This might be a long one.
Australia just got eliminated from the 2018 World Cup in last place after a disappointing 0-2 loss to Peru.
This World Cup has been great fun and has provided enjoyment and surprises to everyone. It’s captured audiences not normally seen outside of a World Cup in Australia. I believe 1.6m people tuned in for the France game. Hell, 144k people watched Nigeria play Iceland at 2am one evening. That is truly encouraging.
We’ve had voices commenting on the game that normally weren’t available outside of the World Cup on all things related to it. Opinions relating to Cahill, Bert Van Marwijk, pronunciations, VAR, etc. have all been touted (both of good and bad nature).
What has been painful to endure, forgive me here, has been the simplistic views of this great game.
Cries of “#TIMMYTIME” and crows from every crevasse of Australian media offering opinion at a moments notice via traditional print or via the 280 characters available on Twitter. I’m guilty too, just look at my timeline.
Now, one thing that I must take in to consideration is that it is boisterous to see new levels of interest for the highest standard of the game. Having this tournament every four years and seeing a rather collective enthusiasm for it is heart-warming.
But, what is painful for me, is our simplistic view of the game.
Football is philosophy; it is religion; it is art; it is intelligent thought begging for new ideas to abandon the norm and challenge the convention.
Football, like life, is inhabited by limitation, if it weren’t; it wouldn’t be structured with order or quite simply wouldn’t be reality.
I’m not questioning anyone’s input or opinion; the more the merrier and the more there is; the more we can learn. What I am questioning is a lack of thorough debate, thought and approach that we can all benefit from.
One that always provides me with infuriation is the absence of tactical discussion in football coverage. There is quite a few of us who are quite happy to bask in the thought of such scholars as Guardiola, Bielsa, Robson, Mourinho, et al. In fact there is a multitude of ways it can be conveyed:
1) Militarily – identifying weaknesses, setting up defences, timing attacks, etc;
2) Philosophy – challenging convention, ‘tiki-taka’ etc;
3) Soap Opera – I refer to the thoroughly enjoyable article by Sam Griswold for the Guardian (https://www.theguardian.com/football/these-football-times/2018/jan/25/italian-football-premier-league-serie-a-language).
4) Mathematics – we can boil tactical discussions to simple math to understand opportunities for improvement and success.
There is a multitude of ways in which we can convey and educate the reader in tactics. We can all tweet 280 characters (of which, on average, we may only use 60% of the limit) to display our opinion, in fact it’s only ten characters to type ‘#TIMMYTIME’.
But what are we doing to further challenge ourselves? Philosophy often discusses the perils of life and Buddhists even mention that life is suffering. What does this mean? Do we just simply accept this tragedy and go about our ways or do we find a level of meaning that the suffering is bearable, if not acceptable?
Hidden in there is my feelings of Australia’s appearances at the World Cup since 2006. The peanut gallery (twitter, facebook, journos, me) are often discussing this great game philosophically and unfortunately (whilst conventionally) light our pitchforks when met with new thinking or risk (Ange) so much so that we find warmth and comfort when met with the status quo (BvM). Again, I’m guilty too.
This 2018 World Cup, if I reduce it down to simple mathematics, reads as follows:
Two losses, one draw and an absence of wins. This is coupled with a negative 3 goal difference featuring only two goals scored from the penalty spot. Why do we find comfort in this?
I love this beautiful game because of its romance, philosophy, religion, art and its intelligence. Lets not belittle our version of it due to the limitations of the game in our country and lets show true Australian grit in being brave and bold in venturing in to the unknown.
We have nothing but opportunity and intelligence to gather. It’s been four World Cups and I argue that we have yet to learn.