative goal difference.

In the second round, Cameroon defeated Colombia 2–1 with the 38-year-old Roger Milla scoring two goals in extra-time.

Cameroon faced England in the quarter-finals. After 25 minutes, England’s David Platt scored for England, while in the second-half, Cameroon came back with a 61st-minute penalty from Emmanuel Kunde and took the lead with Eugene Ekeke on 65 minutes.

England, however, equalized in the 83rd minute with a penalty from Gary Lineker, while Lineker again found the net via a 105th-minute penalty to make the eventual scoreline 3–2 for England. The team was coached by Russian manager and former player Valeri Nepomniachi.

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We have more interesting chess news from US national master Marlon Bernardino, who recently covered the Asian Juniors and Girls Chess Championships at the Knights Templar hotel in Tagaytay City.

Bernardino reported that National Master Eric Labog Jr. of the Philippines bested International Master Raahul V S of India November 22 to bounce back into contention.

He added that Labog’s third win against one draw and a loss gave him 3.5 points, a half point behind pacesetter top seed International Master Saha Neelash of India, International Master Harshavardhan G B of India and International Master Sugar Gan-Erdene of Mongolia who totes 4.0 points each.

Also with 3.5 points are Chatterjee Utsab of India, Dziththauly Ramadhan of Indonesia and Fide Master Daniyal Sapenov of Kazakhstan.

In other results, Harshavardhan G B split the points with Neelash while Gan-Erdene drew with Utsab.

The 19 year old Labog, a freshman student at Immaculada Concepcion College, earlier loss to Neelash in Monday’s fourth round.

International Master Daniel Quizon edged countryman Mar Aviel Carredo to score 3.0 points and climb at 8th to 14th places along with International Master Michael Concio Jr. and National Master Christian Mark Daluz of the Philippines.

Woman International Master Bach Ngoc Thuy Duong of Vietnam routed Woman International Master Nazerke Nurgali of Kazakhstan to remain on top with 4.5 points, half point ahead with top pick Woman International Master Assel Serikbay of  Kazakhstan and Woman Fide Master Mitra Asgharzadeh of Iran, both tallied 4.0 points apiece.

Two players follow with 3.0 points each, namely Woman International Master Ravi Rakshitta of India and Femil Chelladurai of India.

Thirty two boys from eleven countries are competing the junior division while 20 players are participating in the 9-round Swiss system tournament among the girls. Bernardino said the championship is organized by the National Chess Federation of the Philippines on behalf of the Asian Chess Federation.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo.—Ed)

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