17 May 2010

The hauntological footballer

Just found the time to digest Radon Brainstorm's 3000-word-plus cri de coeur on the subject of Joe Cole. One to add to BDR in the limited category of music-football crossover blogger. RB might not thank me for this, but you could argue that Joe Cole represents a kind of footballing hauntological: as a prodigy who's never been reckoned to have fulfilled his potential (lost futures!) but also in that the quality of his talent takes the average viewer back to their childhood. That is, his talent is the kind first recognized and most valued by the collective wisdom of the school playground: the sleight of foot, the jink that looks like an optical illusion. So to continue in this specialized path of dribbling and close control is unconsciously perceived by pundits/coaches to be a refusal to grow up, to mature into a cover-and-tackle drone (even when this might represent a neutering of talent and a weakening of the collective).


GCGM said...

Many thanks for the response - excellent points, very much an extension of my 'ghosting' reference, the wider implications of which I was well aware of.

Football is, for the most part these days, an utterly inane recreation, and I can think of no good reason to write about it other than to extol the virtues of someone like Cole and his predicament within the context of the Premier League. Unless you're going to approach the game like Stubbs and just take the piss, there's nothing else to it.

The case of Cole and its' attendant ruminations don't quite clear a path to a CIA conspiracy, but it's long interested me. As you can clearly tell. He is (or should be) a talismanic figure, for anyone truly fed up with both the kind of dour joyless regiment that the English are generally tied to through lack of technique (though the Germans have of course traditionally and intentionally deployed this method to far greater effect), and the fear of expression so characteristic of modern English football - an apprehension to which his instinctive creativity is surely the most apposite treatment.

For me, Cole's situation is ripe for the kind of dissection that you've suggested here - the "neutering of talent" point you refer to is key, as is the idea of the "drone". I wonder if Fisher will wade in. Street football as entarte kunst...?


ZoneStyxTravelcard said...

I don't mind organization or regimentation per se - it depends on the organizer. Sacchi's Milan, Benitez-era Valencia (and LFC 08/09) were quite breathtaking in the way they exceeded the sum of their parts. Mourinho's teams never excite any admiration in me, I just acknowledge and resent them. That semi at the Camp Nou -- technically you could respect how efficient and obdurate Inter were, but I thought it was cowardice (and from a manager who used to *lambast* teams visiting Stamford Bridge for 'parking the bus' etc). They, disappeared like a tortoise into a shell, they actually *chose* to give away possession! If that last-minute Bojan goal hadn't been wrongly disallowed the punditocracy woudl, I'm sure, have adjusted their hindsight goggles and hammered Mourinho for not even trying for an away goal.

To go back to Cole, it's interesting that the modern technocrat like Mourinho or Benitez also tends to have a love-hate relationship with Cole-esque figures. They want them because their unpredictability disrupts the opposition (there's even a word for them in Spanish, desequilibrante), but they hate them because that mercurial quality also affects the balance of their own team. So Benitez bought Benayoun, then didn't use him much (at first anyway).

re Mark F, he's a Forest fan I think, so it all may just be too painful...

GCGM said...

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely agree with regards to organisation, as long as it constitutes the base from which invention can bloom and not the absolute limit of the team's capabilities. This is why I've found it hard to love the German national side: they're just drilled to the point of boredom and total joylessness even in victory (and they never smile when they score).

I guess really it comes down to whether you make the inventor the fulcrum of the side and fit everything else around him, or simply stick him into the line-up as an isolated appendage. This is probably why if someone like a Hoddle or Cole loses possession and the opposition go on to score, they always get the blame - they're never the last man, and yet the defensive, combative players somehow get absolved. A latin player in the same mould would have protective ball-winners and those more suited to mopping up the play around him. I suppose this is a touch ironic, given that we've tended to pride ourselves on our organisational abilities.

Your examples are spot on though, and I'd add the Italian World Cup winning side of '82 to that list. Impossible to break down, yet allied to fantastic technique and a fluidity of movement across the whole team. That last attribute is something that we've always utterly failed to emulate, a point hammered home yet again in last night's friendly. I cannot for the life of me work out how England won that game. Probably bribery.

Forest were a wonderful side when at their best, quite a good example of English organisation melded with necessary flair. Clough always wanted Hoddle too.