• Next up is the FIFA Under – 20 World Cup in Poland and New Zealand

    Whatsa Mata with Mata No Longer Mattas

    The “real” FIFA World Cup was held earlier.

    Next up is the FIFA Under – 20 World Cup in Poland and New Zealand will begin without their talented striker Max Mata.

    The Kiwi side will play their first match on May 25 with Honduras as the opponent. Three days later, they will play their second Group C match against Norway, which will be the last game Mata misses as the result of a two-match ban he received for picking up the ball and throwing it at the head of Mauri Heitta after the final whistle blew.

    That was in the OFC Under – 19 Championship, where New Zealand beat Tahiti one – nil.

    Mata was simply trying to kill extra time by preventing Tahiti from gaining possession and trying for a late equaliser, but Mata admitted that he did not care for the attention he was receiving from Heitta.

    There was plenty of blame to go around. After three minutes of review, both Mata and Hauragi Huri were dealt reds. Huri had retaliated for the attack on his teammate by responding in kind, hurling the ball at Mata.

    Well, when we were teenagers, our tempers and passions occasionally ran hot, which is to say, constantly, so it is possible for us now to chalk the thing up to youthful indiscretion, but we do not find it hard to believe that in the future, the moment the final whistle blows, the referee will remove the ball and the temptation to turn it into a weapon from the pitch.

    Mata’s comments showed some remorse when he said, “The biggest thing is just disappointment. In the moment, I wasn’t thinking, I made a stupid decision, and then I was punished for it.”

    Mata’s coach Des Buckingham defended his player, both by naming him to his final World Cup squad and by saying that Mata can contribute off the pitch with his leadership qualities.

    Well, okay, then. Here is hoping the rest of the Kiwis do not follow Mata’s lead and start using the ball as a weapon.