Shine and roll just like Neymar if you really want serious attention

Fred Khumalo Watching You
Neymar screams in pain after being fouled. The writer says his antics are so popular kids are now encouraged to roll on the ground during play to feign injury.
Neymar screams in pain after being fouled. The writer says his antics are so popular kids are now encouraged to roll on the ground during play to feign injury.
Image: Meyer/Getty Images

When Brazil, always my favourite World Cup side for the past 30 years whether they win or lose, were kicked out by Belgium last Friday I was naturally sad.

To be sure, I wasn't expecting them to win the cup; but I was hoping for them to perhaps make the semifinals at least. I must hasten to add that this is not informed by a deep analysis of their game. It's more of an emotional and historical, rather than intelligent and scientific, response.

Long before South Africa was allowed to rejoin Fifa, I supported Brazil for the simple reason that many of the players were people I could relate to - they were black.

The colour component was crucial for a black boy growing up in a country which suppressed black talent in whatever field. When black American athletes ranging from Big John Tate to Arthur Ashe visited South Africa they inspired us; made us proud.

Pele, a long-time champion of Brazil, was famous in this country for the same reason: he was talented and black.

In fact, Pele was so popular that many football-playing youngsters, no matter how mediocre, favoured the Pele nickname.

If you're over 40, you are likely to know a guy in your neighbourhood who is called Pele.

The popularity of the Brazilians was further entrenched when Kaizer Motaung, in 1975, brought to the country a Brazilian professional called Jairzinho to play for Kaizer Chiefs for some years.

When he was still cash-flush, Zola Mahobe, the flamboyant owner of Mamelodi Sundowns, flew his entire team and their wives and girlfriends on an all-expenses paid trip to London to watch the FA Cup final between Liverpool and Everton in 1986 so they could drink football intelligence "from the source".

At that time, Sundowns favoured a Brazilian-inspired style of play which the coach of the time, Screamer Tshabalala, called the "piano and shoeshine" style: entertain the crowds but also score goals.

Brazilians have always known how to leave a lasting impression on the crowds. It is therefore not much of a surprise that even though they have long gone home, everyone in Russia and the rest of the footballing world is still talking about them.

But, this time what is making the tongues wag is none other than Neymar. Not his footballing prowess, necessarily, but his memorable antics of falling.

When he falls, he makes it an occasion.

When our university students embarked on the #RhodesMustFall and the #FeesMustFall campaigns, they should have invited Neymar to give demonstrations on how to fall. He is the original Fallist.

I'm assuming there are women reading this and I have this to say to them: "When next a guy says he's fallen in love with you, say to him 'show me, fall right now, let's see if you can beat the Neymar record'."

So popular are the Neymar antics that they have inspired what is called the Neymar Challenge. At football training camps, kids are encouraged to roll on the ground during play. The kid who rolls the longest gets the Neymar Trophy.

You have to see it to believe it. It's all over the internet.

In all honesty, I think it is a bit harsh on Neymar.

The man, after all, is far from being the only one who dives at the slightest provocation. And, by the way, Neymar did have a good tournament.

I suspect many commentators are still resentful of his decision to leave Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain.

Neymar couldn't stomach being overshadowed by such stars as Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez at Barcelona. He wanted to shine on his own.

Well, Neymar, you wanted attention, now you have it. Shine, as you roll!

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