Thursday, March 18, 2010

The English Channel

The English invented Football, and after more than a century of playing it, still don't understand its basics. Passing the ball around, in movement, to create (pockets of) space. It's that simple. Yet, big names like Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, or Gareth Barry have a hard time applying what Arsène Wenger calls "the beautiful football". Some call it "continental football", when really, it should simply be referred to as football. Not the american football-like Aston Villa plays (Martin O'neill should be banned from football), forcing its strikers, Agbonlahor and Heskey to spend 90 minutes chasing hell-mary balls from Friedel. It's pathetic to hear English commentators being amazed whenever they're commenting European tournaments. And they wonder why they never make it past the quarterfinal! Luckily, this year England have a foreign manager, and arguiably the best in the world, and he's promised a semifinal. Let's hope Sir Alex hasn't worn Rooney out by June. 

On the other side of the Channel however, there is an army of well trained superheroes (that's what I believe the French players to be) lead by a clown, high on mushrooms. Domenech sees a different reality from all of us, and always seems to see the bright side of every situation. Well, for a man in his position, you kinda have to. The fact that he should've been replaced a long time ago is probably the only thing all human beings (except for Domenech's boss, obviously) would agree on, yet he's about to take a tremendously talented squad of players to another World Cup. Fine, there's no Zidane this time around, but who needs him when you can have a  Ribéry-Gourcuff-Nasri midfield, and a Malouda-Diaby-Anelka as a backup just in case someone catches the latest fake flu pandemic? And really, that's just a few of the multiple possibilities the vast pool of French talent produced by the INF (France's national football institute) gives you. The same folks responsible for the Thierry Henry handball vs The Republic (France shouldn't have to qualify through playoffs), are behind the development of some of our favourite players. 

What does all that mean? On both sides of La Manche, there is an internal issue slowing down the efforts to win a World Cup. The FA can buy the best manager but can't teach football to its kids. The FFF did an amazing job correcting the mistakes of the early Nineties (failing to qualify in '90 and '94) but today, bureaucracy wins over creativity. Or like Bill Clinton says: "politics over policy".

Michel Platini replaced a Dinausor at the UEFA presidency, and already positive changes are felt in European Football. Let's hope that wave of change can hit the national federations too.

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