It’s not that my intention is to turn this into a football blog (even though I know that frequent reader with the nickname Nick would love to see that happening), but I couldn’t resist Slate’s call for guesses about the final outcome of the 2010 World Cup.
After considering the alternatives thoroughly – for about 23 seconds – I made this guess:
Okay – even if Germany looks sharp, no European team has ever won a World Cup outside of Europe. Brazil, on the other hand, won in the 1994 US tournament and the 2002 Japan/Korea tournament. Then, Brazil or Argentina – a tricky guess but without having any good arguments I went for the Argentinian side. If only to have a manager who dresses like a used car salesman from some nowhere town holding the trophy. Among those taking the poll, 24% go for Argentina and 27% for Brazil.
Update 10-07-03: My abilities to predict anything are pathetic. Not that I mind, though.
[German goalkeeper Manuel] Neuer missed a rare opportunity to do something noble in front of millions of people. He could have set a positive ethical example to people watching all over the world, including the many millions who are young and impressionable. Who knows what difference that example might have made to the lives of many of those watching. Neuer could have been a hero, standing up for what is right. Instead he is just another very skillful, cheating footballer.
I don’t have a problem as such with Germany winning, as I think it was the better team, but the way Germany won the match definitively put a sour taste to it. Just like “the hand of God” made Argentina questionable world champions in 1986.
To me, the evolving Bavaria Babes story raises some interesting questions about the role of the spectators at major sports events. Just to recap: During the break of the Netherlands-Denmark game, attendants seized a number of Dutch (and, if my Dutch is worth anything) South African women dressed in tight orange dresses and handed them over to the police. It seems that some of the women are now even facing some kind of criminal process in South Africa.
So, presumably, wearing a Budweiser-branded (orange) dress would have been acceptable to the arrangers – in fact, they would have enhanced the value of the Budweiser sponsorship as TV viewers would have seen attractive Budweiser-dressed women having a good time.
And this brings us to my central point: Leave aside all talk of a party of nations, people coming together and what not – to FIFA and the partners/sponsors/advertisers, the spectators are just props designed to enhance the experience for TV viewers (like me) around the globe.1 In fact, the people who go to major sports events are what dear old Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov called useful idiots because they pay for the trip and entry to the stadiums themselves in order to act as cheerleaders for the sponsors.2
It would be much more honest if the sponsors – whose arrangement this really is – hired the spectators and provided them with relevant outfits. In that way, the full costs of advertising would be carried by the sponsors. And there would be less risk of third parties getting a piece of the cake as the seats had already been distributed among paying sponsors.
You are free to insert a comment on the relationship between programming and advertising [↩]
Actually, the term seems to be post WW2 but never mind: The myth is too good. [↩]
It is rather embarrassing to admit that I missed the show the first time around but as Danish TV is doing us a big favour and repeating it, I bring you:
The best football match ever played on Danish soil
We are talking 1985 here. June 5, 1985 to be precise. Constitution Day and conveniently half a day off for many people as Denmark will be playing the Soviet Union in a crucial World Cup qualifier in Copenhagen. You might be forgiven for assuming that the Danish spectators were expecting a win – after all the Danish team was on a roll, it had the duo Elkjær and Laudrup up front and it was a home match. And home matches in June are always something special in Denmark.
They weren’t. Rather, the Soviet match was something like the test of the abilities of the 1980s Danish side. Forget about the clichés about Eastern Bloc machine football – if the Soviet side was a machine, it was a machine robot manufacturers still dream of producing. A highly competent and flexible one. If Soviet politics had worked like the national football team of the 1980s, the USSR could still be among the states of the world.
So, the USSR was the main competitor in the World Cup qualifying group and it was seen as a formidable one.
The final result does not give a true impression of the match. Denmark won 4-2, an impressive win by all standards, but people who were there tell us that nobody felt really certain about the outcome until the final whistle. For all they knew, the Soviets could have won 5-4 and they certainly tried. The Soviets gave Denmark a match and both sides delivered in style. So if you’re into competitive football at the highest and most entertaining level, Denmark – USSR is a must-see even if the game has developed in the past quarter of a century.
Has Denmark ever played a match as good as the 1985 one? My guess would be the quarter-final against Brazil at the 1998 World Cup. Denmark lost 2-3, but boy did they die with their boots on.
The unpredictability (in the best sense of the world) and level of competitiveness among teams was one reason why the 2008 European Cup was so compelling. It will be a very hard act to follow.
I’m in no way a football fanatic (and never have been) but I recall discussing the resignation/sacking of Brian Clough as Nottingham Forest manager back in … 1993 with my dad who would never knowingly miss one of the Saturday matches from the English Division I which the Danish TV channel used to screen during the 1970s and 1980s. “I never liked him,” Dad commented, “but Nottingham were brilliant”. To appreciate the comment, you should know that my dad a) had a working class background (what I mean by this is, that problem was not that Clough was somebody with a working class background who had made it) and b) was born and grew up in Vejle. (In case you are clueless about this, look here for explanation).
While The Damned United includes a number of factual inaccuracies, it offers more than a glimpse into the mind of Brian Clough, famous for making lowly Derby a force in English football in the late 1960s and early 1970s, then repeating the feat with Nottingham Forest in the late 1970s and early 1980s and for never becoming England manager. The film is based around Clough’s doomed tenure as Leeds Utd. manager in 1974 which ended with his sacking after a mere 44 days, but the real issue is Clough’s rivalry with former Leeds manager Don Revie and his relationship with his former (and later) assistant Peter Taylor.
Why did Clough have such an issue with Revie? The film claims that Clough felt slighted by Revie when Leeds played Derby in an FA Cup tie years earlier, but I suspect that the real problem was that while both Clough and Revie were groundbreaking in their approach to football managing, their aims were different: Revie wanted to win and did so by meticulously recording the strengths and weaknesses of the opponents – and if it took brute force on the pitch to destroy the opposition, so be it.
Needless to say Clough also wanted to win, but he wanted to win in style. No kicking and rushing here. Passing the ball was his game. Quite an ambitious approach to football when you consider the state of the pitches mudfields available. Strangely, bullying players and talking big, very big, was also part of Clough’s approach to managing a team. But it worked, just as Revie’s approach had worked.
The film? Oh, it’s brilliant. If you have any memories of the 1970s, they are brought back vividly. Everything from the awful wallpapers to the terrible football pitches are there. I even suspect that my dad, had he lived, would have been endeared to Michael Sheen’s portrayal of Clough (while still hating every single inch of the man’s guts). I fear that this Clough would even be able to sell me a used car.
If I should point to a weakness in the storyline, then is it that we never really get an explanation of why the Leeds Utd. board chose Clough as their new manager (it is easy to understand why Clough wanted that job even if a wiser and more self-assured man would have turned the offer down). Pundits have pointed out that the Leeds squad Revie had assembled was nearing its sell-by date in 1974 and needed rejuvenation – Revie in all likelihood knew this which was one reason for his taking the England job – but surely a sensible board would have asked itself what the impact of Clough would be. But then again, Clough was a bit of a hurricane.
That said: You don’t have to have an obsession with football to enjoy the film.
Brian Clough endears himself to the Leeds Utd squad on his first day at work:
And here is a clip from what must surely be one of the most awkward football-related interviews ever. Brian Clough meets … Don Revie in the studio after his sacking (yes, it really happened):
Oh, and is it possible to find a Danish parallel to Brian Clough? As it is, I think so.