Saturday, April 21, 2012

God Moving Over the Face of the Waters

In another life I would try to become a football writer. My first book would be called Soccertese: The Philosophy of Football. I would heavily quote Jonathan Wilson, who has this to say on sport:

Sport is predicated (within certain boundaries) on winning....It's not about entertainment first and foremost. It's entertainment through struggle.

I would then analyse the philosophy of FC Barcelona, and discuss why their tactical revolution can only properly be appreciated when we realise that they have created a new language game. For example, the meaning of the word "defender" or "defending" inside of Barca's language game is incommensurable with the meaning of the same words for another team. For other teams, defending is what you do when you don't have the ball. For Barcelona, defending is first and foremost what you do when you do have the ball. Barcelona try to have the ball for 90 minutes, which in theory would be the most perfect defensive performance. It is on this platform that attacks are built. To say Barcelona "are bad at the back" is to miss the forest for the trees.

Understanding this would change how last Wednesday's Champions League semi-final between Chelsea and Barcelona was analysed, for example. It wasn't simply that Chelsea defended excellently and Barcelona failed to defend the one time they were called to (as has been the dominant narrative in the media). Given the different systems each team employed, Barcelona’s was actually more successful in terms of what constitutes “defending” within that system, limiting Chelsea to just one shot on target and no other chances. It wasn't as successful as last year’s match against Arsenal (who failed to have a shot at all, not to mention one on target) but quite excellent nonetheless.

Anyway, all this football mumbo jumbo is just an excuse for me to post my favourite picture related to the beautiful game. My respect to whoever can spot the film it seems to re-enact.

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