Apologies for my prolonged absence from the site but hopefully something resembling regular blogging will now return. I have been tempted out of my month break from writing any posts by a growing displeasure at certain aspect of football coverage so further apologies for the negativity of this latest piece.
We, as football fans, are naturally highly subjective. We often have preconceived ideas about teams and players which will inevitably detract from our ability to make fair and accurate judgements. This unavoidable instinct extends beyond simple, negative prejudices against rival clubs or unpopular players, often it is applied in a positive manner as we lavish praise on someone’s performance when it really is not warranted.
To put it another way, as a football community we see certain players in a certain way and any judgement that we may cast about them is distorted by the lens through which we like to view them. The prime examples of this of late are Jack Wilshere, Gareth Bale and Neymar. Now I am not, of course, suggesting that these are not exceptional talents. They most certainly are. Their reputations as such, however, results in a complete fixation on them by journalists, commentators and fans alike.
When these players step onto the pitch every touch they take, pass they complete or bit of skill they show is met with cries of brilliance. Obviously logic would suggest that as these are extremely talented players, it is to be expected that they will provide us with these moments that are more worthy of praise. There is truth in that. Yet I have seen Wilshere complete a five yard pass and be compared with Xavi and Iniesta while Gareth Bale can bumble his way past a defender and be called the best winger in the world. Too often these players just can’t put a foot wrong.
Some off-the-field misdemeanour may alter our opinions of them but until that point such players are heralded as demi-gods. Nothing they do is by luck; everything is a moment of perfectly planned, expertly executed genius. This works the other way round too. Football is littered with its collection of villains and comical characters that are scrutinised for their slightest mistake so that it can be put in super slow mo and over-analysed by pundits after the game. Coverage of this type leads to misleading and inaccurate portrayals of the game, acting only to exacerbate the preconceptions we have about those who play it.
Had Gareth Bale played on the same pitch as Wilshere on Saturday afternoon it is quite possible that Chris Coleman would be harbouring a never-subsiding erection today. Bale could have stood on the pitch and done little more than make a couple of jinking runs or dangerous crosses and there still would have been a montage made to commemorate his performance. The problem with this tendency is that it makes football coverage painfully predictable and repetitive.
Match of the Day have their weekly script virtually written for them. It will feature footage of Blackpool’s adventurous attacking play, Arsenal’s defensive frailties and Stoke’s long throw. These things are as certain as Mark Lawrenson’s tone is monotonous. These things become innate within our understanding of the game, they are inbuilt into how we watch and talk about the game. As such we approach every match with an expectation of what we will see and by doing so further pander to the stereotypes that are endlessly repeated to us.
The example of Neymar in Brazil’s match against Scotland exemplifies this point. Again, it is important to stress that I am not trying to discredit him as a player. Yet there was so much hype before the match about him and so much focus on him during the match that his performance was never going to be judged purely on its own merits. His performance was impressive but to call comparisons with Pele and Ronaldo premature would be an almighty understatement.
Teams are categorised, players are pigeonholed and we as fans are forced to watch football through the predetermined views of the broadcasters, commentators and pundits. If you look hard enough then you will see what you want to see. As such, football matches become broken down into clichéd side shows.
Thoughts, comments and opinions please…