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Can England Only Dream of Joga Bonito?

After seeing Chelsea cruise to an easy Premiership title this season, without really breaking in to a sweat, or, without playing good, exciting, entertaining football, it raised the question of what was more important, beautiful football, or trophies. The fuss that has been made about Joga Bonito, with our Eric telling the world that “for too long, we’ve let liars, cheaters make a fool of the game,” and that “the world must be reminded that the game is about, heart, honor, joy, and skill.” Drogba said last season that cheating was a part to the game, Robben admitted that he does dive, but “only to avoid injury”. I use these two players examples, because they were two of the worst cheats in the league last year, but still have another Premier League Winners medal at home. Is Robben going to be kept awake at night thinking about how he got Reina sent off by his dramatics? Will Drogba be crying in to his pillow thinking about how he controlled the ball with his arm before scoring against Citeh? Course not. And do we blame them? Course not.

I’ve been sat at Old Trafford many a time when Ronaldo takes on four players, goes bursting in to the box, and falls over, only for half of the crowd to shout penalty, whilst the rest shout at Ronaldo to get up. But if Ronaldo did go down too easily in the area, was awarded a penalty, and we won the game 1-0, would we be grumbling too much on the way home? Again, of course not.

I think several United fans, myself included, have taken a while to adjust to this new “style” of football. It was easy for United to be picky during the 1990s. We could demand exciting, skilful football from our players, because more often than not, we were going to win the league anyway. If United had the dominance of the 90s now, then it would be a lot easier to be disparaging over players like Pires, Ronaldo, Drogba and Robben. After a season of picking up three points every home game bar one, even the Chelsea fans started to get fed up with Drogba’s cheating, and probably, a little frustrated with the way they were playing. With the resources Chelsea have to buy great exciting players, with the great players they have, with one of the best managers in the world, they could play great football, football that kept you on the edge of your seat. Not regulated, almost computerised football. They should win either way, so at least make it entertaining, right?

I admire the Joga Bonito campaigns, but I feel they’re fighting a losing battle. More and more we see teams following suit, and playing defensive football, figuring one point from a draw is better than giving it your all and risk being caught on the break and going home with nothing. If it works for the champions, then it can work for everyone else, right? More and more we see players diving, and nothing can be done about that until video replay gets introduced. It’s all fine and well having aspirations of playing without cheating, and playing beautiful football… but it’s been proven time and again that cheating, and not playing beautiful football leads to success. And success is more important than “heart, joy and honour”?

Rio Ferdinand thinks so, saying it’s not England’s performances that matter, but the results. Good performances are a bonus. It’s very fortunate he feels this way, because if it was England’s performances he felt were important, then he would be very disappointed indeed. Wayne Rooney, still less than match fit, played with heart, joy and honour on Saturday against Ecuador. He even managed to stop telling the ref to fuck off every five minutes. He didn’t stop working, he didn’t stop trying, and on top of that, played beautiful football. Pure magic when he brought that ball down, nutmeged the defender, and played in a perfect ball which Lampard coulda, shoulda, woulda buried.

If it was possible for England to win the World Cup playing the way they are now, and I cant see that being possible unless they get one of the refs who likes sending off as many players as possible (which I realise isn’t really narrowing down which ref I’m referring to), and that ref just happens to send off the oppositions best players, then this country would erupt and celebrate as much as it would if we won playing football as beautiful as the Brazilians at their best. Of course everyone wants to see beautiful football, of course everyone wants to excitement, but as Rio has said, results matter.

I suppose my problem with this whole topic is the distinction between the two things, as though they’re separate entities. Points are what count, not performance. But why can’t they be one and the same? Why can’t a team with as much talent as England progress in this tournament whilst playing incredible football? Rooney and Joe Cole aren’t the only two players on that pitch with great feet. There were moments of brilliance in the victory against Ecuador, mostly coming from Rooney, but of course we can’t talk about the game without talking about Beckham’s freekick, but is that good enough? Is it good enough that England fans and England players settle, and excuse these dire excuses for a football game with “results matter, not performances”?

Is Eric right when he says “we can make it beautiful again,” or is that just wishful thinking from a man who has played some of the most beautiful football in the world?

What do you think? Talk about it at the Republik of Mancunia’s forum or leave comments below.

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About Scott

Scott is the editor of Red Matters - 50 Years of Supporting Manchester United and an author of Play Like Fergie's Boys and Not Nineteen Forever. He writes for ESPN, The Metro and Bleacher Report. Follow @R_o_M on Twitter.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    not being a book of knowledge on the subject, but rather an american who was taken with the commercials.. I can only say this:

    There is a strange kind of magic that happens when you see incredible football played.. and what’s more, for me, seeing a nation taken by the pure love of the game. I feel the Joga Bonito, if by no other way than being introduced to English football. Maybe for the veterans, it’s not where they’d like it. From the outside, though, it’s some kind of wonderful for which I say thank you.


  2. Anonymous says:

    That Joga Bonita is a joke. It’s a marketing campaign dreamed up by a sporting goods manufacturer. Ironically some of the leading teams wearing the kit of this manufacturer have been responsible for some of the most shameless cheating in the cup so far. Worst example so far was Maniche hitting the deck yesterday in the game versus England. He was barely touched yet he went over clutching his face like he had been the recipient of a forearm smash. What a pathetic display of sportsmanship.

    That campaign is a joke. And the reputations of many players have been sealed. Name one team that has got to the last 4 without at least one obvious example of cheating to con the ref? There is not one. They are all cheats. It’s a part of the game and those who run it don’t have the will to eradicate it.


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