Thursday, June 22, 2006

Annan Heckles U.S. UN Ambassador After Ghana's Victory

Ghana eliminated the United States from the World Cup today with a 2-1 victory. The defeat was a huge disappointment for an American team eager to make an impact on the international soccer landscape. John Bolton, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, is particularly frustrated by today’s result. Bolton has had to endure merciless taunting from UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, a native of Ghana.

Touted as the best American squad in history, the U.S. turned out to be highly overrated. Despite a difficult draw, the team expected much better than a draw and two defeats in its matches. Italy scored as many goals for the U.S. as the American players did. This lack of offense came from a squad ranked fifth in the world by FIFA. However, those rankings are largely considered unreliable, particularly since the #8 position went to the team from Bend It Like Beckham led by Parminder Nagra and Keira Knightley.

This ineptitude has led Annan to drop by Bolton’s office for a regular dose of heckling. It began immediately after today’s final whistle with Annan asking, “Hey Bolton, do you know what ‘USA’ stands for? ‘Ugly Soccer Always!’” He continued, “I know it’s hard to find enough players in a nation of 300 million – that’s really tough odds against our 22 million.” In a subsequent e-mail, the Secretary-General wrote, “Bolton, sorry about the hard time I gave you. I know the U.S. isn’t a soccer country. But at least you still dominate in baseball. Whoops, forgot about the World Baseball Classic. Well, not everything is as automatic as a gold medal in men’s basketball. Wait, never mind…”

Annan also incorporated significant UN issues into his abuse. He informed Bolton, “When Americans say, ‘Bring our troops home,’ ‘troops’ does not mean ‘soccer team.’” The Secretary-General then appeared to take a serious tone, noting, “I really do care about the U.S. World Cup team. The UN is committed to assisting anyone who is downtrodden.” After some chuckles, he added, “But things will get better – maybe Angelina Jolie will adopt them.” After Annan walked away, Bolton complained to his assistant, “I feel like I’m in Guantanamo Bay.”

Annan acted in a similar manner after Ghana’s 2-0 defeat of the Czech Republic last Saturday. He gave plenty of ribbing to Hynek Kmoníček, Czech Ambassador to the UN. Annan proclaimed, “Sorry Hynek, your Czechs got bounced!” He then took a Post-it note on Kmoníček’s desk, writing “Prague-nosis: Defeat” before sticking the note onto the ambassador’s computer screen.

However, the Secretary-General surely takes particular joy in getting under Bolton’s skin. The ambassador has alienated many at the UN’s New York headquarters with his blunt manner. He has often been sharply critical of the UN and has called for widespread reform. Of course, the war in Iraq makes Bolton, as well as the nation he represents, even more unpopular at the UN. However, Annan noted that U.S. coach Bruce Arena clearly desires peace, because “his guys never go on the offensive.”

Annan is unlikely to be so giddy on Tuesday, when Ghana takes on powerhouse Brazil in the knockout round. However, do not expect Brazilian UN ambassador Ronaldo Mota Sardenberg to gloat if his country triumphs. By authority of the UN Charter, Annan could banish him from the premises with a red card.