Thursday, September 9, 2010

Sepp Blatter: why a 74-year old Swiss businessman is running Football

As I was browsing through the many Euro qualifying matches last Friday, and this past Tuesday, I kept wondering what I was going to write about this week. Nothing stood out of all this football! France finally won a match, England (The September version) won easily, the big names (Italy, Spain, Germany, Netherlands) all got off to a good start, and -as I predicted- Portuguese Football is facing a crisis. And a bunch of players got injured. Nothing new. Business as usual. 
Until Sepp [Bellend] Blatter decided it was time to grab the world's attention by proposing one of his brilliant ideas to improve Football. The Golden Goal rule was a fiasco, but Mr Blatter did not learn the lesson. He now wants to remove the 2 extra-time periods (of 15 minutes) and go straight to penalties, in the knockout stages of a competition. After 90 minutes of Football, if a game is tied, let's end the spectacle as quickly as possible. Players are tired of running around, and Mr Blatter has got a plane to catch. So please, let's wrap it up!

The 74-year old Swiss ruler of the beautiful game noticed, during the last WC, that teams were being too cautious, and too eager to settle for a draw, rather than going forward and trying to win. He also realized that teams went forward in the very last stages of a game, which created matchups where both sides stood and looked at each other forever. The football wasn't beautiful enough, he thought. Nice to have you back mr Sepp! How was your 10 year nap? Welcome to the fooball of the Flat World, where anyone with Internet access knows how to get a result in a football match. We all saw Mourinho take out the Mighty Barça, we all know what it takes to win games today. We all know it takes a squad as good as Barça's to win beautifully. Get with the program Old man, there are some very progressive thinkers out there [Michel Platini], who already know how to do your job better than you. Or, maybe it's time to retire...

What Blatter didn't get from South Africa 2010 was that almost every coach came with a plan for each matchup, in order to get the most out of the 3 group games. Uruguay for exemple, won their group by conceding a less-than-thrilling draw to France in their opener. The mid-size teams were ready for the world cup. Blatter wasn't. Otherwise he would've noticed that, after all that negative football, the best two teams in the world, met in the final (producing breathtaking passing football), and that the best team in the world won the Cup. What more could you ask for? Every national side that lost in the knockout stages got beaten by a better team. All the way to the Dutch.

This won't satisfy the B-man, who probably misses the 6-0 thrashings of countries like Saudi Arabia, or Haiti, back when everyone wanted to play and look like Brazil. The possibility of having to go through penalties right after 90 minutes will not encourage any football coach to open up its defense and push numbers forward, Mr Blatter. It will not generate beauty in the game. This is a bad idea. Even on paper. 
Just think of the number of heart-stopping extra-time moments you've lived through your career as a fan, and you will agree with me. Here are some of the best I can remember:

In the new system, these moments wouldn't be possible. Sepp Blatter wants to put an end to that sentence we all love to hear: "We are going to extra-time". And, he obviously didn't want Spain to win the World Cup [in extra-time].

So why is Football run by a 74-year old Swiss businessman? Because Football is a business. A good businessman will turn anything good into a good business. But getting rid of extra-time would be a poor business move.

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