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'If It's Football, It's Vital'

Beautiful game in the eyes of beholders

It can be great to watch a game of football as a neutral without much of an interest in one side winning over the other. I caught the Argentina-Brazil game yesterday simply because I`d hoped to be entertained. Brazil had lost Dunga who had somewhat stifled Brazil`s traditionally expansive game and there was the prospect of the new coach using the elaborate talent that nation has more positively. Argentina also has a new coach with Batista replacing Maradona following a disappointing World Cup for them given the array of talent they enjoy. The game was played in Qatar, some distance from the continent of either club. They had also played a game in the past at the Emirates. That`s the beauty of the game that these teams at their best play. Its appeal is global - the way you want to see the game played if you were more interested in the performance than the result. Watch your own side, whichever it is anywhere in the world, put in a particularly exhilarating performance and 'it's just like watching Brazil' is as flattering a tribute as you could find. They can play a game against each other on another continent and expect people to turn out in their numbers to pay to witness the spectacle.

This game didn`t disappoint either. Two teams playing great one-two touch football, end to end with clever movement, great technique, little give and go`s, one-two`s in and around the box. They can tackle pretty often too but mostly while staying on their feet. Very little of the desperate lunging tackles we see so often in the PL. You might get your ankles or shins rapped, maybe your foot trodden on in these games but not with the force that might result in anything other than some temporary discomfort. Those concerned that football could become a non-contact sport should be made to watch a video of last night`s Argentina-Brazil game to see how untrue that need be while still clamping down on careless tackles.

There were enough Arsenal players set to perform for either side in the England-France game for me to watch that also, partially as a neutral though without quite the relaxed hope of being entertained as much as the earlier contest. Maybe because it mattered to me how the individual Arsenal contingent performed. All did well enough but Nasri and France provided the performance to appreciate.

Wenger`s philosophy has been to provide the entertainment that both neutrals and the committed can appreciate saying recently that 'What I like is the idea of the guy who gets up on Saturday morning and spent 50 pounds to see a good game of football. If you get crap all season in the stadium and that your club wins a title, yes, yes, you have a day of great happiness. But you're still bored all year.'

As a committed supporter though the beauty of the game is as much, if not more in the result than the performance. Winning, however it is achieved though is beautiful to the committed supporter. Even the 2005 FA Cup final had a beauty of it's own - didn't it?. George Graham`s title winning sides were supposedly dour and efficient but I didn`t see them that way at the time though I might not recall individual games or incidences quite as readily as I do some in the Wenger era. Graham`s titles were beautiful to me but not apparently to the neutral observer. Jorge Valdano`s notorious 'shit-on-a-stick` analogy ruing the football on display in a CL encounter between Mourinho`s Chelsea and Benitez`s Liverpool sides of a few seasons back made much the same observation about committed support.

It shouldn`t matter as long as the committed supporter is getting what he wants but as football moves outside the narrower and purely parochial appeal of a club serving its neighbourhood the commercial reality is that it does. Broadcasting revenues are set to exceed matchday revenues at all the major European clubs and indeed does so already at some of the biggest clubs. But even matchday revenues depend significantly on the corporate hospitality market and its appeal to those international corporations. These revenues depend to a large extent on the appeal of the product being supplied.

Winning is attractive but the teams that can combine both do live longer in the memory. Brazil won trophies but are remembered for the way they won them as much as the fact they did while the Dutch sides of 'total football` are still feted for their flair even though they didn`t win anything. But having a brilliantly entertaining team that doesn`t win anything is frustrating - not because it isn`t a brilliant team and watching them isn`t still wonderfully entertaining - but simply because that brilliance has to be rewarded to be accepted by others. As committed supporters we can feel we need that acceptance - the idea that superiority can never be complete without the validation of a trophy. Whereas a friendly between Argentina and Brazil, even with nothing at stake, can be played to a paying audience on an entirely different continent because they understand and appreciate the product they believe they are going to get.

That`s the problem with being a committed supporter it matters too much whether you win or lose and will all too often get in the way of truly enjoying yourself though the potential enjoyment levels are also magnified exponentially. The manager has to have the same level of commitment too and watching Arsene on the bench over the last few frustrating seasons you wonder how much enjoyment his job gives him at times. 'I prefer to give pleasure and win the title. It is important that it happens to be remembered this Arsenal team. While we will not win, we will not have the recognition we deserve.' he told L`Equipe recently.

I expect I`ll watch out for the next Brazil game, and probably the Argentineans plus the French on the basis of their first half performance last night. Brazil lost by the way though the result wasn`t really relevant as the performance was reward enough. I`m looking forward to the next Arsenal game too but I don`t care how well or how poorly we play as long we end up with the three points - this time, as it always does, it matters and I can only truly enjoy it when it`s over.



