Last week I stumbled across an interesting feature on sabotagetimes. The author, a certain Owen Blackhurst, took his stepson to watch a non-league game in the Midlands, with the promise of hot dogs – and just that. No Rooneys or Drogbas to watch in here. The pitch must have been in horrible condition. But I’ll let you read it for yourselves, because my line of thought follows below.
A friend of mine, an expat in Luxembourg who also read the article commented that the article is the reason why he only follows Maltese and Luxembourgian (is that the correct term?) football.
For the love of the sport, I would never ever think of following local football. I did once for a very entertaining ninety minutes during Birkirkara vs Hibernians last year. It was entertaining mostly because I spent the match thinking of how the desolating display of defensive football could be taken for just that and not be followed up by an inquiry of sorts. Since then, the chant “Mario il-Muqran” rings from the terraces whenever our ex-national keeper plays in the presence of Valletta fans.
Petty town squabbles aside, hell, the non-league English championships must be real fun. No superstar bullshit, it’s the type of setting where players are unavailable for matches because they work shifts or have some wedding to attend.
This week, Inter defeated Bayern Munich 3-2 to progress, deservedly, to the quarter finals. The game was played in a stadium that changes colour depending on whether Bayern, Munich 1860 or the German side are playing there. So it looks like a Christmas tree to many satellites hovering in space. If the aliens had to invade us they’d think twice before landing in Germany, irrespective of the quality of the beer (and wurstel, Ja). Inter’s lineup featured a single Italian player, a defender, who caught the occasional siesta. The Germans lost a game because of the psychological factor. Italians who cannot defend and emotional Germans? Where have we come to?
My Clarkson-style stereotypes lead me to think that the sport has now descended into new levels of stupidity. I can go on about the overpaid stars hoofing around the pitch. I can go on about the ruling body that looks very stupid indeed with its relentless opposition to technology. I can tell you about how merchandising is more important than tactics. I can tell you about a long tongued Portuguese manager who believes God is constantly on his side, casually forgetting that Christ never bitched about the Apostles or any of his colleagues – and that when the moment came, Christ didn’t have a bodyguard take the blow for him.
This football malarkey. When I fell in love with the sport my heroes were, rightfully, Marco van Basten and Daniele Massaro. Then I discovered Luis Enrique, Romario and Bebeto, Careca, Albertini, Franco Baresi and Roberto Baggio. A golden age, those nineties. Every manager seemed to play a 4-4-2 and pit his team against the other. Goals galore: matches ended 4-2, 5-3, 5-1 and occasionally 6-2. Zeman was a genius.
Today it’s all tactics and calculations. Score one more goal than your opponent, who will inevitably score nil. Win on away goals. Go down to penalties. Offside, tight marking, pressure up the field, hold the ball. I hate that bloody idea. Hold. The. Bloody. Ball. Possession.
I miss those golden days. Those skimpy football shorts and unbranded football shoes. There were no snoods or ankle tape. No base layers. It was a sport, that’s all.
I think I want it back. I’m switching to ESPN Classic.
written for footballxs.com