“Sport is the love of form, a spectacle which does not transcend the sensory, the instant emotion, which unlike a book…scarcely leave a trace in the memory and does not enrich or impoverish knowledge. And that is its appeal: that it is exciting and empty.” - Mario Vargas llosa
This thought suggests all that is brilliant about attending or watching a football match is experiencing it in the moment, but the ability to reflect on the game and experience it as a significant experience in the canon of football and world culture allows for a greater level of understanding that Ilosa shirks. Sure, football at its core is just a game that people enjoy playing, but, instead of making the sport empty, this is just what allows it such cultural meaning and significance. The emptiness and purity of game at its base form create a canvas that can be painted on. Distinctiveness in style, tactics, and meaning for each team and country leads the sport to transmit cultural and ethnic heritage in a way that art has most notably achieved. The differences between catenaccio and Total football serve to illuminate schisms just as well as cold-war abstract expressionism and soviet harsh realism did in the art world. We can learn so much about the world in the 20th century from football because the people who chose to play the “curious game” have irreversibly shaped it. While other activities are direct corollaries to some sort of action, American football and chess are metaphors for war, football, on the other hand, allows the participant to paint the competition how they want it and thus inform the world about their values. Three examples of how football has been used as a canvas for culture in very different ways are the regionalist movement in Barcelona and Bilbao during the Spanish Civil War and Franco’s Spain, “Futbol Arte”, the extension of body culture in Brazil, and the development of Total football in the Netherlands as a product of the limited space in the Dutch environment.
I have a bunch of work due next week so I wont be able to post that much, but the ties are set and the ties are:
Chelsea v. Bayern Munich
Athletic vs. Atletico
P.S. Manchester City vs. Manchester Utd is on Monday
Some legends watching the match
If you did not watch this match you should the full performance, the highlights, or whatever you can get your hands on. Words cannot explain the moment for Chelsea. Here are some pictures.
Ashley Cole after the tie
”When you lose quality centre-halves like that against a great team, it’s going to be hard.”But we all believed. Not many people did but we did as a group of players, and that’s what happened.”It’s hard, but we defended well as a team, got a bit lucky, and Petr (Cech) made some good saves.
”Three to four months ago no one thought we had a chance. We lost a few games in the Premier League but we always believed and knew we were good enough to be here. You can’t beat that desire and fight that you saw out there today.”
everything brilliant about football was on display today.
Two Titles Decided (Bundesliga and La Liga)
Three Wide Open (Premier League, Serie A, and Ligue 1)
It will be a fantastic finish to the season with most leagues having only 3-5 matches left in the campaign.
The performance against Barcelona was no disgrace. Chelsea’s resurgence under Roberto Di Matteo has largely been due to a return to pragmatism from the idealism that typified the tactics of Andres Villas-Boas. The team has gone from a high-line with players being fit into roles back to a defensive wall with roles designed for the players to fill. This was the tale of the contest Wednesday night. Barcelona dominated the ball and had the lions share of the chances, but Chelsea were set up to deal with that pressure and win, as they did, 1-0.
Di Matteo summated the determined and efficient performance by saying,
It was almost a perfect game. A great result for us. You know when you play Barcelona you have to do a lot of defending. They’re going to have a lot of possession. You’ve got to try and limit their threat and when you get them, take your chances. Drogba scored the crucial goal for us but it was a collective performance by the whole team. I’ve proved absolutely nothing tonight. I think this group of players have proved again their determination, their courage and what quality there is in this team. It’s still 50/50, there’s still a second leg to play away from home and we know how difficult that is going to be.
The lineup deployed by the Chelsea manager was a stroke of genius, by deploying the tireless engines of Ramires and Meireles in the midfield to chase down the midfielders channelled into space or stopped by the defensive presence of (the excellent) Mikel. Di Matteo’s outlook was rather transparent: harass, harang, and frustrate the Catalonian’s attack and create chances out of that tenacity. Another great choice was the inclusion of Didier Drogba instead of the resurgent Fernando Torres. The Ivorian provided Chelsea with a true target man who affected every aerial ball and put in a true “Man of the Match” performance.
