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Published on July 15th, 2011 | by Yellow Magpie

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The Worldwide Decline Of Football Part Three

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The eerie calm had lured the crew-woman, given her false hope. With the disguise of darkness it had come without warning, there was no fanfare just its sudden, looming presence. A sinister glistening winked as its hardness tore apart the boat. Its bladed surface cleaving the metal. The boat’s weakness was exposed to the remorseless ocean which poured into its heart. Within minutes the vessel was gone.

Yellow Magpie continues its new opinion section with the final part of our piece on the current state of World Football.
 You can read part one and part two of Yellow Magpie’s Worldwide Decline Of Football here..

Poor Management

Football is plagued by poor management. Often former footballers are promoted and given the role of manager in the mistaken belief that good players make good conductors. This may be true of a few but it is rarely the case. The skills and talents required to be a successful player are very different from those required to be a successful organiser and tactician.

Using such inexperienced and ill-suited personal only makes the sport worse. Supporters and fans do not want to see teams under-performing.

The Foulness Of Foul Play

Nevertheless, there is a much bigger problem with management and that is the win-at-all-costs sentiment that punctuates most football teams. This attitude gives rise to many negative and unwanted behaviours. On-the-field it contributes to bullying, fouling, and in some cases career threatening injuries.

Individual players such as Roy Keane, and Steven Gerrard have been responsible for some of the most horrific tackles ever witnessed of late on a football pitch. This too has been creeping into the women’s game with college player Elizabeth Lambert attracting much online attention for her fouling.

It is the manager’s responsibility to condone these actions and to ensure that their players are not threatening other players with serious injury.

Nonetheless, collectively one of the worst team displays ever witnessed was Bert van Marwikj’s Dutch team who made it all the way to the 2010 World Cup Final. Non-partisan football fans breathed a sigh of relief when the Netherlands lost the match to Spain after trying to foul their way to victory throughout the tournament.

A Regressive Racist And Homophobic Culture

Two of the ugliest things affecting football are racism and homophobia. Racism has manifested itself to varying degrees in virtually every league of note in the world. Leagues in England, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland, Ireland, Russia, United States, Mexico, Argentina, Israel and Turkey, amongst others, have all had racist outbursts, although some have been less serious than others.

Some of the worst incidents include the punching of an American player of Nigerian extract, Oguchi Onyewu, by racist ‘fans’ in Belgium while playing for Standard Leige. Northern Ireland’s Neil Lennon received an explosive device in the post while playing for Celtic in Scotland.

While racism is overt, homophobia it is much harder to identify in comparison. Roughly four per cent of the population are thought to be gay. This means that eight per cent of men are homosexual.

Men from other sports that are much more physical, and hence more macho than football, have ‘come out’ as gay. This includes the tougher sports of rugby and hurling (an Irish game involving large sticks and a ball). Yet in a sport with thousands of professional footballers, not one single male currently playing football today has ‘come out’.

Justin Fashanu

One footballer who was openly gay was Justin Fashanu. According to the autobiography of Brian Clough (Fashanu’s former manager), Fashanu was the subject of homophobic questioning by Clough himself, who claimed this interaction occurred:

Where do you go if you want a loaf of bread?‘ I asked him.
A baker’s, I suppose,’
Where do you go if you want a leg of lamb?
A butcher’s.’
So why do you keep going to that bloody poofs’ club?

The homophobic Clough barred Fashanu from training with the team. Justin Fashanu would go on to commit suicide in 1998 and this is the main reason generally cited as to why other professional football players have not declared their sexuality.

A Game For Robots

Football is now being dominated by statisticians. Unbeknownst to many fans and especially commentators, many teams have stopped playing a spontaneous game.

Instead of looking at what is in front of them they play according to a rule book. Teams and opposition players are carefully studied beforehand and weaknesses sought out. There are statistics gathered on who is most likely to set up a pass that leads to a goal and who covers the most ground defensively. Irrelevant statistics are being weeded out as the process becomes more refined.

No longer are players judged by how many kilometres they run or how many tackles they make. As mentioned by Simon Kuper in the Financial Times, one of the great defenders of the modern age, Paolo Maldini only averaged one tackle every two games so good was his positional awareness he deprived his opponents before they could even get a chance to get the ball.

While this is the inevitable combination of new technology and the stresses of the modern professional game – the spectacle is greatly reduced. Moves inevitably break down and incorrect options are taken because players refuse to assess what is happening and play accordingly. This is why we see so many aimless balls kicked with no one near them. What has happened is a move has broken down and the opposition have prevented a move from occurring.

These tactics, especially when played by average to good teams, are a poor advert for football and often result in dire matches. One of the great attractions of football is its spontaneity and skill. Supporters do not want to see a game that more closely resembles chess having lost all of its flair.

Barcelona A Beacon Of Hope

One team continues to provide some respite and beauty to the game of football, Barcelona. On the field, the current Barcelona team, it could be argued without fear of recrimmination, are the greatest football team every to grace the pitch. Full of flair and inventiveness, they possess some tremendous players focused fully around a team-orientated game in which the participants play as one collective entity.

Spearheaded by the Argentinian, Lionel Messi, and two of the finest midfielders the sport has ever produced, Xavi and Andres Iniesta – they produce a brand that is currently unrivalled and they have the trophies to prove it.

Off the field, Barcelona employ an unusual model – the supporters are the shareholders and owners of the club. Whereas many, long established clubs are being brought by overseas people who have no history or association with the sport, Barcelona is owned by its fans.

This emergence between financial stability, without the negative influence of financial powerplays, and their on-field par excellence means that there is hope for the game of football but as a spectacle and as a commercial entity. Whether or not the governing bodies over the sport realise what is at stake is another question entirely.

You can read part onepart two and part three of Yellow Magpie’s Worldwide Decline Of Football here..


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