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The World Cup’s Myths: From Tsubasa’s Back to Advertisement Curse

Written by Dian Komala
Since the 2010 FIFA World Cup started last June, my friends and I have been talking about football more than usual. We’ve been talking about the winners, the losers, the scores, the prediction of the champion, and so on.


Source: Google

Once I’ve accompanied my friend searching for information about football. It was quite fun, making me want to keep watching this game which was played by 22 people. My friend then suggested me to browse the myths in football game. Many myths were given to me, all of them were interesting, but one myth that was most appealing to me was ‘the myth of players who wear the number 10 shirt’.

That reminded me of my childhood when my younger siblings and I’d liked to watch Captain Tsubasa, a TV animation series.

Captain Tsubasa.

Captain Tsubasa. (Surce: Google).

The Captain Tsubasa manga series was originally created by Yoichi Takahashi 1981. It was adapted soon into a TV animation series, directed by Isamu Imakake.  In the series, all players who were considered great footballers around the world wore the number 10 shirt, such as Tsubasa (Japan), Elle Sid Pierre (France), Juan Diaz (Argentina) and Natureza (Brazil). All of them wore the number 10 shirt. Of course, their team would be lost against teams where Tsubasa, the protagonist, was the captain.

My friend, Arip, also confirmed about the myth. We chatted through Yahoo Messenger.

Me: Is it true that generally the players who wear the number 10 shirt are great players?

Arip: I think so, sacred number, right?

Me: What’s so sacred about it?

Arip: Well, it has always been like that. The ones who wear number 10 shirt usually are the ones who are great. Those who can change the game are called fantasista (playmaker), such as Maradona, Pele, Baggio, Zidane, etc.

The one that familiar to my ears was Maradona. Diego Armando Maradona (born 30 October 1960 in Buenos Aires) was a legendary Argentine footballer. Many football fans in Argentina regarded him as the best football player of all time, while Pele from Brazil was the second best player in the world. Maradona had scored a goal that was often claimed to be the greatest individual goal of all time against England in quarterfinal round of FIFA World Cup 1986. At that time, he had made a 60 meter dribble past five England players including the goalkeeper, Peter Shilton, to make the score 2-0 to Argentina. And apparently he had also scored a very controversial one. Maradona had produced the goal with his hand and he had commented that the goal had been scored “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God”.  He had retired as a player on his 37th birthday. Football had been his true love. A day before his 48th birthday, Argentine Football Association (AFA) had confirmed that Maradona would be the head coach of the national side from December 2008. Although he had been an inexperienced football coach, Maradona had been trusted to lead Argentina to success in 2010 World Cup this year.

Edson Arantes do Nascimento or better known as Pele (born 23 October 1940) was a retired Brazilian world’s football legend. During his playing career, he had won three FIFA World Cups with Brazil; 1958 in Sweden, 1962 in Chile and 1970 in Mexico. Because of this success, Brazil had won the right to permanently keep the Jules Rimet Trophy.

Edson Arantes do Nascimento (Pele).

Edson Arantes do Nascimento (Pele). (Source: Google).

Roberto Baggio (born 18 February 1967 in Caldogno, Italy) was a retired Italian footballer. In 1993, Baggio had won the Ballon d’Or and had been named FIFA World Player of the Year. He was the only Italian ever to score in three World Cups.

Roberto Baggio.

Roberto Baggio. (Source: Google).

Zinedine Zidane (born 23 June 1972) had played brilliantly in 1998 World Cup with France. The opponents had often been frustrated by his excellence and skill in dribbling and controlling the ball, because they had made it difficult to steal the ball from him.

Zinedine Zidane.

Zinedine Zidane. (Source: Google).

Me: Does the player with number 10 shirt really have to be great?

Arip: Yes, they should be. It can create an effect for the opponent, right? But on the contrary, it can also backfire if the one entrusted with number 10 shirt turns out isn’t mentally strong, like Joe Cole from Chelsea and Sidney Govou from France.

Joseph John ‘Joe’ Cole (born 8 November 1981) was an English footballer who played as a midfielder. Sydney Govou (born 27 July 1979 in Le Puy-en-Velay) was a French striker who played for Olympique Lyonnais. He and his teammates had helped that club finish in first in Ligue I in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006, and had won the 2003 FIFA Confederations Cup with France.

The number 10 shirt wasn’t always given to the team’s most reliable player or fantasista. There was also the number 10 shirt that was given to a player who was far from being reliable in a team. For example: Tommy Docherty (Scotland). At that time, in Scotland national football team, the numbers had been assigned by field location. After two goalkeepers had been given number 1 and 2, Docherty had been forced to wear number 10. Jose Antonio Reyes’s (Spain) performance had been very impressive in Sevilla. Then he moved to Arsenal. His ability had been overly exaggerated so that he was given a number 10 shirt for the Spain football team in FIFA World Cup 2006. Reyes had only appeared once in that tournament. Nicola Berti (Italy) had been given number 10 shirt in 1990 FIFA World Cup, but had sat on the bench more through the tournament.

The further we chatted about football, the more interested I was to find out this myth. I kept browse the internet to find it by typing the keyword ‘number 10 player’ in the search box. From the articles that I read, there were several names of number 10 players of present generation: Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite (Kaka) from Brazil, Lionel Andrés Messi from Argentina, Wayne Rooney from England, Sydney Govou from France and Antonio Di Natale from Italy.

