Cultured Football #24
The Art of Goalkeeping in 2021
I don’t know how it is in your part of the world but it has been incredibly hot this week where I live (Malta). It is the kind of weather that takes away the will to do anything apart from lounge by the sea. Yet it is in this weather that Maltese club have to kick off their season as they prepare to take part in the opening rounds of European football. I know that many others have said it but football never really rests, does it?
Those who can recall Italia 90 will undoubtedly also remember Toto Schillaci, the diminutive striker who emerged out of nowhere to drag Italy to the semi-finals of the World Cup. His career didn’t explode after the tournament as it did with Italy’s other breakout start – Roberto Baggio – but in this delightful interview he recalls the big moments as well as the details of that magnificent summer.
National teams have the shortest blanket of all
As I’ve said many times, I’m not a big fan of international football; I find all the nationalistic clamour tedious. Yet there is one aspect that is worthy of respect about these games and that lies in coaches’ abilities to make the most of what they have available. Because in international football you will unavoidably have one or two weak spots that you will have to try and compensate for. That is why people tend to be somewhat disappointed when they see international teams playing as they do: they tend to focus on the stronger players rather than the weaker ones.
Know who is on the move
Strictly speaking, this is not an article but it is one of my favourite pages that I check on a regular basis this time of the year. It is an interactive tracker of all the transfers that take place in the major European leagues. I’m endlessly fascinated to hear of new players or to see familiar names making a move. This year, there is also a similar tracker for the women’s game.
England’s Curse: National Psychodrama at the Euros
This is a complex piece to explain. It is, at least superficially, about England’s use of Jack Grealish in the game against Scotland. But it is also a philosophical look about what it means to be English and what this current England side reflects about that. In particular, I liked this part “opinion polls nowadays find a basic level of apathy and disinterest on behalf of English voters towards Scotland, who do not in general seem bothered by the prospect of Scotland becoming independent of the union either way”. English nationalism has turned inwards.
The Art of Goalkeeping in 2021
This is a mammoth piece of work that looks at goalkeepers from various nations to understand their characteristics. It is a thoroughly fascinating exercise which showcases how data can be used to get to better understand the game. For instance, if you want a really good shot stopper, the best place to look is Eastern Europe.
Last week’s most read
While I had really enjoyed the piece on the technology that goes into having an immaculate football pitch, I never expected it to be the week’s most read by a significant margin. Yet that’s what happened. A very pleasant surprise.