Monday, March 26, 2007

The Game in Europe by BlueinBetis

Alexander the Great’s Macedonian team is still the gold standard by which other teams must be measured. Alex was the manager, the captain, highest scorer, and, if rumours are to be believed, masseuse, for the fifteen seasons he played. He and his team (he was ever present) won championship after championship on an unprecedented three continents. Even before the Macedonians dubiously “incorporated” the Greek back four (FIFA rules on playing for country of birth are a facet of the modern game), Alex was the true ‘special one’. Alex’s indispensability to his team evidenced by the fact that after his death, the players could not decide upon a new captain. Sadly, his great team were reduced to playing in local tournaments against one another.

Consistently, strong teams have emerged from Europe. The Romans blazed the trail, dominating the European game for four centuries. As well as winning in Italy, they won in Spain, France, England, Greece, Croatia, Albania and Turkey. However, after refusing to play the Scots and taking a pasting in Germany they never had the same air of invincibility. Boardroom wrangles ensued and they threatened to slip into oblivion. Once all the spats, essentially about poor chairman selection, were cleared up, the Second Roman team bounced back to take Europe by storm again.

At the time it seemed like a gamble to set themselves up as the game’s governing body. But it worked. The Romans were responsible for the adoption of many of the games salient features: they financed the building of supporters’ centres across Europe; they introduced the system of numbering players; they introduced the first red card for persistent offenders; they organised and selected national teams including transferring captains from nation to nation; they trained and paid for all referees, and arranged most of the games, by 1200AD all Western Europe was playing the Roman game. All was not well however, the supporters began to complain about transparency and refereeing standards, finally, protesters organised a breakaway league beginning in Germany; this protest spread to include most of Northern Europe. The bitterest disagreements were over the nature of what was served at half time, whether referees were allowed to have sex, and translations of the rulebook into local vernacular languages.

This behemoth in Italy meant that Italy herself never managed to put out a national team of her own, a crying shame when you consider the talent they had at their disposal. Columbus, for example, was an Italian by birth but chose to play for Spain, for a while it looked like Spain, with Columbus taking gold cup after gold cup abroad, would be the team to beat, but they flattered to deceive. They were undone by the vagaries of the weather, poor tactical choices and because the Northern European teams copied their style, and used it more efficiently. Many Spanish will correctly point to the theft of large quantities of gold by the Northern Europeans as a contributory factor in their demise, but since the Spanish nicked it from the South Americans in the first place…

From the dawn of the Spanish period the game changed, with the discovery of large training camps teams could now practise in secret. Where before defence had been the key, now teams played an expansive game. For more than 200 years European teams engaged each other, in the main, on the training pitches of the World. The Europeans taught the world to play the game: by soundly beating them again, and again.

Then, like a breath of fresh air to the stagnant European scene: Bonaparte! Brutally offensive, insistent in both where and how the game was to be played; he took his French team to dizzying heights, whenever he was on the pitch the French were unstoppable. As his team rampaged through Europe the French selection committee ceded all decisions to Bonaparte. It looked like Bonaparte might achieve the first ever, clean sweep of Europe. With this dream in mind, Bonaparte, fool-hardily chose to play Russia, on frozen pitches in the middle of winter. The truth is that the Russians were beaten in their own back yard, but Bonaparte’s boys had forgotten their long johns. The bitter winter weather shrivelled the French, and the Russians wouldn’t allow their opponents into their heated dressing room at full time. For Bonaparte this was to be the end of his attempt at European unification. His legacy is nowadays clouded by what happened in the twilight of his career: As he got older he became more injury prone, often having to rest during games. The recently formed British team jointly with the Dutch and Germans, bored him into falling asleep during a vital game in Belgium, Bonaparte was beaten and forced into a tropical retirement.

Once the Americans started to play, the game wasn’t the same. Europe was undone by what had given it strength. Where before the divisions in Europe made each team stronger, now the younger, quicker, and more numerous Americans made use of the, “unlimited substitution,” rule that they cunningly proposed to swamp the national teams of Europe. The Americans, whenever they played in Europe, waited for the teams to tire before joining in when everybody had run out of substitutes; the tournaments were turned into a procession. All that time the Europeans thought nobody was watching their training sessions, but the Americans were just watching and learning.

57 comments:

offside said...

Hey! I'm first. Can I take this opportunity to hijack this thread to a premature death by switching the subject to, say, famous Ghanaian footballers?