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The Journalist

Writer: Amos Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Thursday November 18 2010

Time: 11:35AM

Your Comments

Very nice piece, Amos, agree with so much of it. Tho many Brazilians are irritated with Mano's team selection, esp. against ARGENTINA, ffs! Who just happen to have the world's best player! His omission of in-form forwards like Hulk and Nilmar, plus a creative midfielder like Hernanes who's been instrumental in putting Lazio at the top of Serie A, and his insistence on massively mediocre players like Victor, Elias, Douglas has disappointed a lot of us. Dunga subdued the Argies with physicality--if Mano's not going to do that then he has to rely on creativity, possession, pace, movement, guile. Mano's mentality is very parochial--too focused on his experience with domestic club football. If he doesn't change I don't expect him to stay as manager of the selecao. Many of us expected a loss or draw so the result wasn't surprising. It was great to watch France yesterday--it's just too bad Diaby couldn't continue his form with France, he was becoming an important part of the midfield trio. It's wonderful to see Gourcuff and Nasri form a partnership. And Sagna's work on crossing was certainly rewarded--at Wembley!
jaelle
I recall going to the 93 Cup Final with my mum and after the first game had finished 1-1, I recall unclenching all the muscles in my body and my mum turning around and saying, "That is the worst game of football I've ever seen." Being that I was only 9 at the time, it honestly hadn't occurred to me at any point that the game was so dire such was my absorption. I'd like to say time has changed that and I've become a bit more savvy, but at the 2005 Final, I was aware we had been outplayed, but I had no idea how badly until I watched the game back.
Little Dutch
Good article and especially relevant given our upcoming fixture this weekend. Its got so bad for me watching Arsenal that for the 4 minutes of injury time against Everton I couldn't bear to watch and went to another room! I've tried to conciously change my attitude and say to myself to just enjoy the game for what it is and look at the game objectively, but there's just too much emotional attachment to the outcome involved and it ain't gonna happen.
Gooner_Vin
nice piece. hope you beat spurs this weekend too
rabit71
It must be different for you, but I'm sure those of us who have become Gooners in the Wenger era (or at least most of us) care very much about getting the 3 points with the flare and style which made us fall in love with Arsenal in the first place. Of course I'd rather see them win ugly than lose beautifully, but there's something unnerving about wins like the 2-0 at Wolves that makes me just a bit less proud of being an Arsenal fan, aside from the knowledge that no Wenger team has won trophies without playing highly attractive football for the most part.
feelinesound
I watched the first half of the England France game and became so bored for the first time went to bed. My father was French and of course my Mother English and the English half dominates the French side. I adore my country of birth but my Arsenal side dominates even the English side in football. To watch Nasri tear England apart warmed the soul but watching the poor distribution of balls to Theo (as usual) in areas where either the ball was played too far ahead or where he had no room to move destroyed my entertainment. I had so wished young Jack had been there because I felt he would have given Theo when the opportunity presented itself the correct ball. Why on earth Barry was there I do not know. In earlier times I never looked to see which club the player came from it was an England team and they represented England. With a narrow football brain only watched when an Arsenal played was involved representing another country. Now I do the same when England plays, especially the rubbish that is served whenever England plays now.
alwaysgunner
@Gooner_VIn, i can attest to the emaotional attachment to Arsenal games but i ve been able to change my attitude after 07-08 season. After Hleb and Flamini left, it dawn on me that its only a game and that i needed to adjust. I was so attached that sometimes i re-live the Arsenal Vs Ac Milan game over and over again in my dreams. I was hoping AW was building a team, we fell short and those players chattered my dreams. That team was so fast, precise passing game, young, and all you can think of with a little twick needed.
Arseniger
that is why sometimes i feel i will NEVER forgive Flamini and Hleb
Arseniger
feelinesound- Its wins like the 2-0 at wolves that make me very proud of being an Arsenal fan! We all know that we can play pretty football....but the best teams mix up there game...some times pretty, sometimes ugly and just getting the job done! Ive said before on here the 6 points we won at Wolves and Everton were hard grafted points...not pretty but we got the job done because we had to mix it, and there the type of displays we have been missing since 2005! How you can watch us win a game and then say "I feel less proud" after that performance.... kind of sticks in my throat abit. Im not one to judge but Im an Arsenal supporter....not a "glory" supporter. Your sounding like the Real Madrid fans who won the title with Fabio...but your calling for him to be sacked because he wasnt exciting enough. The day Arsenal footbal club goes down that route will be a very sad one! There is Arsenal history pre Wenger....as amazing a manager he is. And we have won titles/trophys not playing wenger ball....I dont like to have a go at fellow Arsenal fans and I generally dont...but PLEASE open your eyes and support your club through thick and thin....not just when it suits you. I fell in Love with Arsenal when we were a mediocre, longball, mid table team....a lot of us did believe it or not. When you support and love a club through the bad times, the good times feel sooo much better, and I think it probably makes you less fickle.....Rant over!:)
gunnerman76
I can enjoy most games of football, but I'm somebody who does like to get what they paid for. If I go to watch my local state league then I know that the $8 I pay or so is not likely to get me high quality football, but maybe some of comic hilarity (a particularly unfortunate own goal) or one bit of brilliance and gets me that little closer to the action in an environment which I enjoy watching football. However, when it comes to my local national league club, if i had no emotional investment in them I couldn't bring myself to watch. They play an average standard of football for 3 times the price of the state leagues in a stadium I hate. I couldn't justify paying that $25 or whatever for a crap seat in a crap stadium to watch crap football just as a football lover, cos the product is not equal to its value. It would be the same for me if I lived in Blackburn. I would not be willing to pay to watch Blackburn play the crap they do for 30 odd pound a ticket unless I was a fan, as even as a football lover, you still expect some sort of value for money. I think, win or lose, more often than not, Arsenal provide that. And if it is truly the case that football is now as much a business as a sport, then Wenger is not only a very good manager, but an excellent business man.
Ozi Gooner
 

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