After enduring three nearly moments from Alexis (who hit the bar), Fabregas (who sliced his chance), and Fabregas again (who had his effort cleared off the line) the English club were able to expose Barcelona’s weakness through the middle and their tendency to throw too many men forward in (deserved) attacking hubris. The difference between the mentality of the two clubs was obvious upon the Drogba’s strike, while the Catalonian’s have a flair for intricacy, Chelsea struck through simplicity. Frank Lampard ripped the ball off Lionel Messi, then played a 20 yard pass to Ramires who raced down the left and hit a brilliant low cross that Drogba finished from 12 yards. 3 passes 1 goal.
As Barcelona racked up nearly 800 passes and 70% of the possession their attack continued to look more frantic, desperate, and disjointed. Puyol began to scream, players made runs deeper into the box, and Barcelona took more and more of the possession. This played right into Chelsea’s hands. For the last 15 minutes they waited, hassled, and completely disrupted their rhythm. A side like Manchester United is so effective in the final 10 minutes because they get more focused, more intense, and more controlled. Chelsea’s defense completely frustrated that approach and they won out the victors.
(courtesy of zonalmarking.net)
What should scare Barcelona supporters is that the four “box-to-box” midfielder approach leaves the Chelsea side with a lot of tactical flexibility in the second leg and it might be hard for the Catalonian’s to predict the tactics of Chelsea going into the second leg. Di Matteo could unleash the Kalou, Mata, and Torres front line to lead a fast counter preying on Barcelona’s desperation and get a crucial away goal, or he could lineup in another “defensive” formation to keep his opponents off balance. The tie is in now in Chelsea’s hands tactically and that will be a huge advantage and story line going into the second leg.
Great article by John Duerden over at ESPNSoccernet about how Anelka (“Le Sulk”) has taken over as player manager at the Shanghai club. The precedent for this move is spotty, but Roberto Carlos did the same as caretaker manager of Anzhi last year.
“I did not expect to take control of Shanghai, but life is full of surprises,” said Nicolas Anelka in the club’s shiny new clubhouse last Friday, with what can only be described as understatement.
Anelka is the last player (aside from El-Hadji Diouf) that I would expect to become a manager, especially because of the reputation for burning bridges that he developed as a journeyman for some of Europe’s biggest clubs. This reputation was famously bolstered recently with the French national team at World Cup 2010 when The Guardian reported that he and Raymond Domenech had a fiery demise.
Anelka exploded in rage in the dressing room, verbally abusing the coach. He is reported to have said, “Go fuck yourself you son of a whore.”
Duerden’s article also humorously chronicles the antics of Shanghai’s mental owner Zhu Jun (who fired Jean Tigana and instituted Anelka).
Zhu, using a pseudonym, got himself on the pitch for five minutes in a pre-season friendly against Liverpool - a club that he was later reported to be interested in buying.
Oh how things have changed since the beginning of the season. There are now reports that Zhu wants to sell the team that he invested so much time, effort, and money into and has gone to see a psychiatrist about his lost love for the game. Didier Drogba has been rumored to join Anelka at the club, but until there is greater stability it is hard to see any other big names coming over.
With this injury time winner against Rennes (who host a cadre of great footballers like Yann M’Vila, Jonathan Petroipa, and Yassine Jebbour) the 3rd Division club Quevilly have reached the Coupe de France final. Amazingly, Quevilly also reached the semi-final in 2010 and have now knocked out Marsielle, Rennes, and will have a chance to beat Olympique Lyonnais on April 28th.
Their president Michael Mallet said:
“It was a crazy match, just as it was against Marseille (in the quarter-finals), this is beyond all superlatives, something that cannot be tarnished, and that we should live out and share with those closest to us.”
“At times, we were close to cracking, but there was an incredible force driving the players to believe in themselves. I never believed in my wildest dreams that we’d be in the Stade de France.”
brings back memories of Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s miss against Arsenal
The Falklands War of 1982 and the 1986 World Cup define Anglo-argentine relations of the past forty years and the events serve as a nice bookend for the polarized time periods of fan culture in each country. When English hooliganism was raging in the 70s, authoritarian Juntas pacified Argentinean football culture and when the Premier League introduced modern comfortable football to England in 1992, the violent barras bravas were beginning their take over of the Argentinian game. The barras bravas and hooliganism did not come about by coincidence, but they were instead produced by the cause and effect systems of inequality and negligence that enabled football grounds to become exclusive, uncomfortable, and intimidating.