Exposing Four of Football's Biggest Myths
A couple of weeks ago, the self-proclaimed ‘grandest stage of them all’, the Super Bowl, drew around 120 million viewers and set a United States television record in the process.
On the same weekend, the Barclays Premier League fixture between Chelsea and Manchester City brought in a reported 650 million viewers worldwide.
There is simply no doubt, football (the real one, not the game played with hands and an egg) is the biggest sport on the planet. This exposure inevitably brings with it a lot of talk. What is fascinating is that despite such focus and attention, it takes very little for a train of thought to become the general consensus, regardless of how much sense it actually makes.
Football fans love nothing more than a bandwagon, so here's a quick look at four of the biggest myths in the game today.
1. Greatness is determined by what you do on the international stage
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Perhaps the biggest myth of them all is the idea that you cannot be a truly great unless you win things on the international stage.
The ultimate flaw in this argument is that the international arena, whilst perhaps the grandest when it comes to the World Cup, is not the most elite level of competition. The Champions League, on the whole, is a higher and more intense level of football. The highest level of club football, with the ability of the strongest teams to create as perfect a team as possible with players from around the world, will almost always surpass the highest level of the international game with teams limited to their national pools.
Furthermore, no matter how brilliant a player is, football is ultimately a team game, and a team of at least a certain level is always needed for truly great players to maximize their potential and win things.
What was Cristiano Ronaldo really supposed to be able to achieve at the World Cup playing alongside the likes of Almeida and Nani when faced with a German team made up entirely of world superstars? Is Gareth Bale therefore ineligible to ever achieve true greatness due to the fact he plays for a Wales team that haven’t even qualified for a World Cup since 1958?
The logic is completely flawed.
Take last year’s World Cup final for instance. Say Lionel Messi was to have played terribly and been substituted at half time, but Argentina went on to win it. This would make him a ‘superior’ player than if he had scored a hat trick as Argentina went on to lose 4-3? No chance. Trophies are important to a career, but it is individual achievements that should be decisive when considering a player. There are many great players who have won little and many average ones that have won a lot.
International success can of course greatly add to a career but is it is not the definer of greatness.
2. The card waving debate
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Every commentator’s favorite hate. When a player is fouled and they, or their teammates, call for the referee to brandish a card.
What critics fail to understand here is that cards are a part of the game. A big part of it. The same people who whine about this also speak of how players have ‘won the foul’ or ‘won the card’ in other instances, yet actively calling for a card in the wake of a legitimate foul is somehow morally wrong.
Winning a yellow/red through attracting a foul from your opponent is something that can directly benefit your team and is clearly a part of the rules. Either through adding extra pressure to defenders on a yellow or through taking the numerical advantage through a red.
Just look at Eden Hazard. He has been fouled 74 times already this season. Does he have a right to demand for some of these players to be fairly booked? Of course he does. If there is no problem with a defender ‘taking one for the team’ to stop an attack there then there is certainly no problem here.
Football is a ruthless game where every advantage must be taken. Tthere is no time for absurd, supposedly principled, gripes like this one.
3. Arsenal fans are ‘fickle’
Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images
Easily the most wrongly and over used word in football and an absolute favorite of the mindless Twitter ‘troll'.
The sad thing is that 90% of the time, it is glaringly obvious that the insinuator has absolutely no understanding of the meaning of the word. It means ‘changing frequently, especially as regards one's loyalties or affections’.
Arsenal is no doubt a divided fan base at the moment. Divided over Wenger? Yes. Divided over love for the club? Definitely not.
Each individual fan does not ‘frequently change’ his/her loyalties to Wenger. What has actually occurred is a gradual change as many fans have come to realize he is no longer the right man for the job. What onlookers fail to grasp is that with a divided fan base, it is only natural that each side will be more vocal in their views depending on the current run of results.
If we’re in one of our rare good spells, the ‘Wenger in’ supporters will jump more fervently back on to their high horse. If we’re losing, then the ‘Wenger out’ fans are obviously going to get more public attention. Non-Arsenal fans will call people like me 'negative' because of the decision to outwardly express the need for a change of manager even if we win. If I don’t, then I'm considered fickle.
Arsenal Fans are not fickle. Just more and more come to realize the truth each day.
4. Harry Redknapp as an elite manager
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I like Harry Redknapp, and have ever since he responded to being hit by a wayward shot by Terry Parker during an interview by telling him ‘no wonder you’re In the ******* reserves’.
The problem is that his charm and popularity with the press is often confused with managerial genius. But in actuality, Redknappy had a reasonable performance at West Ham and a poor one at Southampton. The man has won just one trophy in his career. Admittedly, that trophy was a fairytale FA cup with Portsmouth after an impressive spell.
However, closer examination of his time there and we see that he can be pinpointed as one of the primary catalysts of their infamous downfall through utterly reckless spending of club funds. Taking a Spurs side to the top four on two occasions is no mean feat - as we’ve seen with their persistent failure to do so since - but managerial genius is a rather large stretch.
His dismissal in 2012 was labeled as scandalous by the press, but there was little evidence the club was going to progress much further under him. In a recent visit to White Hart Lane, Daniel Levy told me and my lifelong Spurs-supporting grandfather (forgive him) that Redknapp is a quick fixer who helps clubs in the short term, but ultimately leaves them in a bigger mess.
He highlighted his preference of signing older, more expensive players and egos as central to this. Three fairly average years at QPR have just come to a close, where he fittingly experienced both relegation and promotion.
Redknapp has proven to be a competent manager, with years of top-flight experience and some moments of quality. One trophy, a couple of promotions and relegations is a decent record.
But his outspoken, charismatic nature is not enough to earn him the right to be talked about as one of the managerial elite.