In my schoolyard it was called "butts up." In yours, it might have been "asses up," "wallball," "red ass," "suicide," but the game is the same, and taps in to the primal center of young boys' brains. It's essentially handball, but the first one to run up a certain number of "outs" must lean against the wall, backside protruding, as the other players try to peg him as hard as possible. You remember the game. You're slightly sore just thinking about it.
On Tuesday, the day after a first-match loss to Ukraine, the team held a training session for the players who didn't get a cap. Part of the fun included a game of keepy-uppy, and it was backup goalkeeper Johan Wiland who let the ball fall. His punishment was to stand on the end line, pull his shorts down, and let his bare backside serve as a bullseye for his teammates' target practice. (The fun starts around the 1:30 mark of the video.)
But now they're in for all sorts of criticism, from anti-bullying groups to politicians.
Lars Arrhenius, the general secretary for anti-bullying organization Friends - whose name will be on the new national soccer stadium in Stockholm - told Expressen the players were being "incredibly bad role models."
"They're heroes for thousands of boys and girls all over Sweden and I don't think they should send the signal that this is OK," Arrhenius said. "This is the kind of stuff that happens in schools and sports clubs, that people use these types of 'games.' But there are some children who get exposed in those situations."
Even the prime minister weighed in on the issue, taking his own shot at the players.
"People who carry expectations should be aware of that, and act accordingly," Fredrik Reinfeldt said.
I'm not sure where bullying enters the equation, other than the fact that a backup keeper is always just a step up from mascot on the respect totem pole. If you want to get mad at the team for some partial nudity (in a training session that was closed to the public), fine. If you want to look for something stupid to blame after giving away three points, Skål. But making this a bullying situation misses the real shame of the Swedish national team — not one of them even came close to turning Wiland's brown eye blue.
Sweden goalie's bare backside used for training [AP]