Send in the clowns: an Iberian tragedy
27 Jun, Euro 2012 (semi-final): Portugal 0, Spain 0 (aet; Spain won 4-2 on pens)
So this is the much-vaunted future of football? A barely recognisable, antiseptic, barren pastiche of the blood-and-thunder game we once loved.
Two teams of circus jugglers and actors, their performance only varying by the degree of drama pervading every cheating trip and tumble. Rarely missing their cue to fall, holding hand to face following the merest nudge to ribs, rolling and grimacing with every bump, accidental or otherwise. So realistic is the routine that the referee is reduced to the part of the ringmaster colluding with the clowns.
The disappointing Cristiano Ronaldo epitomised the Hollywood nature of the game with a casual pat of the hair and glance towards the stadium screens every time his cue came to advance to centre stage. Too many times he fluffed his lines.
The saddest part of this tragedy is underlined by any amount of social media comments asking why the England team can’t be more like their continental counterparts. Be careful what you wish for … do you really want to watch two cagey teams cancel each other out with a mathematical formula? What would be the point if, ultimately, the statisticians could calculate the outcome and remove all chance?
Please, leave my senses to be stimulated by the English league. I don’t care for all this crisp passing, I already know that if this particular move breaks down, I will be watching a similar one very soon. Like a mirror ball, it’s pretty and meaningless and, ultimately, boring.
Why can’t England hold the ball? Well, why not allow players to pick it up if that’s what you want? Better still; imagine a future where the teams don’t actually meet, playing neat-passing moves and ball skills between themselves and judged or voted by the television audience.
The match? Here’s a summary: It took 67 minutes for the favourites to have a shot on target. Most of the shirt-pulling was booked, apart from when in the penalty box where it obviously doesn’t count as a foul – the officials (eight!) reckoning that both sides are so adept at it that they cancel each other out. No consideration that the paying fan is being cheated.
Eventually, there were a couple of good saves, a few wild shots, more passing – crisp or whatever adjective you want – and nothing contentious until the game finally, finally finished after 120 minutes of non-event. If only we could have had penalties at the start, it was the game’s high point – the misses and saves representing the high wire of the act.
Of course I watched it, with the willing stupidity of one who watches replays of disasters, somehow expecting the outcome will be different this time. Was the game fascinating? The first half was interesting. Was it entertaining? It was a televisual spectacle.
Was it an edge of seat experience? It was football porn, with choreographed sequences fooling only the uninitiated, repetitive, dull and leaving one looking for the fast-forward control, beyond caring who comes first.
Oh, the teams? Spain and Portugal. And the winners will hopefully get the sawdust kicked out of them by Germany in the final.
Match rating (out of five): *