MUMBAI: A nation under deep economic stress can play football.
Originating from the 19th century British English miners and
managers and growing continuously under foreign influence,
Spain has learnt to charm the world with its own brand of
soccer that is poetic and sublime in execution.
artists of eleven, with more sitting in the reserves, march
across the football field in grace and grandeur as they set
out to conquer the world with bodies that are not anywhere
near raw muscle and strength. The Europeans had changed the
way football was to be played and won, strategy ruling over
aggression, making even the classy Brazilians adopt to a game
that they have been king of so often.
the Spaniards, not those men dressed in red, as they celebrate
their third triumph in a row. The Euro championship is theirs
twice and so is the World Cup in 2010. They play a totally
fluid game that follows no pattern and moves in all directions
without a fixed striker position.
last sheer magic one saw was the Brazilian duo of Ronaldinho
and Ronaldo who played together in two World Cups and even
lifted the trophy in 2002. The artistry of Ronaldinho would
suddenly find space to dribble past any crowded corner occupied
by the enemy and the final pass would create an opportunity
for Ronaldo who would put the ball to the net with his strong
legs and an amazing scoring ability. Brazil in attack was
always dangerous and beautiful to watch.
style of Latin American soccer could find success in another
country in the mid-80s at a time when the wonderful free game
was beginning to fall slave to strategy just because of another
individual brilliance: Maradona. But the dwarf
had strength in body and the legs to bulldoze his way through.
He could run with the ball and in one scoring spree against
England could pierce ahead despite his shirt being pulled
by an opponent desperately trying to put him off balance.
This genius won the World Cup for Argentina in 1986.
has none of that muscle power supporting their artistry. The
whole troop moves in harmonic orchestra and the final blow
when it comes is a movement. There is no shock or brutality;
it is like the wind blowing gently, the river flowing perennially.
It is the inevitability of winning in a quiet world.
is no element of mad rush seen in Ronaldo, the man who took
Portugal almost to the final in the Euro 2012 championship.
There is no wild Balotelli removing his shirt after scoring
twice in the semis for Italy and dedicating the victory against
Germany to his mother Silvia who adopted the child born of
Ghanaian immigrants when he was two years; the temperamental
footballer who grew up with a life-threatening intestinal
condition as an infant was also demonstrating to Italys
half million children of immigrants that they too could aspire
to rise to glory.
has Xavi and Iniesta and others who play like the musicians;
they are possessed by their game, drawn to their style and
want to control their art form. When football has become more
physical, Xavi and those from his team who are weaker than
the many powerfully built footballers wouldnt have been
winners. The style of the Spanish play suited their game and
made them emerge as winners.
winning team has built an architecture which it can only ape
to perfection. They call it Tiki-taka, a style
of play characterised by short passing and movement to maintain
ball possession. The Spanish players have mastered the art
and can use it to attack and defend so smoothly that you keep
wondering at their magic. The individual brilliance of these
players also gives them the flexibility to change their game
strategy from a defensive ploy to an attacking game.
display was the finest against Italy, a team which had put
behind the match-fixing scandal affecting their domestic leagues
to reach the final contest in Euro 2012. Spains relentless
ball possession and attacking game narrowed the scoring opportunities
against them and tired the energetic legs of the Italians.
No wonder Spain scored four goals and gave away none.
the tottering economies of the Euro zone, the slide towards
deep recession and the unemployment that is spreading wide
and fast. Forget the despair and the hard reality. It is time
to hunt for the opium that is football.
a country where there is a deep economic crisis, the sport
has offered joy and triumph. The match against Portugal, decided
in a penalty shootout, had a record 18 million television
viewers in Spain watching passionately, much more than the
14.5 million that witnessed their countrys first triumph
in the World Cup in 2010 beating the Netherlands.
soccer lore is sure to expand the most popular sports
global television viewership. In the many generations that
have played the game, it has moved from the individual brilliance
of certain players like Pele to a team of attackers and later,
unfortunately, to the dull defensive ploy of many countries.
The Spanish style signals another wave of evolution. Countries
like India can now begin to hope that their footballers with
less powerful built can still find space through skills that
the Spanish team has excelled in.
began as a sport for the working class in the UK and gradually
evolved to attract private capital to support clubs, some
of whom are now publicly listed. The sports mass base
attracted Rupert Murdoch and his News Corp lapped up the television
rights for the English Premier League that catapaulted BSkyB
to a hegemonic position. For British tabloids, soccer has
gone done as a popular diet along with sensationalistic content.
broadcasters in India need to popularise soccer. In a single-sport
country that loves cricket, there is no other escape if they
are to run profitable networks. There are baby steps taken
to develop the sport. IMG-Reliance has pocketed the All India
Football Federation (AIFF) media rights for Rs 7 billion for
15 years, but has done very little with it. Another league
in West Bengal is yet to take off.
hope Spains rise is an inspiration for us to sow the
seeds so that in future we can hope to have India participate
in the worlds soccer economy.