Football is a sport rich in artistry, creativity and a level of nuance that is unmatched by any other. The game has been described as a combination of chess and ballet, the former representing the tactical and strategic aspects of the game, the latter pointing to the mental and physical strength and mastery required at the top level of the sport.
There are roughly two groups who question football’s inherent beauty and ability to draw people together (instead of tear communities apart). These are the cultural snobs who only see beauty in what are regarded as high-brow art forms that use money as a barrier to mass participation and those who are rightly turned off by the lad culture, violence and aggression which, in parts, continue to surround much of the game. However, like anything, focusing on these aspects divert from a game that can bring billions of people together all over the world in their love, passion and joy for what they see on the pitch and experience together in the stands.
Whilst football is a team sport, where the very best individual in the team relies on his more utility minded teammate in midfield as much as his own genius, it would be wrong to claim that flashes of individual brilliance aren’t what have come to define many of the most memorable matches in recent times.
Below are a just a handful of examples of how poetry in motion can be created by an individual movement, taking place in mere seconds, or via slow build-up play and a team working in perfect harmony toward a common (literal) goal.
These clips shouldn’t create the illusion that one can only have one or the other – individual brilliance, or that created by an entire team. The Argentina goal exemplifies how the passing in the build-up play between a entire team, can culminate in a dash of brilliance (in that case, Cambiasso’s goal). The clips can also attest for the fact that football’s beauty comes from power and strength, mixed with finesse and nuance.
John Barnes once argued, soccer is the most socialistic sport. I must admit to always having been quite turned-off by individual sports where individual ego reigns supreme. In the era of multimillionaire soccer stars, it’s a slight relief that no player, even the greatest on the planet, can win a game single-handed, apart from in the hyperbolic world of media punditry.