Soccer, purity &…racism?

The modern game of soccer is diluted.  In many of my blogs, I’ve talked about my frustration with the path the game has taken.  Rather than developing the game to embody its purist form, the focus has been on developing bigger, faster and stronger players.  As the French National head coach put it, when referring to his French domestic league, players are relying on brute strength. 

What is soccer’s purist form? 

Soccer’s purist form is playing the game with a wonderful understanding and materializing that into beautiful technique.  And for years, most legitimate organizations have faught tirelessly in their pursuit of this type of soccer.

Don’t take my word for it.

Current French national head coach, Laurent Blanc, feels very strongly about this.  In fact, he feels so strongly that he has instigated worldwide discomfort.  Joe O’Connor explains, “Laurent Blanc, was first accused and then exonerated of racism this week for arguing that French soccer was no longer French enough. Many of the players in the country’s development ranks are black or Arab, possess dual citizenship and play a game Mr. Blanc bemoaned as relying on brute strength.”

Racism?! This is considered racism?  Give your head a shake.  This has nothing to do with racism and everything to do with Mr. Blanc fighting for what he believes in. Is that so wrong? 

He is worried about the direction the French are taking their domestic soccer league, and more importantly, he is worried about the intent of organizations, coaches and players world wide. He is fighting for a classic style of soccer, one that is the “sacred marriage of technical skill and intelligence.”  None of this racism bolony.

Brazilian soccer is feeling a similar angst.  The “beautiful game”, as the brazilians have labelled it, has historically been tied closely with a carnival spirit of free-flowing samba.  This has progessively been watered down as the brazilian game has also evolved into one depending on speed and strength.  Any player that show’s glimpses of that beautiful soccer spirit is picked up and flown to Europe for a lucrative contract.  

Many will argue that speed and strength trump knowledge and technique.  My answer: Barcalona.  They have neither speed nor strength, but depend entirely on the classic style of soccer I described above.  And guess what, they’re the best club team in the world.  Do the math.

We need change and we need it now.  If we continue down this path of depending on players brute strength, sooner rather than later we’ll be giving player’s 2 minute penalty’s for body checks.

2 Comments

  • Posted May 18, 2011 7:14 am 0Likes

    Hi I really like your blog and it’s a shame that my first comment is on something I disagee with you about.
    The French Football Federation scandal I felt was quite disgraceful. Though I concede they may have an issue with bringing players through their academies who go on to play for a different country. Having a quota on blacks and arabs is not something that should be considered in the 21st century.
    However I digress. I am disappointed that you condoned Blanc’s comment that many of the players in the French league are black or French who only rely on brute strength. This is wrong on so many levels as it implies that a) Blacks and arabs are unable to play ‘pure’ football b)that the majority of white players are techinically superior to their white counterparts both of which is simply not true. If you look at the past greats such as Henry, Zidane, Vieira who didn’t rely on their brute strength but their immense footballing ability you see that the Blacks and Arabs can provide great ‘pure’ footballers.
    Also to bring you up on your other point that Barcelona, who you rightly claim are the best footballing side in the world, have neither speed nor strength is ridiculous. Yes they move the ball and keep possession brilliantly but they are also one of the fittest sides around. Their high pressing game means that the likes of Messi and Villa will run and hound the defenders to get the ball back. In terms of speed Messi, Villa, Pedro and Dani Alves must be some of the fastest players in world football and in Pique they have a rock of a defender, so to say they have no speed and strength is far-fetched. The key is that they have a good balance of the ‘pure’ football you talk about and strength and speed because at the end of the day football is a high energy contact sport so a physical aspect is required.
    In conclusion I fully agree that football has lost some of it’s magic in an era where it is purely a results-based business and anti-football rears it’s ugly head from time to time. However to blame this on a particular ethnic group is highly ignorant. The fact is that if you’re good enough you should play regardless of colour.

    Keep up the good work!

    • wp_user_avatar
      Posted May 25, 2011 6:58 pm 0Likes

      Thank you for your comment, Ron. It as a compliment when anyone reads our blog, and I become truly humbled when people take the time to leave a comment.
      Your point is well taken, but allow me to explain. In my opinion, Blanc’s comment was taken out of context. At first glance, his comment seems to have racism written all over it, but when approached from a soccer perspective, it takes on a different light. And don’t forget, perspective is often reality.
      Blanc was suggesting that the players who are either black or Arab are coming from nations where soccer is not developed. Consider many of the nations where these players come from, i.e. Algeria, where the players aren’t exposed to the quality of soccer France is exposed to. Let’s take the time to dissect a country like Algeria.
      Algeria has made the World Cup only three times in its history and is currently ranked 40th in the world. Now, for many nations – especially the likes of Algeria and other African nations – a birth in the World Cup is a colossal success. However, that standard of soccer is below below the French standard. The French have created a standard where they expect to win the World Cup every year.
      With that in mind, how do you think a player being brought up in the French youth system differs from a player being brought up in an Algerian youth system? The French player will be exposed to a quality of soccer that has been marinated in technique, skill and etc. I will argue that the same cannot be said for the Algerian youth system. They will rely on “brute strength”.
      I take Blanc’s comment to be delivered from a soccer mind and nothing to do with skin color. To suggest white players are better than any other race IS ignorant and is not what I was suggesting whatsoever. The French are losing the quality of soccer they once had because they aren’t able to bread players in their youth system. Forget black players or Arab players for a second, the same could be said for the North American system. Players relying on strength and speed do not make it to Europe because that’s not enough.
      Finally, Ron, I think your Barcelona point is a valid one, but I don’t completely agree. Although they have many speedy players, i.e. Alves, Messi and Pedro, I don’t think it’s a characteristic that stands out. Ultimately, what stands out is their incredible ball movement. Their ability to move the ball with technical brilliance and pick apart a team is magical. Although speed and strength absolutely play a role – and are required – they are not good enough.
      I hope you can appreciate where I am coming from and from where I feel Blanc was coming from.
      I look forward to hearing more from you.

What do you think?