‘Get it in to the big man up front!’
‘The twin towers at the back will win everything in the air’
‘He’s a hard man with size in the middle of the park, avoid a 50/50 with him’
Just a few sayings which I grew up hearing belched from the sideline or in the half-time huddle. We became fixated on following every North American sport which is built around size and power and began to embed that philosophy into the beautiful game. That was until Pep Guiardiola’s FC Barcelona came along. Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez and Andreas Iniesta took the world by storm emphasizing tika-taka brilliance and nimble footedness. They bombarded opposition squads with dizzying degrees of technical ability. I remember the Champions League final in which they picked apart a bigger and stronger Manchester United team pass by pass; ironically Messi scored a header to put the game out of reach.
Shockingly it was the 2017 version of FC Barcelona that proved the theory that football isn't build around the big man again – and it wasn’t in victory. Granted, Xavi has long been retired and Messi was on the bench but the way Juventus embarrassed Barcelona on Wednesday, November 22 in the UEFA Champions League was with the gracefulness that only Marilyn Monroe could exude. It showed today’s game is built largely around small, agile players that retain possession, change the pace of the game and suffocate opposition through relentless pressure. Douglas Costa, Willian and Paulo Dybala cunningly created chance after chance through their close control and pace. The cumbersome Barcelona players such as Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, Paulinho et al couldn’t handle them – I can’t believe I just uttered those words in reference to the great Catalan club.
Unfortunately, Juventus couldn’t finish any of their chances and the game ended nil-nil however, the performance itself warranted praise.
Don’t get me wrong, football isn’t only for the bantam. The key is to have a combination of both types of players and to integrate them into expressing one philosophy. The beauty of the game is that it’s not abnormal to be one or the other.
Conclusion: Football is built on inclusivity – discrimination of any form is a deterrent to success.
For those of you that know me, I wrote this piece while pounding my chest with pride 😊