19 July 2011

The Fiddler on the Roof

By Bourbon




In May, one world ends, and you realise that another exists.

Some see it as a nuisance. Some see it as necessary. If left up to some managers, they would have their players wrapped up in cotton wool awaiting pre-season training. Some managers hope that this gives their players a chance to increase their market value (more on that in another article). But the question still is...what’s the point of international football…really? Most international managers position is as
precarious as a fiddler on a roof; trying to play a tune, without falling off.

Terrible gulf in quality. The strong always will be strong, the weak will always be weak. As pedantic as the day’s
sunrise and sunset. Some anomalies may occur but by and large the average holds true. Who could honestly say that a clash between Honduras and Grenada would make one clear their schedule? What were the odds on the final being anything other than USA vs Mexico?

Except when one looks at the sub stories, one realises things were not so cut and dry. USA qualifying second in their group? Being beaten by Panama? Yes upsets happen, but still who banks on those?

The Copa America always promises to be a spectacle but thus far flattered to deceive. Oh the horror: Argentina and Brazil are out before the final. December 21st 2012 must really be happening.

Except Columbia and Venezuela proved their mettle. Chile as well.[Edit: Well gargle my gonads! In between me typing this and posting it you know Chile got knocked out?] Nothing really could be taken for granted in football.

Yes the same football that women play. Twenty years ago USA would have been the odds on favourite to win any women’s tournament. Ten years ago even. But as the tournament showed, the gulf is closing. The standard is improving. Soon, maybe the Women's Champions League would get more coverage.

Same with the U-17. Holland with their intensive youth football setup earning only 1 point and ending up last in their group? Japan qualifying higher than France AND Argentina?

I love it.

Its football untarnished by inflated transfer fees, agent haggling, and all the other things that make you wonder if the football world has gone mad. The perfect example of playing with the cards you were dealt. Where size does not necessarily relate to success (Compare Brazil’s 80 million to India’s 1 Billion). Where history counts for something but ultimately counts for nothing at all. Where a team gets better by the way I personally respect: with a long term vision in mind. (And don’t try to use the
“Barcelonification” angle, since its pointless having a youth system and you still see no issues even considering spending 30, 40, 50 million for 3 seasons straight on one player.) Where it’s a matter of luck and chance for naturalisation, where still Brazil is an exporting market, its not perfect. However It does have its merits.

And its downfalls.

Given the international schedule, minimal time is really available for national teams to develop tactics. Batista had the outlandish notion to get “Argentina to play like Barcelona” so Messi can shine. Well that obviously didn’t work out too well. Public pressure and outrage is easy to experience, witch hunts are common, excuses abound. Pundits pontificate, opportunities missed, and everyone gets a chance to say what should have been done. Opportunity only comes once. The best chance any team has is if there is a degree of transition between the generation on its way out and the one on its way in. It gives an understanding, a solidarity. A solidarity that bonds with football’s most important resource: The fans. The fans know and bond more with a player that they’ve seen blossom. Recent example : Tevez vs Messi. International football goes beyond club passion. Its national pride. A pride hinged upon knowing where those players came from and proud that they are where they are today.

The joy I felt when my club teams achieve success in no way could compare to the feelings I felt when my country qualified for the World Cup. The despair as well, although expected, still didn’t make the medicine less bitter to swallow. The excitement and passion when my cousin became the first in our family to actually get capped internationally was something else. The nostalgia when I got whatever edition of FIFA by whatever means necessary and if the information was inadequate for my country, I would refine it. International football has something, fundamentally flawed, yet intangibly inexplicable. Or maybe it might be more accurate to say that its like that for me.

Then again who knows? If you ask a player which he would rather win: a World Cup or a Champions League…what do you think the answer would be?


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