By John Cartwright
Many readers of this ‘blog’ are not going to like what I’ve got to say one little bit. Are you part of the mindless, noisy number who profess a love of the game but show a total lack of understanding of it? If so, i would like to tell you that you are forcing our game into nothing more than a boring, ‘fightball’ version of the real game.
Nobody either inside or outside of the game seems prepared to stand up and speak about the ‘yobbish’ behaviour of so-called fans who demand force not fantasy from our game. Everyone is quick to mention the money that fans pay to watch the game and how reliant the game is on the income they generate. However, unless fans start to realize that their involvement with the game goes far deeper than just monetary issues – it is the playing fabric of our game that they are distorting and influencing in an unacceptable way.
I am prepared to stand up and ‘take the flack’ from those disagreeing ‘game enthusiasts’ who hurl abuse and show their ignorance of the game and its qualities. Those who want to teach, play and watch the game to the highest standards need defending. At all levels of the game, a large proportion of parents and fans have over-emphasized the need for force not fantasy and in so doing they have increased the competitive structure of the game beyond satisfactory limits. Yes, we all want to see competitive games, but we should also see much more of the artistry, creativity and individualism that represents the true core of the game of Association Football. This balance between force and fantasy has been severely disrupted in favour of the former and has led to aggression on the field that is often generated by the banal demands of the watching public. A bad development structure over the last 60 years has created poor watchers of the game as well as poor players of it at the same time.
The desire to just win, often by the use of ‘ugly football’, must be recognized for what it is – a blight on the game; it’s winning regularly and with style that should be the objective and the method! Our fans blind acceptance, tolerance and demand for mediocrity in performance is rapidly steering the game in this country towards football’s abyss. Fans, through their lack of football understanding are projecting fear into our game and its consequence is leading coaches and players to perform below their actual limits – creativity and style are replaced with effort, passion and conformity to lessen mistakes and pacify the public; simplicity is described as genius when in fact it is merely an option within the game.
We have reached the stage where lies, -‘hype’ is used to elevate ordinary performance to the level of greatness. These unjustified and camouflaged standards are accepted and applauded by the limited playing knowledge of fans’ and this has infected the true quality of the game here. It seems to me that the football public abroad are just as passionate about the game but they show a much better understanding of it than our own fans. The game of football is viewed in a much more sophisticated manner overseas. Individual cleverness is more apparent and team play is generally better organized. Players are expected to display their skills and teams’ keep the ball far more adeptly than those here.
What a mess we’re in; fans fear failure and demand simplicity; coaches live in fear and teach simplistic football; players play with fear and under-perform; we have no playing ‘target’ and therefore no reliable teaching structure to relate to. It leaves us in the position of not knowing how we should teach, coach and watch the game.
The ‘get it forward’ brigade present at so many games here must recognize that their ‘bleatings’ are causing great damage to our game. Ball possession must improve at all levels of our game and unnecessary impatience from ignorant onlookers demanding that players ‘hit’ the ball long too often will not help this country to establish itself in the upper echelons of world football.
Fans must realize that all success is fleeting and the real challenge is to keep improving in order to achieve it – playing with fear will not produce greatness in our game. Real quality performance from individual players and teams’ must be recognized as fundamental for our game – and allowed to happen! Our fans must demand quality performance, not a ‘fear-wracked’ version of it if we are to progress. True football fans must begin to look at the game in different ways and detach themselves from demanding the boring regularity of simplistic and uninspiring football that has been their diet for far too long.
Why can’t we develop a game-style that reflects the better aspects of our national culture: We are a passionate and competitive breed yet we also show compassion and fairness; we accept structured organization, but admire individualism and artistry. Why are we unable to combine the ‘tough with the smooth’ more subtly and produce a playing style for our game that represents all of our national characteristics? At present aggression rules the roost in our game and not until we show more determination to re-balance the ingredients necessary for quality performance will we be able to compete successfully on the world football stage.