Nah, I should be congratulating you on a fine, if slightly disturbing, effort but all I can think of is was Hadrian's wall really 10-yards out?

BlueinBetis said...

10 yards out from where? It was ten yards out from a point between 9 and 11 yards from the wall certainly.

This was a bit self indulgent. A kind of catharsis. Sorry everybody, but I am in the middle of the preparations for Semana Santa here, and Catholicism seemed to be everywhere on the blog for the last two weeks, and everywhere I look here. Anybody who doesn't know, stick the words Semana Santa and Sevilla in Google and prepare to be amazed/horrified/perplexed.

I will attempt to write something a bit more sport related, I went to a concert yesterday and had a spot of inspiration. We will see if it turns into something useful.

Ghanaian footballers, lets start with Marcel Desailly, whom you stole. He he.

offsideintheneolithic said...

End of the Stonehenge F.C. kickabout session, on a chilly late afternoon in March 2007 BC.

Runf picks up his sheepskin jumper off the ground, pulls it on and shivers briefly.

Munf flashes him a questioning look.

Runf: "Isn't there something else we could use for goalposts?"

BlueinBetis said...

Runf and Munf, Fantastic.


I needed two stone age names for this next idea.

ooooh, you're inside my head aren't you? I'm just making you up.

nesta said...

Good effort. War and religion are my least favourite subjects but I still enjoyed your writing.

I know that it's difficult to cover the whole gamut of western civilisation in a few thousand words but I was disappointed that the composite team of Australia and New Zealand didn't get a mention for their thrilling and spiteful stalemate against Turkey in the 1915 Dardenelles Cup. The 1941 Japanese team was also a good'un.

offsideinyourhead said...

Yes that voice in your head telling you that you need to find out stuff from a Frenchman about Ghanaian players who retired years ago is me.

Feel free to use Runf and Munf as you see fit, they are very versatile players. Bit like our friend Abedi really, except he was quicker.

MotM said...

Blue - Straight out of the box and it's great stuff.

I would love to have written this and will probably shamelessly rip off the idea once the thread goes quiet.

I think Runf and Munf were up front for England on Saturday?

offsideinoutrage said...

motm,

insult two neolithic stone masons at your own risk...

BlueinBetis said...

Thanks Mouth, that has given me warm fuzzy feeling inside.....

Offside, watch this, I am now at work and hence have 'pooter that does youtube, so thought I'd whack in Abedi and see what came up, the music is horrid, but boy was he good, I believe that is Costacurta he circles, the long way round. Like the new Pele or something!

If this doesn't work just put in Abedi Pele on to Youtube, the link of a minute or so.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMcrFsspFeA&mode=related&search=

offsideinghana said...

Thread hijacked!

Mission accomplished.

Yep, the lad was brilliant. The ghanaian Ryan Giggs, if you will, except even quicker of wits.

Goodnight!

BlueinBetis said...

[waving flag furiously]

No fair, you know I love Ghana!!

Repeat one hundred times before going to bed

"We will not steal world class defenders from developing nations, thrust French names upon them, leaving the poor, defenceless blighters with Samual Kuffour"

You will sleep like a baby. With control of it's waste disposal system. (ie. not in poo)

BlueinBetis said...

Ahem, Samuel...

fred said...

Will Becks turn out for America?

Greengrass

marcela said...

nii lamptey

mimi said...

Blue: can't wait for the book. When's the next chapter due up here? A breath of fresh, or maybe french(?) air to read this after finding nothing to float my boat or light my fire over at The Big Place.
A reference to the Antonine Wall and the confusion it caused with Hadrian's Wall and the early offside rules needed next time out!

fred said...

Hey -
have you lot read the piece about Peter Swan?
Quality writing!

Greengrass

honolulu said...

I'd also like to point out that the nicked So. American gold was not only stolen from Spain by others but was also unwisely spent on foreign commodities (over-the-hill galacticos and spices). If they should have invested in local talent (not allowed Cesc to wither on the Barca youth leagues vine at the ripe age of 12).

Does the age of American dominance mean that tactics have triumphed over skill? Was this the true conflict all along? Or does it merely signify an evolution of the contest?

guitougoal said...

blueinbetis, it is sport related.No tv rights, no corrupted leagues, gladiators pledging to die with honor" Morituri te salutant" , lions eating christians for breakfast, Spartacus fighting for his life, Ben Hur racing for no money.Asterix was center forward for Gaule when Caesar was coaching Rome .
Marc Anthony was the mega transfert when he moved to Egypt to play ball with Cleopatra.
Only missing few links from youtube though, we love to see some replay of this stuff, can you get on it.

