Sorry, I'll be busy that day

When the time came to set the date for their wedding, Phan Van Tai Em confidently told his bride-to-be that July 21 (yes, last Saturday) ought to be perfect. So the couple sent out invitations and made all the other necessary arrangements. And royally teed off Alfred Riedl in the process. Confused? Here's what you need to know: Tai Em is a star player on Vietnam's national soccer team, and Riedl is the coach. In any other year, that might not matter. But Vietnam surprised the sports world by qualifying for the quarterfinals of the Asia Cup tournament against Iraq, another team not expected to reach that stage. And guess when the game was scheduled? Right, last Saturday. Among those on the list of invitees to the wedding were Riedl and his other players. With the most important contest of their careers on tap, all of them declined. Said the coach: "[Tai Em] just didn't believe the team had a chance. It's very disappointing.... [but] we have to release him; he can't change his wedding day." This, even though Riedl had conceded that Vietnam probably wasn't in Iraq's class, even with Tai Em in the lineup. So, was Tai Em vindicated? That depends on how you look at it. Vietnam lost, 2-0. But the team played hard, and, had its missing star been on the field, the outcome might have been different. No word on what coach and player had to say to each other afterward.

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