Great class this week, as we just about made it to the turn of the 20th century! Seriously, I’m going to have to speed it up if we’re going to be discussing contemporary soccer issues by week 5, as I’ve intended.
Next week’s class will be divided into two parts. I’ll discuss the offside rule, address other questions about rules and take you on a quick tour of major controversies and developments to World War II, including the brief flowering of women’s soccer in England. The second half will be a presentation by journalist Ian Thomson, who is visiting North Carolina for the weekend. In a follow-up post in the next day or two, I’ll send you a chapter from Ian’s book about a colorful period of American soccer in the 1960s, and a couple of other readings.
With this post, I’d like to elaborate on a couple of topics that came up this week. This first one is kind of wonky and tactics-oriented, and the second is about Lionel Messi.
First, before I go into this tactics discussion, I want to emphasize that it is not a requirement for soccer fans to be interested in strategy. It’s perfectly fine to simply cheer for your team to win, or to applaud good plays when they occur (or, god forbid, goals). These days, I’m not much of a tactics nerd, but during the period of Barcelona’s greatest years (they are in a bit of decline right now), I was reading a lot about tactics and I also bought Jonathan Wilson’s Inverting the Pyramid, which was published around that time.
That said, if you want to read a great blog that reviews recent European games and analyzes the tactics, your destination should be Zonal Marking. Here is ZM’s account of that thrilling 0-0 game between Chelsea and Atletico Madrid, about which the Guardian wrote that passage I read to you in class. (And be sure to check out the comments!)
Even if you haven’t the slightest interest in delving into the finer points of soccer tactics, an interesting takeaway is this: There is an egghead minority of soccer enthusiasts who enjoy dissecting tactics, and this tradition goes back at least as far as the pre-WWII cafés of Vienna and Budapest, as Wilson’s book documents.
Now, to review class (and if you’re just interested in Messi, scroll on down!): When I showed the video of Barcelona in a classic build-up to a goal, there were a couple of very good questions about the sequence. (Here it is again.)