Everybody forgets things. Jason Bourne forgot who he was in the Bourne films, but, like troopers, the cast and crew made it work. British Prime Minister David Cameron once left one of his kids at a pub he’d been at for the afternoon. Oops! I myself went through a similar experience, frantically retracing my steps back to the pub in question, half-naked, shouting at passers-by, before realizing that in fact I don’t have any kids and that I rarely go to pubs—an anti-climax to say the least. Spain, equally embarrassingly, appear to have forgotten to qualify for the next World Cup. Their faces will be so red!
Now, okay, Spain’s forgetfulness hasn’t been punished just yet; they play France in a match they really should think about winning if they’re going to avoid a tricky play-off to reach Brazil 2014. But that’s not the point: either way, for the current World and European Champions, even the idea that they might not qualify automatically for the next World Cup marks a break from an era of difficult-to-believe dominance: they would never have forgotten to qualify a few years ago. Their coach actually read out the stats about that dominance at his last press conference (there is no need to repeat them here: we know they’re good and I simply will not be the host for sycophantic fawning). They’ve been the best team in international football for the last six years, no question, and suddenly they can’t beat Finland and are two points behind France in their qualifying group. There’s been a change.
And this is brilliant news.
It’s brilliant news for a few reasons, ranging from the reasonable to the apparently not so. I’ll include both here but I won’t tell you which is which so as to keep you on your toes. This will be either fun or tedious, but again I won’t tell which so as to reinforce the on-the-toes mentality.
To begin with, most kinds of dominance turn out to be bad. In politics, self-determination is considered a strong principle because when people have decisions made for them those decisions tend to make them unhappy. In Fight Club, Jack allowed Tyler—a second, disassociated personality and symptom of his paranoid, sleep deprived mind—to run his life for him. It made Jack unhappy. Although, in the long term, I like to think he was better for it, unlike Fernando Torres who had exactly the same thing happen (working with Tyler at Liverpool, working against him at Chelsea), but has come off far worse. In football, Spain’s semi-ridiculous run of winning major tournaments has made a lot of other national sides jealous. And that’s no good, is it?
But more than that Spain’s dominance has made every other national team and club team believe—rightly or wrongly—that they have found the best way of playing. The result has been that more and more teams are playing a slow build-up, possession-based version of the game. It’s not as though every team now plays in exactly the same way, but there has been a period of teams moving closer together on this. And that, almost by definition, is boring. Homogeneity is monotony, monotony is an aspect of the definition of boring. Id est Spain’s domination has made football boring. I’m so good at logic I should get a prize.
There are problems with how Spain’s era of dominance has been achieved, too. Now isn’t the time or place to call out the Tiki Taka ‘philosophy’ as innately boring (who am I to point out, for a second time in the same article, that monotony, of which keeping control of a football for an extended period of time is a form, happens to be a criteria for boring?), but what is clear is that Tiki Taka is a reminder that football, these days, is more about efficiency than anything else. Spain’s Tiki Taka thing is a style which, if perfected (100% possession) means you can’t lose a game. It is, then, capitalist football: football that has weighed up the odds perfectly and come to the most logical conclusion about how to come out on top, win and collect the profits. It’s made even international football feel like a business to be, more than anything else, got over with. ‘Trophy is in the bag, lads, we’ll do a couple of nude party shots with it then off to the next tournament’. With every nude photo with a trophy, the sentiment gets hollowed out still further.
And it gets worse. Efficient, ultra-logical football has encouraged attempts at efficient, ultra-logical analysis of football. That’s fine—who am I to say, repeatedly, to anyone who will listen, how people should and shouldn’t enjoy their football?—but it’s not really fine, it makes me furious. There, I said it.
Up until now I’ve dealt with this Spanish team as a whole, but the fact is that there are a lot of individuals who help comprise it who also make you glad that they aren’t going to be winning all of the time anymore. Look at Sergio Ramos, a man who insists on wearing huge sweatbands, has ludicrous ideas about hair and has tried to ruin Jose Mourinho for the rest of us: do you want to see that man winning anything? Or, worse, look at the whole team: how many real, proper, John Terry style villains are in there? None, and that’s precisely a reason to hate them: the arrogance of making themselves reasonably reasonable is deplorable.
Spain’s monopoly over good, honest, working-class football tournaments could well be coming to an end due to a bout of forgetfulness, and it’s only a good thing, comrades. Anyone who says different is either Spanish (fair enough) or a personal enemy of mine out to get me for reasons yet unknown (fair enough). No exceptions. When France tonk them tonight I will post my own counter nudes, full of real sentiment, with me celebrating next to a World Cup trophy I’ve carved myself. Enjoy!