Posts Tagged ‘football’
Via Political Wire. The back story is apparently that Winnipeg mayor Sam Katz kicked a kid in the face at a charity soccer game over the summer.
From Montenegro’s 1-0 victory over Switzerland as part of Euro 2012 qualifying comes this:
In other Euro news, the Netherlands continued on their journey to Poland/Ukraine by beating Moldova and remain perfect in qualifying. But barely. As per the highlights Oranje still looks to be a bit challenged at finishing at the net even though they had lots of great chances. Even with lots of guys out (Robben, van Persie, De Jong) they should have had a better outcome than this. Next up is Sweden at Amsterdam ArenA on Tuesday.
A ridiculous piece of sports journalism by Brian Philips on Slate, in which he argues that if you like football, you should want the Netherlands to lose. This because of the by now tiring meme that the Dutch have forsaken their beautiful style, which resulted in the perennial status of best nation never to have won the World Cup, in favor of a more pragmatic, yet winning game. Because Philips likes to watch the first, Oranje should return to that. Here in the Netherlands, “soccer legend” Johan Cruyff is even kinda hoping for Spain to win the finals, because they play in the style he likes.
Seriously. Is there any other sport in which these kind of arguments play a role? Is anybody asking for a rugby player to play “esthetically”, or for a runner to run in a pleasing style? Get lost. In every other sport, the primacy of competion is unquestioned, yet in football, a team gets criticized because they win but don’t play attractive enough. I know that playing style is important in football because otherwise the game is even more boring to watch, but come on, you don’t play to please the crowds in front of the tv, you play to win. And if beautiful football, Dutch-style, goes hand in hand with losing, you’re not going to stick with that and be the loser just so the audience has some fun.
So I hope that Van Marwijk and the team keep doing what they’ve done so far: ignore the preposterous criticism about style, and keep winning, in whatever way possible (dirty foul play aside). When all is done, nobody is gonna remember anything about style, just that the Netherlands won the World Cup in 2010. In the course of that, I also hope that the Cruyffian establishment in the Netherlands that advocates tired old esthetically pleasing yet losing football will then be silenced; and that with that, the national myth of being brilliant yet failing at the crucial moments – exactly the narrative you’ll find in the article below – will be history.
But what do I know?
Like all soccer writers, I have a debilitating nostalgic streak, and like all soccer writers, I love Holland. The Dutch, who face Spain in Sunday’s World Cup final, are soccer’s most gorgeous losers, a team defined by a single generation of players who brilliantly failed to reach their potential. The Dutch teams of the 1970s—led by the mercurial Johan Cruyff, who’s widely considered the greatest European player of all time—launched a tactical revolution, played one of the most thrilling styles of their era, and lost two consecutive World Cup finals in memorable and devastating ways. In the process, they became the icons of soccer romantics who would rather see teams play beautifully and lose than win and be boring. That’s a harsh legacy for any team that just wants to take home trophies, and this year’s Dutch squad is trying hard to transcend it. The dreams of millions of fans are riding on their success. Personally, I hope they fail.
Dutch soccer wouldn’t be Dutch soccer without the excruciating losses. The 1974 team, managed by Michels and starring Cruyff, tore through their first six World Cup matches—their opponents included Brazil and Argentina—by a combined score of 14-1. In the final against West Germany, they scored their first goal before the Germans had even touched the ball. But the Dutch stars were also transcendently overconfident, and when West Germany tied the game through a penalty in the 25th minute, Holland went to pieces. They eventually succumbed to a 2-1 defeat that was especially stinging to Dutch fans who remembered the German occupation during World War II. The cultural impact of this match in the Netherlands is sometimes compared to that of the Kennedy assassination.
Thus was born the image of the Dutch as erratic soccer artists, so committed to the beauty of total football that they always undid themselves when it mattered. It wasn’t exactly true; David Winner, whose book Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Soccer is the definitive guide to the subject, points out that total football was designed to win matches, not mimic the harmony of the spheres. But the perceived superiority of total football—the notion that a soccer ideal had been discovered and unleashed—allowed the Dutch to retain some measure of pride after their humiliating loss to West Germany. And the temperamental obsession with style perfectly suited a certain creative, individualistic strain in Dutch culture. (Winner persuasively compares Dutch soccer to Dutch politics and architecture.) Cruyff, in particular, became a kind of guru of aesthetic purity, insisting long after it became untenable that Holland should always play with three strikers, and issuing grandiose statements like “there is no better medal than being acclaimed for your style.”
Playing stylishly might not be more important than winning. But teams that play stylishly make the game worth watching, and thus assume an importance that can’t be reflected by wins and losses. During the era of Cruyff and total football, the Dutch played as stylishly as anyone in the world. Over the last few seasons, that mantle belongs not to Holland but to Spain. Spain’s tiki-taka soccer—inexorable passing, patient build-up play, constant pressing on defense—isn’t much like total football, though it can also be traced back to Cruyff, who spent eight years as the manager of Barcelona. Nevertheless, Spain’s style is a similarly coherent, and similarly beautiful, approach to the game. And that’s why I hope Spain will win the World Cup on Sunday. It’s not because I don’t like Holland; it’s because I like the history of Holland so much.