Friday, June 20, 2008

Slaven Bilic's Kind Of Football

Slaven Bilic is a football rebel. The Croatia national-team manager sports an earring and smokes unrepentingly -- like all Balkans inhabitants do. I am partial to him due to his time spent at West Ham, but if you click on this link below (an article by Paul Hayward in The Daily Mail from England), you will get a sense of why a nation of 4.5 million like Croatia can humble a country of some 60 million-plus like England on the football pitch twice (and I would lump the 300-million plus of the USA in there too, if we had to play them in a qualifying situation).
“We are talented people for sport in general, not only football ... especially (any) sport where wit is important, where it isn’t only physics that matter,” Bilic says. 
That’s another way of saying, “Hey, we’re smarter than you.” And when it comes to soccer, wit, guile and intelligence matter a whole lot. More than anything else, actually. That’s what concerns me about the state of soccer in the USA. The National Team have guys with sinews bursting out of muscles on top of layers of iron (we are rather fit!), yet we cannot produce a goal in the final third of the pitch.
Then, watching (in person, a few weeks ago) the likes of tiny Argies like Messi and Cruz, well, it makes you think. Personally, I think the American and English kids are WAY, WAY overcoached. A player willing to take people on (via the dribble, etc.) is squelched, while the robotic, paint-by-numbers player will go far in the current coaching set-up.
Forget for a minute true footballing guys like Middlemass, Holloway, Thompson, Nutile, Carbonara, Holak, Napoli, Heggan and Pellegrino (the elite of the South Jersey soccer set out there who can coach your kids) -- what you are usually going to get in South Jersey is the “Boot it! Shoot it!” nonsense when it comes to coaches. I shudder at the thought!
We are breeding a nation of Santino Quarantas, Once Removed !!! (Only the USA or England could take a Hispanic player full of vim and vigor and make him into a shadow of his former self, a player afraid to take risks!) 
The best quote in this article is by the writer Hayward himself. Speaking of Bilic, he writes, “His (Croatia) side move the ball with pace and at lacerating angles. They taught England two lessons in movement and ball retention.”
Can you imagine an English or USA National Team manager applauding his side’s ball movement? Penning an ode to some “Rock and Roll Soccer” ??? No, neither can I -- and that’s atrue shame!