The World Cup ended a month ago, but Kaká of Brazil and Arjen Robben of the Netherlands still bear the pain of their participation in South Africa.

According to a Belgian specialist who performed knee surgery on Kaká last week, the Brazilian jeopardised his career by playing in the tournament.

Kaka is a very rich young man but it is not money alone that drives already rich men to strive for the World Cup. It is the glory, the achievement and the fulfillment of a dream. Players need protecting from themselves.

Even Carlos Dunga, Brazil’s national team coach, insisted, “Kaká is an incredible player who knows how important he is to the team.”

Sometimes the precision of his passes or his intuitive awareness of where Luís Fabiano or Robinho would move, was sublime. But Kaká’s World Cup was marred by his evident pain, and irritable moods.

According to Bayern Munich’s club doctor, Robben’s thigh injury was so serious he should never have played in the World Cup at all.

This has happened before.

Zinedine Zidane played for France at the 2002 Finals, despite having a thigh so heavily bandaged he could barely walk and England’s David Beckham was obviously less than 100% fit when he played in the 2006 World Cup in Germany after sustaining a fracture of his foot before the tournament began.

This is a warning of the consequences of stretching star players to the breaking point between club and country and is a major problem in the game.

Dr. Michel D’Hooghe, the highly respected chairman of FIFA’s Medical Committee, called on doctors responsible for each of the 32 teams to respect their oath in terms of doping, injury prevention and care.

D’Hooghe also urged the referees to be vigilant against career-threatening fouls. He had compiled a horror video of such kicks and elbows, and the damage they caused.

The main point, however, is that the referees can only react to the conduct of the players. They cannot prevent the players using their elbows and feet for illegal challenges before they happen.

Players have that responsibility themselves.

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