News / Opinion / Columns

Jon Swift
2 minute read
7 Jul 2018
8:15 am

Where is the beauty in the game?

Jon Swift

By far the worst has been the uncontrolled thuggery of tackles hovering dangerously on the crumbling cliff of grievous bodily harm.

Brazilian super star Neymar .

Watching the Fifa World Cup unroll like a damaged manuscript for on-pitch anarchy, the question which hangs heavy in the Russian air is simply: What is so beautiful about the fabled game of football?

At best, this is an own goal launched by as iconic a personage as Edson Arantes do Nasciemento, the revered Pele, the man who popularised the phrase, while other sources attribute it to Didi, a certain Waldyr Pereira, the same nom de guerre he carried in the colours of Real Madrid.

Be that as it may, the beauty once tagged to the world game has aged with all the charm of a raddled harlot.

With some of the most talented, highly paid and revered players of the age – with the exception of Cristiano Ronaldo – carrying more tattoos than an Arkansas chain gang, the image is dented.

And in the pressure cooker of the global quadrennial tournament, not even the elite get a free ride to the ultimate destination.

More to the point has been the coarser side of the competition; the whining and writhing of players more intent on horizontal hysteria (Brazil’s Neymar) than taking the knocks inherent in a physical occupation; the infuriated onrush of players almost hunting down a referee and – without the benefit of instant, multilingual interpreters – going a country mile beyond merely questioning the official’s parentage.

But by far the worst has been the uncontrolled thuggery of tackles aimed at stopping the opposition, but hovering dangerously on the crumbling cliff of grievous bodily harm. Contrast, if you will, the collective calm of the Russian and Swedish defences with the clogging Colombians.

It was back to the days of Vinnie Jones at his most outrageous and harped back to the days of Argentine idol Antonion Rattin, who relentlessly hunted down opponents in the 1966 World Cup in the days attacks were given nothing like the physical protection that is a given in the game as it is today.

Think also of the fluidity on the burst Brazil are capable of in spurts, and the young French side are building toward.

It is in scattered patches like these that the cynical pancake make-up is suddenly wiped away and the heartening rays of the hidden beauty shine through the prevailing murk.

Jon Swift.

For more news your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.