The Greater Good?

“Personal achievements are always nice but it’s the team that counts.” – Steven Gerrard

What does a good game mean to you?

Is the result the only thing that counts? Will it involve fancy footwork, ball possession and top passing, technique all the way? It’s a thrill, does it keep you on your tip toes till the end? It has as many goals as possible? Preferably for your team-let’s crush them sorry faces? Or for both-the more the better? Maybe you’d rather watch a highly complicated play? Strategy, chess movements, a true mind control? Pure Italian heritage, good defense and maybe score if the occasion occurs, 1-nil for the win? Perhaps some Turkish flavor? Passion, aggression what’s the difference?

All of the above?

I enjoy a game of football. True football how I call it. There is no chess involved, no parking the buss as defense, no histrionics to get attention. None of that. Instead it has, if not goals then goal attempts, many of them. It also involves that passion for sport, a desire to win the game, determination, ambition to succeed.

The players fight for every ball, pushing themselves to the limits. Mind and body managing all resources for a collective win.

Of course the quality of the players is very important, but we all witnessed ‘interesting’ results where nearly relegated Sunderland kept Manchester United at bay or some 5th division team pushed a Premiership team out of the League Cup.

I get bored when ever one team scores a handful of goals in the first minutes and the other one doesn’t try to go that extra mile and they’re thinking about the money they lost or the long way home or the shower they’ll have, a good hour from now.

Then there are cases when a team simply can’t go that extra mile to win a game. They aren’t able to do their jobs, be it defending, creating, taking chances. No, they won’t push it and that’s not because they lack quality. It’s more likely to lack a player, or stamina or health nowadays.

I think it’s sad you can’t get a proper health insurance and a rest if you’re a football player. You work yourself up all morning for 2 games a week maybe, go to interviews, be nice to the kids, treat your wife, prostitute, as the case might be, and what you get in return? Knife and painkillers.

It’s all about the ‘Great Clubs’ now, the ‘Big Four’, the ‘Two Biggest”, the ‘G14’. Oh, really?! If they are so awesome how come a player isn’t allowed to recuperate after an injury?

How come when they travel with an army of doctors, physiotherapists of multiple types, psychologists and such they can’t work it for a player to get the best treatment?

Why did Gerrard have to play with a groin injury when he couldn’t sprint, pass, shoot and think straight? What else is there to use him for? To count 10 plus a skipper? The armband doesn’t fit Carragher? Have you tried jogging when something is niggling? Did you hug a light post? All you do is run faster than that barking dog, stare at that pretty woman who decided to bend just before you, maybe you shouldn’t have had that second slice of bread.

Why did Agger have to wait for 5-6 months till they decided that they should accommodate the sissy player and do a surgery, just to prove it was all in his head? He has tattoos as a hobby you know, that involves needles, buzzing, scratching needles and they hurt. Pain is nothing new to him. But did they choose to listen to the patient? No, they knew better.

Everybody jumped at Ballack’s neck when he said he’ll play when he’ll be ready. Remember? The club’s doctors approved him being OK, in shape, never better etc. Weren’t they the same doctors that treated Robben? Memory’s a bit blurred, but didn’t he spent more time injured than playing while at Chelsea? Was it true they fed him cow’s blood? Maybe they were trying to ‘sugar’ the Gods?

And there’s Jamie Carragher. Know him? He’s the ‘soul of Liverpool’. Must’ve heard of him. Team of Carraghers? What is with that? Yeah, yeah, a true soldier, an encyclopedia of football, a great defender etc. Plus he’s the a guy on Shankly’s heart: he’d play even if he’s only 20% fit.

Why would you do that? Have a player that wouldn’t pass a test paper with that score?

What kind of football brain you have to desire an ultra defensive team with badly damaged players? Can they do the job? Will they win? Maybe not, but they’d die nicely on the grass. Shall we call this kamikaze behavior? I have a cold so I roll naked in the snow?

How often do you hear in a press conference: ‘He’s not fully fit, but he’ll play today.’ ‘He hadn’t had a great game, but he had to take painkillers for the knee” etc?

Is this what a great club does these times? I now that’s been common behavior since forever, but haven’t we been civilized already? Don’t they have enough money to provide the welfare of the team? If a player is good just when you play 5th division team in the League Cup, why buy him in the first place?

How can you achieve greatness when you tremble at the mere thought that one of your players might break something and then you won’t be able to patch it for some time. It’s gotten to that: if you can walk then you can be on the field on match day.

Is the team so much more important than every individual? Maybe.

When Liverpool player Tommy Smith once consulted Shankly to tell him he couldn’t play next week, due to his injured knee, Shankly replied: “Take that poof bandage off, and what do you mean Your knee, it’s Liverpool’s knee!”

Do you like a player when he retracts his foot from a challenge because he feels his flesh tender?

Do you like when van Persie instead of doing a tackle and wrestle for the ball decides to just chase his opponent? Me neither!

Isn’t it far better when there’s a fully fit team on display? When you don’t have to feel sorry for that player that takes painkillers for you to be able to watch him lose the ball because he couldn’t bring himself to put all the passion in his game?

You pay the money! You pay the ticket to see them in flesh and bones, not in imaginary crutches. You pay the extra channel to see them play football, not participate in a limping contest.

If you can play with damaged players, imagine what you can do with healthy ones!

Then again we may never find out, because they jump from injury to injury. Are there fully fit players? Lampard, Kuyt? Robots I tell you. Robots!

Written by Alexandra Hofman.

This article is a submission for the Soccerlens 2008 Writing Competition; to participate, please read the details here. The competition is sponsored by Subside Sports (premier online store for football shirts) and Icons (official signed football jerseys).

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