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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Thursday, April 17, 2008
    A preparation for a better life
    Despite being criticized in recent years for ... having turned to 'effective' rather than 'aesthetic' football (especially at the 1994 World Cup in the US), it is probably still Brazil who keeps the popular image of the Latin American 'ball artists' alive - largely thanks to a few particularly gifted and charismatic players like Ronaldo or Ronaldhino. ...
    [There] are historical differences in how to play the game. The Argentinian coach Cesar Luis Menotti even turned these differences into political ones when he offered his concept of a 'left-wing' vs. a 'right-wing' football. By the former, he meant football that "celebrated intelligence and creativity" and "wanted the game to be a festival"; by the latter, football in which "only the result counts and in which the players are degraded to mercenaries employed to gather victory and nothing but". In one of his most famous quotes he summed up his understanding of football as: "Football has to fulfill the functions of art - it has to be like a good movie, a good song, a good poem, a good painting: it has to prepare us for a better, more just, more humane life," Ironically, Menotti's notion of a left-wing football stands in sharp contrast to what was traditionally often hailed as the working class virtues of the sport: 'discipline', 'determination', 'strength'. A bohemian radical notion vs. a proletarian one?
    I knew it would be worth buying The Anarchist Football Manual, for paragraphs like these. It also offers some insight into why footy appeals to the anarchist tendency - in the U.S. especially where it is an 'alternative', 'outsider' sport. The Manual also brings back to the surface the hidden history of women's football, with the story of the celebrated Dick, Kerr's Ladies attracting a record 53,000 to a locked-out Goodison Park on Boxing Day 1920 for a 4-0 win over St Helen's Ladies, a number far higher than for any men's games at that time. This situation triggered the FA ban on women's football a few months later, which the Anarchist Football Manual describes as 'a blatant and shameless patriarchal move' in a political culture still being shaken and stirred by the Suffragettes.

    Back to Menotti's quote, though. Nothing festive or memorable at Goodison tonight, in a tired end-of-season display against a crew of degraded mercenaries. I'd be thirty quid better off and surely more prepared for a better life if I'd stayed home instead, to carry on reading the anarchists, and Menotti, and all about Dick, Kerr's.