You Don’t Know Anything About Football.
And certainly, neither do I.
Minutes played. Distance covered. Aerial duels successfully won in the opposition half. Heat maps. Heat maps? What? Really? Yawn. Yawn again. Is this what the game has become in order to make us feel as if we know what we’re talking about? Or is it an attempt to fill time in the ever increasing media saturation and satisfy the ever increasing demand for football too? A quick google search brings up the option to analyse and compare players widgets (which should be left to a doctor with protective gloves on if you ask me), but surely the current obsession with statistics is detracting from football’s greatest drawcard – its simple beauty as a game.
A game played by people with varying levels of skill, athleticism, and flaws. And, perhaps most importantly, an ability to make even the most highly successful and qualified amongst us look silly. You can’t measure it precisely. You can’t accurately predict it 100% of the time. None of us can. Not me. Not you. Not even the players, coaches nor the ex pros on TV who like to sound as if they can when they step out from behind their fancy desk to play with those equally fancy touch screen things and tell us what will happen in the second half. As the fantastic football journalist Jonny Nic once wrote, “Anyone who has ever asserted a view as an ultimate truth about football has always been proved wrong eventually. Its chaos.” And that chaos, is exactly why we love it.
“Anyone who has ever asserted a view as an ultimate truth about football has always been proved wrong eventually. Its chaos.”Jonny Nic
Similarly, for the spectator and fan, its a game to be debated and enjoyed for its aesthetics and raw, chaotic passion – not poured over endlessly on computer screens that spew out cold facts for us to use to predict the future. Who was better? Pele or Maradona? Zidane or the first / real / fat Brazilian Ronaldo? Is it now Messi, or is it the Cristiano / CR7 / he who has the horrendous statue but nevertheless fit missus Ronaldo? Who cares? They’re all bloody good or have been, so sit back and enjoy them.
Who is going to win the world cup next year in Russia? I have no idea. Not the foggiest. It might be Germany, a rejuvenated Brazil or it could be Costa Rica for all I know. That’s why we watch – in anticipation – because we don’t know what will happen. If we did, because we have an infinite amount of foolproof statistics at our disposal then football would become its own worst enemy: predictable.
At its core, football is a game of choice and opinion bound up amongst this ever shifting chaos. As fans, sometimes we’re right. And sometimes we’re wrong, exactly like the coaches who get paid bucket loads of cash to spend even bigger bucket loads of cash on the centre forward who scored bucket loads of goals the previous season and ends up a shadow of his former self. We love it because we can never really be sure that what we think and what we believe is absolutely correct – but we seem to live in an age of desperation to prove that it is. In the media, in commentary during games, in our own football conversations. When did that become, like, you know, a thing? Downloading and reciting stats from a website that has all you need to know about the BMI of players in La Liga might help you in your quest to think that you can prove that Player A is better than Player B, but really, even if you could, where’s the fun in that? Why is football now trying to become a scientifically sanitised version of itself? Arguments between fans were much more meaningful when you couldn’t be instantly corrected that a goal was in fact scored from 17.3 metres and not the 30 yards that you described to your friends in the pub after the match on a Saturday night.
For the younger fan, this might actually be hard to believe, but there was a time when football debates weren’t fought over scientifically based facts.
In fact, the only fact was that we didn’t really know anything at all, and I for one, enjoyed it a whole lot more.
– David Oswell for [FC BALLER]