Retro Special One
In a recent Foreign Affairs article on the political theory of Game of Thrones, the author posited: “the true moral of the story is that when good rules are disregarded, disorder and ruin follow.” and “the gains that power achieves without justice cannot endure”.
This idealism was certainly born out by today’s football with the (seemingly inevitable) sack of a listless Roberto Mancini and the success of the charismatic Ian Holloway. Holloway’s victory over Crystal Palace’s bitter rivals Brighton has ensured that either he or Gianfranco Zola will be managing in the Premier League next season. In both cases, and specifically Holloway’s, the league will be for the better.
Holloway’s run in the 2010-2011 season with the over-achieving Blackpool was defined by his commitment to attacking and attractive football, bestowing trust in his players to use personal talents their greatest extent. The enrapturing effect of his tenure undoubtedly inspired some of the new young manager’s that have brought forward thinking football to the Premier League since: Brendan Rodgers, Paul Lambert, and Nigel Adkins.
Beyond his tactical style, Holloway has been an entertaining voice in English football, saying (among other things):
Holloway seems to make a fan out of everyone that he encounters. The same cannot be said for Roberto. The master of the “is football” press conference, the bewildered stare, and the “this is the referee, and this is his decision”. It was everything that people hated about Sir Alex Ferguson without the scotch/scottish tinged charm or the thrilling results. Mancini was ultimately sacrificed because he couldn’t make an unbelievable team achieve and because his tactics seemed to be: throw on a defensive midfielder if we’re winning, throw on an attacking midfielder/second striker if were losing, switch to 5 at the back if I want acclaim (this always backfired). Modern tactics are a blend of man-management, understanding of space, and understanding of the current state of the game. Mancini didn’t seem to understand how his substitutions would manipulate the space on the field and was often caught out in Europe despite having a preponderance of talent.
Just desserts and all that.
English football seems to only be getting faster paced and more exciting and I, for one, can’t wait for next season.
Over the course of the past six months I’ve spent a considerable amount of time conducting research on both nationalism and market integration in football as part of a long-term thesis project. On January 9th and 10th, I attended both Real Betis and Sevilla’s Copa del Rey matches. The disparate experiences seen in the neighborhoods that house the teams, Heliopolis and Nervion respectively, revealed the lasting effect of the financial crisis on the game and offered a view into the state of the coming years. This micro-level experience fell in line with my macro-level my analyses. First: football responds to the market before the market in economic downturns and slower in recoveries, and second: that regional identities are magnified in times of economic crisis. Oh, and I also had a blast.
My week in Sevilla was a performance piece. I had elaborately designed to evade cultural superstition and sideways glances of nationalistic scorn so that I could see what being a ‘Sevillista’ or a ‘Betico’ really represented to the supporters and the neighborhoods that they represent. I wanted to become an insider, to really see what made these people tick. I stayed the bulk of my time in Nervion where there is no reason for tourists to visit the drab unornamented buildings and spent my time in the gap between tapa and racion. Not a tourist, but definitely not a local. My mission was to be a fly on the wall - I had a great time failing with that as my objective.
New article for A Football Report. I think it’s a pretty fun and illuminating read.
Some people say football is like life; my life isn’t that shit, unless I’m watching football. Supporting Aston Villa over the past 10 years has become one of the most joyous, proud, and, now, psychologically debilitating components of my life. I am struggling with the pain of knowing that our team is not good and the hope for more. The hope for connection and resonance. The hope that Stephen Ireland will fucking run a few kilometers in a match instead of pouting and admiring his wayward passes. The hope that Brett Holman can cultivate an ounce of class to go with his tremendous work ethic. The hope that Aston Villa can become a successful football club again. These are all hopes because they are not true and they will not be true anytime soon, but I still believe. Belief in lost causes, among all things, leads to pain. We have conceded 12 goals in our past 3 hours of football and scored none, yet what I will remember most from these past two matches is the things outside of the game and how my week of vacation spiraled downwards with the Villa.
The memory of being introduced to 15 people whose names I didn’t remember and whose greetings were so alien that I could not respond. The feeling of otherness, the lack of language, absconding away to watch the match. In this, the Italian men could relate and I was encouraged rather than berated for watching the match in the presence of a feast for family. I pushed through a barrier of language, age, and culture. Of course Villa were shit.
The knowledge of something you are invested in being a losing venture is very depressing. Tottenham’s goals were inevitable, despite the first half clean sheet, I knew it. This Villa side is not good. It is not premiership quality. Watching this team full of bright eyed clumsy 20 year olds recalls a vision of a bright eyed clumsy 20 year old (myself) receiving European kisses and not knowing which side to receive them, sitting in the living room-turned bedroom because it is more comfortable there without with the pain of miscommunication.
I guess that was the most disappointing thing about boxing day. I felt like I could no longer relate to things that I held dear to my heart. We all want to feel understood. This is not the Villa that I grew to love and, although, I truly rate Paul Lambert, its going to be a long, arduous, and, most of all, painful road back to the top half of the premier league. The side lacks purpose and ambition and, because of that, its hard to understand or learn from their failure, it merely frustrates.
Yet, I still believe. I can’t help myself. Bring on the Lactics.
Cambiasso in his Independiente days