08 June 2011

The World's gone mad

By Dr3

I suppose I’ll start by saying I’m tired. I’m tired of reading about this football.

Football is my vice, my outlet, my joy, but it’s all getting a little nuts’ out there. There’s the hyperbole-competition of internet-footballing coupled with a real-world revolution in football. There’s also the overstated ‘scandal’ of FIFA corruption, along with the cyclic guaranteed transfers; heard wherever first. In the back of all of this, a couple of greats now need new pastimes, money bought a couple of trophies, and chivalry was resurrected by just one gesture.

Firstly, the Revolution might as well be called Barcelonafication (By the way, congratulations to Barcelona on their emphatic double this season). There was a time when clichés were reserved and preserved/recited for and from the ancient tales, books and fables. Barcelona though, through their winnings, record shatterings, and style in doing so have shelved this practice in carving a new one; ‘like-Barcelona’. In watching the highlight-reel of Argentina’s 25 pass goal versus Serbia & Montenegro, one would be forgiven for salivating, slipping, rolling on the floor, crying, then shouting, “Barcelona”, before singing that Queen Song. Everything is now compared to the zenith that is playing football like Barcelona. Everything in football now, includes a supposition. It’s the way it was always meant to be. Supposed to be. As Xavi always says of their victories; “it’s a victory for football”. So much so that Barcelonafication is evidently rampant.

Manchester United was outclassed, for about 80 minutes at Wembley. It stood out to me that Manchester United started the game; trying to be Barca. More interestingly though, no one seems to think anything is wrong with that. So much so that even the Gaffer has suggested that their model ‘should’ be followed. So much so that the question raised wasn’t why, but why didn’t they continue for more of the game; pressing high, supporting each other in little triangles all over the pitch. So much so that the sadness of losing, was a dignified sadness. Manchester United shockingly, at least to me, played as timidly as a virgin to the big time. But that’s ok.

Beyond them, a trend is brewing all part of this renaissance. Why the hell are so many teams hiring young coaches? AC Milan? Allegri? Leonardo? Juventus? Conte? Ciro? Roma? Montella? Luis Enrique? There was a time when only a resume mini-booklet, laminated and stamped, could even merit discussions with these clubs. There was a time when everyone KNEW in order to win, you had to hire reputed winners. Even with players, why the hell are so many teams interested now in buying youth, and long term projects? Promoting from the ranks? It used to be about a blend of the young and the campaigners. It used to be about the experience and guile to deal with high pressure situations. A winning mentality gained through years of playing. But this Barcelona is now so unprecedented, and simply put too enamoring. Cantera products who understand the value of the club, honor the club, not interested in filthy money, coached by a cantera product and play real football? It really does not get any better. Yet there is an inherent madness in all of this. Certainly not every team can employ the same strategy and have the same results? Certainly merit should be attached to the actual players beyond the system. Could it be that by being so in love with the style that we underrate the talent of the individuals? If we play and run our club like Barcelona we could beat them? Really? Xavi isn’t really the greatest of all time anymore? It’s just this brilliant system that we should all just adopt-and-become-the-best-period? Barcelona is so enticing and fascinating that they are now a really bad cliché, while a great team. The cliché of their greatness is so true, that it generalizes the talent of the players and lulls us into believing that it’s all one big trick. Yet we know it isn’t. Believing in a fantasy that we know to be just that? Dortmund did it though, right?

What can we yield by making about 15 clubs run in the same way as the Catalans? If every ‘big club’ played football in the same way, and was run in the same way, it would mean exactly what? Entertainment? Real entertainment? I’m tired.

What makes it worse beyond the fact that I saw it coming based on Barcelona’s success, is that there once was a time where gushing was neither unanimous, nor ubiquitous. I could still rely on some good author, somewhere, to be a contrarian, or otherwise just a hater; like Side Lowe on Mourinho. But, everyone has seemed to be swept up into this ideal. “Supposed to be”, “Should”, and the like, are now as common if not as necessary as punctuation in sentences when talking about football. Nobody stands behind their own opinion anymore without quoting Opta. Instead everything is about possession stats, completion rates, and distance covered, substantiating Barcelona as a brand, and as an ideal, to be the realest existence of the sport. It is no longer acceptable that a team sets out to play football any other way. And as long as a team’s style is remotely ‘attractive’ however intangible that is, it is compared immediately to Barcelona; which is Spain in the same breath. It is at such a stage that my dreariness has turned into a longing to hear Andy Gray lavish praise on Stoke again.

To every left there is a right, and for every ‘should’, there also is a ‘should not’. It’s a dangerous and very annoying day to ‘like’ football in the way I do. Soon liking tactical battles will be outlawed, since no other tactic reflects the way football should be played, and as such are all obsolete. Or maybe by qualifying it to only ‘big teams’ it would make it okay; big teams should play with possession and press high, with “false nines”, and should have interchanging midfielders, and should have gallivanting wing backs. Perhaps a consequence of just how liberal the internet is, the bombardment of praise as it existed for Sacchi’s Milan, now multiplied, is overwhelming and nauseating if you’re not quite on that train. It’s no longer a question of not reading the sports pages in the newspaper, or not subscribing to some magazine, instead in order to escape with your left wing views of football intact, you pretty much need to cancel your internet, watch games on mute, and don’t talk to anyone about football.

There’s more. Its name is Balotelli. I considered writing another ‘defense’ of Mario with a little play on words calling him Il Diavolo for what it’s worth. I realized it was way beyond any defense though. When the media doctors information about parking tickets per day; in the same way players were removed from images to make Dani Alves offside, then it’s definitely all over. Balotelli is now being “linked” with the betting scandal in Italy for touring with thugs in Naples. While Wayne is allowed to let Everton fans know his feelings about United, Balotelli should apparently be killed for such gestures. Ironic I believe is the best word, for a player who has received more red cards in one season than his entire career prior to moving to a more physical, more lenient, more ‘manly’ league. Maybe it’s not ironic though, but more so just referees who have grown tired of reading about him.

I am tired, confused too. Seeing that I am a fan, Manchester City won a trophy, even though they didn’t play the way they ‘ought’ too. Confused, because I still can’t grasp where money ties into a style of play. Confused because I still can’t grasp exactly what the expectations for the style of play really were (oh, like Barca). Like Real Madrid, because a certain amount of money was spent, the style of play, by default, must be Barca’s; in every game. I’m confused because the predictable Serie A is the only of the big three in Europe to have a different top two. I’m also confused because I was under the impression that buying Zlatan Ibrahimovic meant that you intended to not win titles, as used in a punch line by some writer, in relation to non-interchanging and non-moving, non-false-nines being obsolete; you know, unlike Barcelona’s strike force. By the way, Chicharito for all his brilliant movement “between the lines” was even more invisible than “Big Ibra” in the biggest occasion, is he now a big game flop? Most confusing though is Paul Scholes. I was under the impression that Xavi was the best midfielder not only of his generation, but of all time. Scholes is five years older than Xavi, and started his senior career four years before him. Xavi and others have all at one time or the other said that Scholes was the best of his generation. Is the conclusion that a generation spans 4-5 years then?

I suppose I should end by saying I’m tired. But even the staunchest hater (which I am undoubtedly now) can admit to one positive in this revolution. Maybe there will be more examples to humanity like this moment.

We shalt protect all of humanity from annihilation - Xavi, everyday

EDIT: RUN OF PLAY wrote something similar (I think), but vindicated me in not liking them by being as verbose and annoying as ever. Turns out I'm not alone though, someone else finds them a bit acrid.

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