I never thought I would write about football anymore, but between two exams, there is nothing more relaxing; that and a cold Windhoek…
Anyway, I never told anyone about this, but I never really liked the style of the Spanish team and Barca and Messi. I find the game of small passes boring.
I didn’t like it because I thought their football symbolizes everything that is wrong with our society today, a society devoid of play, of color, of taste and of little beautiful gestures; all lost in the name of efficiency.
Do you remember the days of writing manuscript letters to loved ones, watching the sunset once in a while, smelling flowers, visiting one’s folks more often and sharing a meal on a big round platter with the whole family.
In football also, it used to be about small sophisticated things; art, beauty, play and class. little gestures that would make you tick, fall in love with the game, with the player, jump from your chair in happiness, not argue or fight; just silently shed tears, both when you win and when you loose. The football that used to make you feel united with the people in Brazil or in Germany, in Argentina and in Cameroon. Parents used to name their children after players; songs were written about players.
Growing up in the streets of Katindo Gauche, football was the only extra curricular activity for us. Jokes aside, I was pretty descent at it – ask the other kids I grew up with – But of course my realistic folks never gave me a chance – which is why I winded up here: telling stories about it. But that’s for another day, for now lets continue with this story:
I came about a bit late in the game, but I was able to catch the last bits of it; I started watching the game properly around the time Maradona was scoring his last goal in the world cup against Grece; that’s around 1994. I remember it like yesterday. But I stuck around to see the dramatic header that Patrick Kluivert scored against Brazil four years later in the semis of the 1998, and the breathtaking penalty shootout that ensued, leading to a stunning exit of the Dutch, again.
By that time I was big enough to make it so that I somehow found myself in front of a cable TV somewhere, and watch European league games and the world cup. Then I had a blast: it was mythical: the kiss of Laurent Blanc in the skull of Fabien Barthez right before the game; the moves of Toni Adams both on and off the field – by the way, anyone ever notice his resemblance to Ibrahimovich? I though so… The style of his Majesty the King Cantona, also both on and off the field? boy it was entertaining.
That generation passed, then came the golden generation: Zinedine Zidane with his pivotal dribble that wrong-footed an entire team; the 1-2-1-2 dribbles of Ronaldo – don’t tell me cristiano: ‘il phenomeno’; the accelerations of Kafu – the defender who was feared by other defenders; the 100kg crosses of Roberto Carlos, moves of Rivaldo, Bebeto. At that time the Selecao was the wonder team.
That generation also passed, and then came the last in a long time: Gaucho Ronaldinho, the samba boy: he would flip them, he would twist them, he would spin them, then he would smile: fantastic smile… Watching him play was like going to a Koffi Olomide Rumba Concert; just like the samba dancers in he country, he would go left, he would go right, and by the time you know it, the net is shaking, and he, is celebrating…
I will never forget the 2002 semis; what am I saying, David Seaman and Ashley Cole will never forget what Ronaldinho did to them. The first was lobbed from the center of the pitch, while the second was miserably sent crawling before the second goal
Samuel Eto’o fils: the Cameroonian magic: you give him the ball in the middle of five defenders, he will embarrass them and score. I always had the feeling he was never duly recognized – until recently: IN CASH…
Thierry Henry: That is what you would call a complete footballer; he had the speed of Usain Bolt, the dribbles of Eto’ and the goal flair of Christiano. Those were the good times, when the best teams won trophies.
Then came Murinho and his friend Abramovic, and they changed the face of the game; I remember a famous quote by Murihno: ‘we don’t play good football? I don’t care, we win!’ there you have it.
They transformed a game of natural art, beautiful, fluid, colorful and playful talent, into a money making bonanza; well, it was always a money making bonanza, but team owners would never let it show to the fans. For us it was merely a benevolent game that made people happy; not anymore…
I mean, nowadays sport journalists would sit around and, instead of commenting about the ongoing game, they would just have a chat with each other about who scored the most goals in the season, who made the most passes, who covered the most field, who won the most trophies, and of course, who made the most money or who was the most expensive transfer of the year. And that is on the day that they have done some reading. On a bad day they will tell you who’s going out with which model or who crashed his latest Bentley..
Sport journalists have become bookmakers and statisticians at best, gossipers at worst! Its all about numbers now: literally like in capital markets, stock ratings of football teams speculate with the passes that are drawn on the pitch, the tweets on line and the scandals in the media. These are no longer players; lets call them traders, because that’s what they do, they sell titles in Chelsea, in Man U, in PSG. FIFA used to have a motto that said: for the beauty of the game! Nowadays that would seem inappropriate. Today, football players are capable of refusing to play for a top European league team, so they can earn crazy sums of money in Chinese or Qatari leagues.
African players are reluctant to feature in national teams, because their clubs warn them that if they are worked-out or injured after the championship, they might loose their bonuses. As a result, we are given sub-Drogbas and sub-Toures and sub-Eto’s – and sub-Messis when they play for national teams
That’s what’s wrong with society: We have lost touch with the essential and seem to focus on numbers. In recent years however, numbers have gone crazy; and we seem to want more, and more, and more; the sky is the limit.
Luckily in football, just like in life, there is always a chance to make amends, the just concluded champion’s league, and the confederation game last night – which I am watching now in rebroadcasting – show that one of the amends are just around the corner. They come in the name of Arien Roben, Neymar, Brazil, Germany, etc. that is something to look up to. I don’t know about you but I can’t wait to be next year for the world cup.
Because the football era ruled over by Messi and Christiano, Ferguson and Murihno, Barca and Man U, was, in my opinion, the most plastic, superficial and ugly, at least in the recent football history…