Zeph said...

Highly enjoyable and slightly barking - what more can we ask? Thank you BinB.

pipita said...

Blueinbetis

Dont you think the beginning of the end for France's Napoleon was the string of ill-fated draws and defeats at the hands of a series of non-league spanish and portuguese outfits?? Maybe this proved more costly than his galacticos setbacks against cossacks united
Great stuff, enjoyed that

fred said...

The beginning of the end for Napoleon
was a lass who worked at the headquarters of the French FA: it says so in the Sun, so...

Greengrass

andrewm said...

BiB, enjoyed it, ta.

guitougoal said...

Trafalgar was an historic french water-sport debacle, but thanks to the brits, later france foot-ball team scored 2 goals against germany in the 40's.The same general scored the 2 goals and that why we called him: de gaulle.

pipita said...

Indeed Guito, it was 2-1 right?? Petain scoring an own goal for the Germans...

fred said...

The biggest problem England faces today is France. No-one wants to live in France - that's why their houses are dirt-cheap. And that's why there are so many French mercenaries in our ranks: some have risen to the rank of Captain, one is even a General.
But as soon as it comes to the crunch, they all pike off back across the Channel.
That's no way to run an army!

Horatio Greengrasse-Cholmondely,
RSVP (retd.)

guitougoal said...

yes pipita,Petain's goal was against his own team.However during same period in Italy they had the same problem with their center back Mussolini.
As far as Ben Hur, he rode his "char" full speed, non stop,with or without wheels,roman fans gave him the nickname,Ben Hurry.

guitougoal said...

greengrass,one more sacrilege and your are banned.

MotM said...

Those Romans had a decent team didn't they? Cicero could do the post-match interviews, Brutus the transfer negotiations, Caligula the hospitality, Claudius the fanzine, Tiberius the (ahem) Academy, Livia the opposition's half time refreshments, Mark Anthony the team talk, with Julius Caesar as manager, and Germanicus as captain and Justinian the ref.

(Thank my bog standard inner-city comprehensive school for this post).

offsideingaul said...

motm,

maybe, but that amateur club from a small village in Brittany with no budget whatsoever repeatedly kicked them Roman asses.

Allegations of doping were wildly exaggerated.

BlueinBetis said...

Thank you everybody.

I know I've missed loads of important information out, but this started off, believe it or not, as a piece about the bottle throwing at the Betis Sevilla game. It kind of warped in the wash. You will notice there is not one mention of bottles/Sevilla/Betis.

I don't know how people manage to write to targets...but Ghanaian league football definitely warrants a piece. Excellent fun. Will get to it. Thanks again.

BlueinBetis said...

Mouth,

you forgot Nero, the half time musician,

BlueinBetis said...

Pipita,

With reference to the question about Spain and Portugal, yes I do think that had a lot to do with it. The problem would then have become, how do I mention this without mentioning Wellington? A mere journeyman player in my opinion, no panache, and then of course, I wouldn't have been to able to comment on shrivelling the French or Long Johns. Both of which I wanted to keep. Shrivel is a much underused verb. Deserves every outing it can get.

There was a bit that was cut about Trafalgar, Nelson, rum, sodomy and the lash, but I just couldn't get it to sound right. I just didn't want this turn into a Britannia thing, so avoided her as far as possible, there are far too many people that can write about British History better than I. So I cheated and talked about the continent.

offsideinthecoliseum said...

Nero? Didn't he do something stupid with flares that resulted in a long stadium ban?

BlueinBetis said...

Offside,
I fail to see how wearing bell bottoms can gain one a ban from any stadium. You been on the happy juice again?

offsideinfashionmagazines said...

Bell bottoms are definitely a banning offence at the Offside Arena aka the Theater of Mango Trees. There is a dress code around here, you know.

Happy juice! Now, where did I get that reputation?

pipita said...

Blueinbetis

Okay, now I understand. Thought it was odd that both nelson and wellington should be conspicuously absent from your piece. Totally agree with your description of Welly, seemed more geoff hurst than bobby charlton. Re Napoleon's "tropical retirement", I assume your referring to Elba...

MotM said...

Wasn't Wellington more a Roy Keane type Irishman?

Nero is a good call.

If I'm not careful, Hannibal is going to tell me off for posting the Monty Python football philosophers again.

Zeph said...

Wellington = Roy Keane, definitely.