The five players above were the players who failed to raise the prestige of number ten as the best in FIFA World Cup 2010 in South Africa.

Kaka (born 22 April 1982 in Brazil) failed to promote Brazil’s name in South African soil. Appeared in 5 games, that playmaker wasn’t able to score even a goal, making his rabid fans disappointed.


Kaka. (Source: Google).

Messi (born 24 June 1987 in Rosario) came to South Africa as a FIFA World Player of the Year. Messi, who often shot the ball wide in this tournament, was forced to see Argentina got humiliated when Germany had a 4-0 victory over them in the quarterfinals.


Messi. (Source: Google).


Wayne Rooney (born 24 October 1985 in Croxteth, Liverpool, England) appeared as if he was powerless. He often had a difficulty to develop his play. As a result, England suffered its worst World Cup defeat (4-1) to Germany in the round of sixteen.

Sidney Govou and Antonio Di Natale (born 13 October 1977 in Naples, Italy) appeared disappointing compared to their predecessor like Zidane or the 1994 World Cup finalist, Roberto Baggio.

I also asked Arip casually about the correlation between these number 10 hotshots players with the whizzkids in Captain Tsubasa.

Me: Do you think there is a correlation between Tsubasa and these number 10 hotshots players? Like Maradona and so on?

Arip: Sure. Tsubasa was a representation of the most perfect number 10 player. He was skillful, a team captain, etc.

Me: So what made the number 10 sacred was because of Maradona, Zidane and so on, right?

Arip: That’s right.


Maradona. (Source: Google).

So I concluded that things that were obtained from data and facts and later developed into a myth was actually just a pure myth, just like Captain Tsubasa who was described as very good at playing football and was even able to fly while playing it. There had never been a history where Japan had beaten Brazil and other countries that had a long history of football.  Maybe it was the Japanese football’s dream. Well, it was very good. Maybe for building a new football spirit in a country that didn’t really excel at international football events. They proved it by qualifying for the round of 16 in 2010 World Cup.

Here was a little bit history of Japanese football for 15 years. Japan had shown a very rapid development in football. In 1997, they had qualified for the first time for the World Cup and in 2002 they had qualified for the round of 16. This success couldn’t be separated from the establishment of a professional league in Japan in 1993. In 1998, when the World Cup had been held in France, Japan had started to show an advanced football power.

Maybe number 10 was indeed inspired by Maradona’s ‘The Hand of God’ greatness. If it wasn’t a myth, what did you call it then?

Apparently a myth wasn’t just something to talk about in a casual chat, but also became a subject in the media. A few days ago I read an article on, entitled Ronaldo Kena Kutukan? (Is Ronaldo under the Curse?)

In that article, it was explained that Cristiano Ronaldo had increased the number of Nike stars who had had bad luck in 2010 World Cup. Before Ronaldo, there had been several names, which had been sponsored by Nike, which now were said to be unlucky, such as, Didier Drogba, Fabio Cannavaro, Wayne Rooney, Franck Ribery and Ronaldinho.

There was a big rivalry between two giant companies, Nike and Adidas, in 2010 World Cup, and also in the previous events. Those companies competed to each other in attaching their product logo on the world top players’ body. Their bodies became the product sale billboards. Some of them who were considered the most top players even became brand images of those products. For example, even though the main sponsor of the World Cup was Adidas, the player who became the brand image had to attach the Nike logo on his jersey. Not only became a billboard, but they made these sport stars’ bodies their ad war event.

Unfortunately, these top players who came from the seeded countries in 2010 World Cup and who were sponsored by Nike couldn’t lead their countries to qualify smoothly into the next stage this time. They even had to leave early.

Ronaldo and Portugal team had to go home after they were defeated by Spain in the round of 16. Didier Drogba and Ivory Coast didn’t get through the group stage. Fabio Cannavaro and Italy were also eliminated in the first round after they lose 3-2 to an underdog team, Slovakia. Wayne Rooney didn’t even score a goal through the World Cup, he even became the person to blame for England’s substandard performance. Franck Ribery and France were eliminated in the group stage too.

As for Ronaldinho, who had been a Brazil top player once, he wasn’t even included in the Brazil national football team by their coach, Carlos Dunga.


Ronaldinho. (Source: Google).

There was another myth in Germany team that I’d heard from one of the commentators of the football program on TV. It was said that once Miroslav Klose scored, Germany would win. Because of that myth, I immediately watched the match between Germany and England in the round of 16 of World Cup 2010. And it seemed that the myth was right. After Klose opened the scoring with his goal, Germany kept adding the goals until the final score was 4-1. It was England’s highest World Cup loss to date.

There’s another unique myth. They say that European countries will never win outside Europe. At this moment, there are three European countries in the semi-finals: Germany, Netherlands and Spain. The other country is Uruguay. If the myth was proven in the final on 11 July, then we would see a victory of a country that was the first host and the first champion of the World Cup, Uruguay.

Either you believe the myth or not, if the winner wasn’t Uruguay, then it means that the myth would be broken off in the World Cup this year.

About the author


Dian Komala

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