Football musings


June 13th, 2010

The sporting metaphor is well used, and sometimes abused. It’s alive and well as we are currently swamped with football. Here in Australia there’s Real Footy (AFL) – our very own home-grown variety that is somewhat incomprehensible to outsiders, and there’s also football, or soccer, madness courtesy of the World Cup.

Here’s a couple of observations about two very different games.

In an AFL game, there’s always four players on the bench who can be substituted. The obvious reasons include when there’s an injury or to give a player a rest. There’s no limit to the number of substitutions. A common approach by coaches is to ‘drag’ a player – when he makes a mistake, he’s given a spell out of the game aka on the bench. I’ve never really understood the psychology behind this approach, but hey, I’m not a footballer, or a coach.

Last night two of the better teams played each other. Half way through the game both teams were evenly matched, but by the end, one team, Geelong, had completely dominated. There’s probably many reasons why Geelong is the best team in the competition, and I’m sure this contributes. Players are NOT dragged for making a mistake. That’s right. If they make a mistake they just put it behind them and keep playing. No time spent on the bench thinking about what might have been, what they should have done etc etc. They just keep on playing. Therefore players take more risks. That has to be good – and for Geelong, at least, it translates into success.

It’s hard not to get caught up in World Cup fever, and following games on twitter makes it even more fun. I like twitter comments because they are real time. The time differences makes it hard to watch live. Of course, I’m following Australia aka The Socceroos. There’s a big gap between hope and expectation – hope that they’ll do well and expectations that they’ll be well out of their depth. I guess every team has a hope-expectation gap. Surprises come from teams where there is a big hope-expectation gap, and disappointment and recriminations when expectations are high and teams don’t live up to them.

And that’s as much analysis that I’m prepared to do. Just lucky then that everyone else is an ‘expert’ – the web, the telly and newspapers are awash with predictions and analysis. I even read a SWOT analysis comparing Australia and Germany in one newspaper!

Reminds me a bit of organisations that get so wrapped up in analysing and planning of all shades they forget what it is they are there to do. I suspect the most successful teams in the World Cup will just get on and do what they do best – play football, er soccer.

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