Favourite Wellington quote, re his own side: "I don't know what they do to the enemy, but by God they frighten me."

miro said...

I enormously enjoy reading these pieces.

But for God's sake, can anyone tell me what's the ultimate purpose of all this.

BlueinBetis said...

Miro,

I wrote it, and fucked if I know what the purpose was...this is the reason why this was never sent to the Guardian. It was a first attempt, to clear the mental nostrils. I will try to have a clearer idea with the next one. The ultimate purpose is of course World Domination, but that may take a while, since those pesky Americans have quite a lead.

offside said...

miro,

"I enormously enjoy reading these pieces."

Maybe that's your answer, right there.

BlueinBetis said...

Miro,

I've remembered. It was because Mrs Betis asked me to take the rubbish out, and since we live on the fifth floor, and the lift was broken, I replied, "I can't love, I'm busy writing something."

So in my personal case,shirking responsibility is the primary purpose, we'll move the World Domination down to number two for the moment.

Offside what time is it where you are?

bluedaddy said...

BiB, you are definitely getting the hang of this blogging lark. Excellent life avoidance skills there.

offsideinasillytimezone said...

blueinbetis,

exactly the same time as where you are. Just switch am to pm and vice versa (doesn't work quite so well for England).

Oh, and of course, here it's still yesterday.

BlueinBetis said...

In that case, Offsidepasthisbedtime.

[strident voice]

You should be in bed young man!

Don't bother getting up early tomorrow, because it's only just starting to clear up today. Should be lovely this afternoon.

offside said...

azuldelbetis,

I love it when you call me young man, just love it.

I am now wondering if Spain has or hasn't switched to daylight savings time. The time zone information I gave you is valid for France, which I assume is in the same timezone as Spain.

But then, what do I know? I am only a savage in a loincloth.

BlueinBetis said...

Man of indiscriminate age, but probably older than me, in a loincloth,

Spain has switched, we lost an hour of hangover cure on Sunday night.

I never, ever, ever understand why we do this. There's always one clock that you forget to change. Sure it's one of those things 'they' do to mess with 'us'..... it's a conspiracy to make me early for work, I never seem to fall for it the other way around.

Off to work, don't forget your nightly rosary about Marcel Desailly. Will help salve your conscience. Enjoy last night. Speak to you this morning!

mimi said...

blue: this whole moving of the hour thing has me fooled every year, and because I didn't listen to the BBC on sat night (they always remind you) I was in a complete state of confusion on Sunday morning and still haven't quite caught up. Good job not at work til Thurs! I rather suspect that the Romans first fiddled with the clock as a way to steal a march re kick-off time - they could play the first hour while the opposition was still hunting wild boar and painting themselves blue.

fred said...

mimi -
I'm convinced that this moving hours business is meant to confuse us, to alienate us from our innate sense of harmony with nature itself.
We should simply refuse: retain summer time all year round, let the fools who want to tamper with their psyches seesaw back and forth through life.

The Romans? Yes: we know that Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Some people choose to interpret this as a musical act, some assume he fiddled the books (did they have books? Well, tablets then!). Thanks to you we now have the correct interpretation!

Greengrass

mimi said...

fred: I keep the clock in my car always on summer time and would happily do the same in the rest of the house, but it plays merry hell with trying to record anything off the telly or turn up at work on time. All very well to be individual, but sadly, the need to live amongst the throng takes over!

bluedaddy said...

Mrs BD and I woke up at 8.25 this morning, giving us 15 mins to get the kids (who were sat on the sofa eating dry cereal and watching telly, bless em) dressed and to school.
Went like clockwork. I might try it again tomorrow.

mimi said...

blued: til you realised it was 9.25 and all hell let loose???

bluedaddy said...

No mimi, all hell is reserved for when Mrs BD catches me on here in the morning instead of making my daughter's packed lunch

mimi said...

Bluedaddy: open a tin of tuna, fight off all the cats and sandwiches done in a mo. Surely no problem!

MotM said...

Bluedaddy - what did kids do prior to school in the time before an almost limitless quantity of Japanese animation was available to them? Ours never seem tire of it - I fool myself that it's pretty good (and the Korean animation "Avatar" is good).

mimi said...

Mouth: in my day we had jobs to do before school. Having begged parents for a puppy, my job was taking it for a walk every morning. My sister's job - hum, well, I think her's was to pull the duvet over her head and get shouted at by my mum!

MotM said...

Jobs? Before school? Can barely force them to get dressed!

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