April 05, 2008


Writing about web page http://football.guardian.co.uk/championsleague200708/story/0,,2270256,00.html

One thing to come out of Rome last week which has baffled (apart from the way the British fans and Italian managed not to kick the shit out of each other for once) is Roma player David Pizarro’s reaction to Cristiano Ronaldo’s mild halfway line fancy footwork. Calling it spiteful and disrespectful the Chilean argued that it was the wrong thing for Ronaldo to do. Sorry, did I say argued, I meant whined.

Pizarro’s complaining might gain sympathy from some, those who argue that it is disrespectful to fellow professionals to do such a thing, and this tacitly (in my opinion) endorses the sort of heavy handed response which leaves people like Eduardo with broken legs. I’m not saying Martin Taylor meant to smash the Croazilian, but I certainly think his unsubtle approach was formed by the same line of thought. A little heavy handedness to remind the skilful ones you’re about. I’ve done it myself, as a keeper I’ve occasionally been known to not pull out of runs once the ball has been collected purely because to do so would avoid bumping an opponent I want to unnerve a little. It’s not always malicious, it’s just something that’s done. The really good player is the one who ignores this and still shows off their fancy skills, and if a player does that to me I don’t mind any fancy skills, they’ve earnt the right to demonstrate (though I still won’t let them score where possible).

Pizarro’s whining smacks of immaturity. The response to being outsmarted should not be to complain about having been outsmarted. It’s a team game. Sure, one player’s fancy feet might have left you feeling stupid, but no team on earth, not even Brazil 1970 was made up of eleven men doing funky tricks and juggling – Félix was just another goalkeeper. Roma have already proven a couple of times recently that they can solve the problem of Ronaldo by simply stifling him. So have Portsmouth, Manchester City and most of the other teams who have beaten Manchester United in the last year or so. Just because Pizarro himself isn’t good enough to stop Ronaldo showboating doesn’t mean the Portugese shouldn’t, it means Roma should have tried harder as a team. Anderson didn’t play amazingly, and Carrick shows no exceptional skill in getting away from players marking him (although he has the most exquisite passing ability).

The 7-1 thrashing Utd dealt Roma last year also elicited complaints that they had done it to humiliate their opponents. Find me one person, who’s not a Roma fan and a rabid ABU, who didn’t watch that game in amazement. The best argument for that was that Utd know no other way – we cannot play defensive football like Chelsea or Liverpool, we only know how to attack, and on that day Roma forgot to defend. Completely. But how much happier did it make neutrals than watching Utd sit on the ball safe at 4-0 for an entire half (yes, 4-0 at half time)? Roma could and should have played better, they won the first leg 2-1! After the 4-0 spanking in the FA Cup this year, Arsenal came up with similar gripes about Nani’s showboating and the scoreline, but this is the same Arsenal who drew 1-1 in the previous league game and should have played better.

If a team is showboating it’s skill being used for the sake of it. No one complains about skill when it’s needed to help a team. Ronaldo’s outrageously fancy goal against Villa last weekend drew no complaints from Villa as it was the first goal, Utd needed anything they could to take the lead at that stage. So why do people complain when it’s not necessary? Threatened? Insulted? Humiliated? It’s not the cloggers who get remembered, fans want these fancy skills an these players would not complain if their team were the one demonstrating them.

South Americans apparently regard excessive tricks as the worst thing a player can do (like the English view diving*) and yet they are so much better at these skills than we are. And yet the 1970 Brazil team are remembered as one of the best of all time.

As several people have said, if we have to pay £50 for a ticket to a top flight game, we want to see top flight skills. And if the other teams don’t like it then they’d best up their games too. Citeh have proven it can be done – their double over Utd is the only thing their season will be remembered for. The reward for taming skill is more interest than that for merely being consistent (Blackburn, Villa, Portsmouth…).

And finally – Kerlon’s seal dribbling:


*By foreigners. No one moans when Michael Owen or Wayne Rooney does it.

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