|Why aliens could think
the East was the West and Europe was the bottom, and why different concepts
of the game deserve its place at the greatest tournament even with no chance
to lift the World Cup. A first journey...
Imagine you are
from outer space, landing on earth, and (for example) by accident right
on some pacific island. You would call Asia West and America East, and
Europe maybe the bottom (presupposed you call North North and did not land
with an downside up map what would be possible too).
The view and perception
of the world, at least to the typical reader of this magazine, is probably
quite eurocentric. And without any bad intentions this is considered as
'normal' and not reflected much. But it is underrated how such 'normalities'
lay structures for perceiving the world and drawing the conclusions from
To understand football
as a world phenomen and what good football could do in the future it is
important that different views have to be learned.
What this has to
do with the Asian perspectives at 2002? Well, read on.
Of all continents
confederations the Asian probably has the lowest percentage of its players
playing at professional European clubs. Any player from other continents
will have to adapt the European mentality if he wants a place in the first
eleven of an European professional club.
This changes his style,
his attitude. He has to accept the ethics of the game as well as the ethics
of the business and in most cases he will reproduce those ethics as a key
to success when he passes on his experiences at home. Asia, short of players
gathering experiences in a European or South-American professional career,
has tried to import such knowledge for example in Japan and China by hiring
foreign coaches and foreign players to learn from. But Asia is big and
Saudi Arabia or Iran cannot be compared to Korea or Japan.
Football (like the
world) is not the exclusive property of Europe (including the American
footballers and fans who are mainly of European descent), although sometimes
it seems thought to be. So, in the past, different styles of football and
different interpretations had developed. The West-Africans once neglected
the question of winning when they were celebrating the event, the magic
and played a style that fit well with the weather conditions and the call&respond
heritage of the African oral culture.
When such a side came to
Europe it got rolled over by teams who had developed a tempo that was possible
in the Northern weather conditions, rolled over by the help of the organisation
that resulted from the concentration on the score as the exclusive target,
and by the help of the knowledge which was made possible by a better media
infrastructure and a longer experience. A better experience not at last
determined by the colonialistic structures and its consequences.
This all caused some
bad results which in some European countries fitted well into racist images
of the stupid 'negroes' (at that time still commonly used word for
Africans 1974 in Germany when Zaire fulfilled all requests to satisfy the
racists klischees), not intelligent enough to play the game.
Today Africans have
conquered the European leagues and although it is known that they usually
need some years to adapt for example to the German football mentality,
they have become strong even in the typical German attributes. But on the
way those players have lost some of their typical African properties, they
think 'professional' in a European sense now.
It has a backslash
even to Africa where other types of players are preferred now. Players
who fit into the European characteristics of the game. They are the preferred
picks of coaches and agents because they promise success on the pitch as
well as on the trade market. Player types like Jay Jay Okocha are hard
to find in prominent clubs nowadays. Or did you ever hear of Makaya Nsilulu
or Ayadi Hamrouni as a target of transfer speculations? (not only Africa:
Shinji Ono had to change his style before becoming accepted in european
football and so has the Japanese ideal: from Brazilian technique to european
Africans have changed
their style. At the recent African Cup Of Nations tournaments the only
'magicians' left have been the sometimes exciting Côte d'Ivoire,
all the others mixed their playing style with various European (or South
American) interpretations. Some might be sad about a touch of magic got
lost. But it is the right of Africa determine on their own what they want
and not just satisfy a folcloristic role Europeans like them in.
In general football
today leaves little options for a unique style as informations on the game
becomes more and more similar worldwide and physis becomes more and more
a determining factor.
In Asia more nations
yet seem to stick to their home styles. This is caused by several reasons:
Only few have yet had the opportunity to compete at a World Cup final and
only few players play at Europe. It is obvious, Asian teams play less physical
than the rest of the world. Japan, Korea, China try to adjust their game,
but the players usually are smaller than Europeans or Africans and yet
cannot wrestle around them with the experience and cleverness of South
Still those three
are making progress finding ways to improve while the rest of Asia suffers
from the lack of competition with others, stucking in some kind of ghetto,
in which football develops more slowly.
In France 98 FIFA tried
to clamp down on all kinds of physical game that endangers the health of
the players. Europeans and West- and South-Africans complained, saw it
as a disatvantage to their preferred physical styles, but for the elegant
game of Iran and Saudi-Arabia and the running game of Japan or South Corea
it could have been a boost. But: who determines what is the 'real' football?
Money? (Then: who determines that money determines?) Who 'invented' football?
Does it matter? And if, has it been England or China, where such a game
has been played some thousand years ago? Or is it the past time World Cup
winners who should rule? The ones who were 'there' first? Or the regions
where the most registered players are? Or the parts of the world where
the most (potential) players and fans are? And who decides what is a 'real'
In Asia more than half
of the world population is living, people in Thailand and India are as
enthusiastic about the game as everywhere else. They have a right to take
part at the process and to help develop the ethics of the game, a right
to contribute to the discussions about what is the more important in football,
how important are the national teams, what role play fun, result, whether
money should rule or even what part the handful of potent European clubs
play. If a team wants to attack, their attitude is part of the world and
their contribution should be part of the tournament even if they are in
danger of getting punished by a higher number of goals against them as
they might have allowed with a concrete wall style.
The World Cup should
be also an exhibition of concepts of celebrating the game and not just
an exhibition of whose football industry has prepared the best to beat
Nobody denies the French,
Germans or Brasilians winning anyway, the love at France 98 had been with
the Jamaicas and Iranians, too. They carry the emotions the cold result
and money ethics can not deliver alone. The Dow Jones index cannot create
the feelings Khodad Azizi created by his goal at Sydney in the final 1998
World Cup qualifier Australia-Iran. The football money industry needs those
different concepts and attitudes, too. There had been a considerable number
of fans feeling inspired by the Jamaican party celebrations who might not
have been adressed by the event otherwise. An argument for those business
fetishists, too: A World Cup just made of Norways and Switzerlands, Belgiums
and Slovenians would sell worse...