Monday, August 13, 2012

Footballing Ego

Alexander Netherton has a new column about the growing importance of ego and selfishness in European soccer, which promises a lot because it slams Ronaldo for being a princess and John Terry for being a tool, but it is ultimately unconvincing. Much of what is wrong with the article is evident in this passage:
A man less obsessed with cups perhaps than his own Google page-rank, Hazard of course elected to join Chelsea in the end, but only after a full two days of incessant Twitter wibbling. Which self-respecting club would allow a player to announce his choice on Twitter rather than the relative dignity of a press conference?
Eden Hazard may be the second coming of Ronaldo, and I didn't follow his "Twitter wibbling" (at least, I don't think I did, but since I'm not quite sure what that is, I can't be certain), but how is an announcement on Twitter inherently less dignified than a press conference? Indeed, as LeBron versus Durant shows, a simple Tweet offers the potential at least for sidestepping a mountain of pretentious self-importance. Netherton also uses the Spanish national team's purported self-promotion as evidence of the same phenomenon, which is really odd. The claim by some that there is a moral superiority to the Spanish approach could certainly be grating, but the system itself is anti-ego. The team is not built around a superstar, and no one player is categorically more important than the rest. How many different Spaniards were arguably man of the match during the six Euro 2012 contests? At the very least, Alba, Iker, Iniesta, Xavi, and Xabi Alonso qualified in one of the games. Much more so than Barça, it's a team of variable individual greatness, and it has been throughout their run. It strikes me as an inherently anti-individualist approach.

I can only imagine that football players have been pretty much the same since the game turned into a truly global phenomenon, which I guess you could date to the post-WWII era. I mean, Maradona is second to no earthling in terms of ego, and he arrived on the scene more than 30 years ago. In David Winner's fantastic book Brilliant Orange, Johan Cruyff comes across as a Picasso. There's nothing new about people like Ronaldo. Characters like that are built into the fabric of international football. The only thing that is really new about the modern era is the way's in which players communicate their ego and their selfishness.

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