Why I find professional football (aka soccer) so unfortunate?

I am mortified when I see the values of the highest paid and most watched football players and managers.  It’s a disgrace.  Watching the most recent Euro 2012 tournament which winds up tonight, I have been reminded about the way professional football is just not good for society.

Professional Sports a Source of Inspiration

At a professional level, sports are entertainment, an industry vying for attention and consumer dollars. Sports provide an outlet for unbridled testosterone. They buffer empty spaces and minds with conversation topics. They fill the minds of the youth with dreams. And, more importantly, provide role models to inspire us mere mortals and amateurs.

Professional Football a Source of Deep Frustration

It is for this last reason that I tolerate little professional football (aka soccer), especially since it is the single most popular sport in the world and, certainly, the most mediatized. On the positive side, you have to admire how national football matches can galvanize a nation and help override internal tensions (maybe the USA would do better to play in more shared international team sports as opposed to the insular American Football and Baseball which are extremely inward looking, albeit with some Canadian teams here and there). And national tournaments have a way of crystallizing the state of a nation, as witnessed by the display of ego-laden individualism in the French team in Euro 2012.

My Top ten list

Herewith, meanwhile, are the top ten things (from least to most) that irritate me in professional football:

  1. When the ball goes out, both sides immediately shoot up their arm to claim the ball, even when the call is perfectly obvious.
  2. No one ever throws in the ball where it went out.  It seems that there is a lax acceptance of 5 extra meters.
  3. When a free kick or a throw-in is awarded, the penalized team often holds on to the ball or throws it away disparagingly.
  4. formation football 4-4-2, The Myndset Digital Marketing & MediaWhen a free kick is given, the defenders are never 10 yards away and, right after the referee measures out the 10 yards, they mechanically creep up toward the ball.
  5. People and managers still pay attention to the formations (4-4-2 or 4-1-3-2…) whereas such stated formations have no resemblance to what actually happens on the pitch. Formations are a charade.
  6. There is no way to go take a break midway through a half without a risk of missing THE single goal of the match.  Ok, I’ll admit this is not going to be a big deal once I have TIVO installed.
  7. Any time physical contact is made or might be made, far too often the player will dive onto the ground and claim a free kick, with the hand going up even as they fall, and with the look of horror on the face that would make a B class actor proud.
  8. The pain and writhing of a player that has been or claims to have been tripped lasts as long as the referee is potentially thought to be looking in his direction.

    mario-balotelli, On the Myndset Brand leadership and digital marketing

    Mario Balotelli – doing his job alone

  9. Despite being the most lucrative sport in the world, there is still no goal line camera technology.
  10. And the winner is: When a goal scorer scores, his first reaction is to take off his shirt (if only it were to hide his name) and run from his team mates to self-promote. Never mind that he only accomplished that for which he is paid.  Your job is to score.  I say, well done for doing your job.  Punto.  Mario Balotelli’s display, so symptomatic, in the Euro semi-final match against Germany is not what team sports are made of.

Between the lack of goal-line camera, only one referee on the pitch and no TV review, there is a gaping opportunity for corruption and manipulated results in professional football. As has been covered recently in English professional football, there is widespread gambling and corruption (run by the Chinese it seems) even down in the lower divisions.  Corruption is rampant around the world in a game that attracts too much money, and too many low levels.

My take:  Professional football should concern itself more with its image, values and sportsmanship.  What do you think?  Does it deserve to be the most watched sport in the world?

POST SCRIPTUM 6 JULY 2012:

I just read that the English Premiership is looking at implementing goal line technology for the 2012-2013 season.  A revolution is at hand?  See the BBC report.

Lyon defeat PSG in Coupe de France

Olympique Lyonnais wins Coupe de France 2008, first time in 35 yearsPSG defeated by Lyon in Coupe de France 2008Olympique Lyonnais double up on PSG in the Coupe de France 2008, but is the French Ligue really competitive?

Having watched the Manchester United vs Chelsea in the European Champions Cup Final this week (prior post here), this Olympique Lyon (OL) v PSG Coupe de France final match was decidedly less attractive and fun to watch, although there was plenty of tension (to the extent any overtime match is tense). A goal-less regulation game which PSG dominated was not good enough to win. OL’s Sidney Govou scored in the 102nd minute to sink PSG with a 1-0 scoreline. Here is a quick writeup in The Sports Network. What was more interesting than this tail-ending match itself, was the tale of the season.

PSG spent the majority of the season around the bottom of the league (Ligue 1), threatening to be relegated for the first time in its history. However, they managed, not only not to be relegated, but to win the League Cup, for the first time in ten years. And, they also got into the finals of the Coupe de France, the French equivalent of the FA Cup (which PSG had won in 2004 and 2006 most recently). What an up and down season! Winning the League Cup means a qualification in the UEFA. So, when all’s said and down, they finished 16th (two away from the relegation zone) in the League and yet had two national cup final appearances. PSG would qualify as a team that plays well in the knockout tournaments…in France anyway. [They won the UEFA once in 1996].

And then there is the 7th consecutive Ligue 1 title for Olympique Lyonnais. That is an absolutely huge stint at the top… but also possibly proving the lack of solid competition? There have been several teams that have won 4 seasons in a row in France, but none has accomplished what Lyon did. A dynasty in the making. Congrats to my Lyonnais friends for yet another great year and their first double (odd stat since they had 6 other years to do so). It is the first time in 35 years that OL have won that cup. That said, when you see Manchester United which has won 10 of the last 16 Premiership titles (17 overall, 1 behind Liverpool I note) as well as three European Cup Championships (two in the last 10 years), THAT is a dynasty. And, curiously enough, the longest stretch of consecutive Premier titles in England is just three (done four times, once by Man U, Liverpool, Arsenal and Huddersfield[!]). So, I am going to have to argue that the English Premier league is significantly more competitive.

See here for some highlights of the Lyon-PSG game at FC Footbal Blog.