Monday, 1 August 2011

Mancini leads the charge that is killing football

I guess it is a sign of the times. A sad sign that the game of football is no longer a game.
But I still shed a tear about the implications of Roberto Mancini's heavy-handed treatment of Mario Balotelli in LA earlier this week.
You may remember the striker tried to inject some Stateside razzmatazz into the friendly with an attempted back-heel finish.
The game was a two-bob match up being played for sponsors rather than fans. It had nothing riding on it, and Balotelli was treating it with the disdain it deserved.
But for taking the opportunity to indulge in a touch of showmanship that would have sent YouTube ratings through the roof the youngster found himself in trouble once again.
Indeed it was Mancini that went through the roof, hauling off the Italian and giving him a dressing down for the swear words the confused striker spat out in frustration.
As he trouped off to his seat, any hope City fans had of seeing some entertainment this season took a walk as well.
No player in a blue shirt is going to stick his neck out again if it means he's subjected to a public hanging.
Mancini's message was implicit. Anyone displaying a maverick side to their character is in trouble. He only wants disciplined, sensible, dull, rigid football. The sort that might win trophies but is certain to launch a thousand yawns.
It's a sign of the times.
Bryan Robson said so whilst being set up by the Channel Four Dispatches programme the other week. Football, he said, was no longer a sport. Now it is a business.
And the game is poorer for it. Sons will look back at their fathers who watched a cheeky George Best with envy.
They will wonder at stories of Frank Worthington's ability to perform circus tricks with a ball, marvel at tales of a shaggy haired Charlie George and party animals Stan Bowles and Rod Marsh.
The big characters were all formed through flawed genius, just like Balotelli. In those days though the game accommodated players who liked to be a little flash, liked to show off and treat those hard working souls on the terraces to some value for money.
Not any more. That colourful edge has been jettisoned in favour of a dull gray brand of football.
Ironically it has happened at the same time as street football and the inventive tricks it spawns are all the rage amongst the next generation of fans.
You only have to watch Soccer AM to see youth team kids produce mesmerising new ways of manoeuvring a football about their body. Someone had better tell them they are wasting their time. Once they get to the first team the only thing that matters will be the distance covered on the Pro Zone stats.
Football can still be beautiful. It is impossible not to smile when watching Neymar's sensational goal against Flamengo this week on YouTube.
I suggest you switch on the laptop and lap it up. It might be the only grin you get from football this season if Mancini's mardy reaction is anything to go by.

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