Koman Coulibaly and the Marginalized
Today the U.S. Men’s National Team takes on Algeria in their final group round match of the World Cup.
In case you’ve been unconscious for the last week and missed it, last week’s game between the United States and Slovenia ended in both glory and controversy.
The U.S. recovered from a 2-0 deficit to tie Slovenia in one of the biggest comebacks in World Cup history. But it could have been THE biggest comeback, were it not for a man named Koman Coulibaly.
Coulibaly, a referee new to the World Cup, blew his whistle and called a foul on what appears from all angles to be a perfectly legal goal by the U.S. team’s Maurice Edu.
Landon Donovan said after the game that, although he was proud of the team for their tremendous comeback, he felt “gutted” by the call that robbed them of the historic win.
Immediately Twitter filled up with hate messages for Mr. Coulibaly. Some people said they wanted him dead, but most people argued that he must have been paid off, or corrupted in some way. In general the country was angry, even awed, by the fact that someone could get away with such a badly timed, incorrect call. Like I’m sure many people did, I personally wrote FIFA with my own two cents on the matter.
Ultimately what stories like this one and other infamously bad calls show us is that rules matter. Truth matters. And most importantly, justice matters.
When we see something done that is clearly wrong, our hearts become stirred up with an almost indescribable tension, a sense that everything is out of whack, that the world as we know it isn’t as it should be.
That is what Koman Coulibaly can and should teach us about injustice.
We responded as a country with indignation over a bad call in a sport we normally don’t even care about much. What’s more, despite the fact that the call meant a tie instead of a win, the United States still has a chance to advance in today’s game against Algeria.
But do we respond the same way when entire communities of women and children are being wiped out through rape and slaughter? Do we write letters of indignation when our own children are being stolen up as sex slaves? Does it make us this angry when dictators put their people in concentration camps and cause mass starvation?
The answer is no. I can guarantee you it is no, because those things are happening right now in Kyrgyzstan, Ohio and Korea, and I’ve counted the tweets about them.
Sure, some people get mad. Some even make it their business to help bring healing to those places. But do we collectively care? Arguably not as much as we care about Coulibaly and his incorrect call.
Today’s game gives the United States a second chance to advance to the next round of the World Cup. But most injustices do not give people a second chance.
I am excited to see the U.S. play today and ideally make up for that weak foul charge. But I can only hope that watching sports will make me more understanding of what true injustice is, and how much angrier I should get over it.
(The USA/Algeria World Cup match airs Wednesday at 10am EST/9am CST on ESPN.)
Are there healthy and practical ways to show anger about broad injustices in our world? Share your ideas here.
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