Anti-football: to football or not to football, that is the question.
Tuning in to last night’s Champions League play off between Braga and Sevilla, the first action as I turn on is a player wail in agony and a foul given. Followed by a replay of what I can only describe as a clean tackle, if not the slightest of touches to the player. Now don’t get me wrong, play-acting is news to no-one in this game we all love. But let’s just question why we, as fans of a supposedly beautiful game, now accept this as the norm.
Sure, I hear you say, it’s the players and it’s what the game has become. You’re right and it is the case, but have we questioned how it turned out this way. The intention of the player’s over-reaction is to highlight the injustice of the tackle. Everyone’s favourite infamous culprits practically pitch neon signs with the slogan ‘THIS IS A FOUL’.
Yet I intend to suggest it isn’t the player’s fault – it’s ours. Last night’s incident led me to think differently. After said foul, what followed was a huge roar from the home crowd, like thousands of wild beasts aching from injustice. Now tell me what referee isn’t going be influenced.
Any amateur footballer knows this kind of behaviour on the pitch not only gets thoroughly ignored as your mates continue to play on, but ridicule is rightly and likely bound to follow. It just doesn’t cut it when it’s not backed up by validation from others.
So can we change it? The escalation of simulation has now led to growing trend of anti-football such as shown by the Dutch in 2010’s World Cup Final. Players, the coaches and us, the fans, all happy to watch their team kick and push the other team out of the game in the name of results. It’s this magnification upon the foul that has caused the game to consider them tactically. Do we accept this as future of the game; is this now the norm? Should we accept our team’s now use the art of the foul as a tactic to win the game. We accepted the simulation, surely we can easily accept this?
Or can we as fans kick up enough of a fuss to deter our teams from this anti-football? Is it simply that we have lost our perception through the desire to win? Pressure to win trophies and stay in leagues is the pass mark. Our players have their dramatic dives down to a tee, so do they now need to work on their fouling?
Is it truly a win if you have merely stopped the other team from playing? Jose Mourinho is heralded as one of the greats of the game and the in-demand manager landed arguably footbal’ls top job this summer. The manager of last year’s Champions League winners who, regardless of two late goals at the San Siro in the first leg, reached the final by cancellation of Barcelona’s flair football.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is Nigel De Jong – he’ll be conducting today’s training session.