Thursday, April 07, 2005


As the El Clasico is to be played this weekend, we look upon the questions that will always linger in the minds of football fans around the world, especially Real Madrid's. Now, Real Madrid must win this match no matter what, if they are not considering to end the season empty handed again.

Remember David Beckham did not play in the previous match and Madrid won? How many times is that? I should start counting, but for now, here is a good read before the the capital of Catalonia Vs. the capital of Spain match starts. It will be a big clash no matter what happens.

Perez, Beckham & Real’s Wrong Turns

4/5/2005 11:40:00 AM (

Today as a Madrid supporter I still wonder whether Florentino Perez and his misleading advisors have learnt anything at all. A certain player was brought to the Bernabeu based on a money-making scheme. Now that the scheme has caved in, with the loss of prestige at the top of the table, one may ask; "Where to from here?". The answer to this big problem at Madrid takes me back to the re-election reasons of Perez as he boldly used his immense financial muscle to put another contender out of the race for presidency.

In sport I don’t recall ever witnessing a moment where quality and skills are to be substituted for the hunger of money. The only exception I can think of was another experiment in Kournikova’s case where tennis eventually got fed-up with the pretentiousness of elevating a mediocre player for the sake of wanting to increase pay-per-view revenues. Such a scheme is always bound to collapse simply because it is not based on sound reasoning that will lead to sustainability of appropriate qualities to that sport. That way, Kournikova and Beckham hustled to elevate the stature of their mediocrity to the levels that lie beyond their reach. Skills and qualities will win at the end of the day.

The sad part is that during the few years that such idolised commercialised entities are over-rated, the legitimate artists or players are left in the cold and not given their rightful place in commercial standings. I still ask myself today; Why on earth did Perez look for short-cuts to make profit out of Madrid? Any self-respecting businessman knows that sustainability plays a chief role in strategising the future of any enterprise. But again perhaps it is really true that Real Madrid is just a hobby for Perez to do with as he wishes.

That is so sad because football is a culture cutting across continents, creed and nationality. For example, what would have happened if Alfredo di Stefano had signed for Barcelona? The legend of Madrid wouldn’t have lived-up to quality, pleasure, pride and high standards. All these attributes are best reflected by supporters, players who dream of playing in such successful dynasties and the management running the organisation. Most of all supporters are critical. They make all the noise when in victory and under-performance. Supporters who both are registered and unregistered buy merchandise in their droves in acts of enshrining the pride and belief they have in that system. Is Perez able to understand what I’m expressing here?

In my part of the world, that is the southern tip of Africa, for many years news and developments in the UK and general Anglo-Saxon world always dominated news originating from outside the continent. In football the years of Anglo-Saxon colonisation had left a consciousness so limited and restricted in outlook that football is largely defined by Liverpool and Manchester United. Alas, the advent of 1994, the democratic process, brought about an energy, a window to look out, something that was unthinkable had happened. Products and other exploits the world over became exposed to the sub-continent, South Africa, and today I am a beneficiary of an open society where choice plays an important role.

Images on TV and media in general began to differ from the propagandist tendencies of pre-1994 where so much emphasis was placed on developments in the UK. More so in English football. Having been born in 1970, I kept wondering when I reached my late teens and early 20s how come England had never dominated the World Cup or Euro Championship. Reason alone was necessary for me to think otherwise. How come then that UK football used as a standard in South Africa at the expense of availing other opportunities the world over, like Serie A (Italy), La Liga (Spain) and the South American region? After all, in the 30+ years I’ve lived I kept hearing and observing with the rest of the world a Brasil and Argentina, to be specific, that kept on being exemplary of the way beautiful football should be exhibited without any rough and tumble tackling. I don’t believe that football should be such a difficult and rough and tumble type of physical activity.

Dance should take priority in football. That’s how I got to accept and understand the likes of Real Madrid, post-96 Chelsea, post-2000 Arsenal, post-50s Real Madrid, AC Milan, Juventus, Boca Juniors, River Plate, Flamengo, Vasco da Gama, Corinthians, Penarol...and of course Brasil and Argentina as cultures that typify the beauty of the game. Dance, rhythm, style, direction, focus and competitiveness are attributes that di Stefano and Raul’s Real Madrid had embraced.

The past two years have seen Madrid getting no less than four English club football-based players coming to what is a benchmark of excellence. Starting with Becks, Woodgate, Owen and a Dane (Gravesen) who was at Everton...This picture is abnormal.

Morientes, who was at the top of the food chain, felt the blow of prematurely being replaced by a shady Ronaldo deal. Morientes had done the talking by upstaging Ronaldo in subsequent duels between Monaco and Madrid. Still this was not loud enough to Perez to hear...Owen was brought to the Bernabeu. To do what, is the question? It seemed acceptable that Portillo would be groomed for 3-4 years until he’s ready to take centre stage in any top-three in La Liga or Serie A. Eto’o has done the talking loud and clear. He continues to torment Real Madrid at every club he plays for.

For many years it remained accepted that the French and Dutch leagues are excellent feeders of intelligent and skilful players who don’t need to physically out-muscle opponents. When scoring, the least tapped and beautifully caressed ball resulting in a goal is best regarded as AWESOME. Fine enough gathering England based players, but I ask what is it that the Great Beckham will remember as his contribution to the prowess of Real Madrid football? After all, the arrivals of Figo, Ronaldo and Zidane resulted in infectious victories and a definition of Real Madrid as a glorious hegemony in European and world club football.

You see, the point here is that the chain is just as strong as the weakest link. That link was Perez’s gullibility to fall for Beckham’s arrival at the expense of refusing to increase Makelele’s salary, extending Del Bosque’s tenure another two years, bringing Carlos Tevez in to replace Ronaldinho (better choice at Barca) and bringing either Lucio or Nesta to Estadio Bernabeu. Ageing of players is the least accepted excuse to be used against what Hierro, Figo, Zidane and Carlos have done for Madrid and all Madridistas. Why was a servant such as Hierro given such shabby treatment upon his ejection from the club? The past three seasons had long defined the decline of Madrid’s direction and priority in the face of world club football. That fateful UEFA Champions League game against Juventus when Makelele was out due to injury had marked a clear message that Makelele was the engine. Makelele can be an engine in any BIGTIME squad.

Today my Chelsea bears testimony to his colossal effectiveness in resurrecting a GIANT. Before he arrived nobody could really tell when it would raise its head again. The benchmark that Barcelona has grown to be in the past season was the first to taste in GRAND style how Makelele’s solidity brought about a score of 3-0 up in the first 19 mins of their UEFA Champions League game. That is a huge stage and a mammoth achievement for any one club to actualise. Quite frankly, the penetrating elegance with which Madrid obliterated all opponents is today typified by Barcelona, Chelsea and the incredibly gifted AC Milan. What Perez did at Madrid is the direct opposite of what fellow BIG BOSSES of the BIG three have done.

Please someone help me understand why is it that there’s never been a directly placed question on the qualities that Beckham has brought to Madrid. And please don’t say anything about Figo ageing and needing to be replaced by Beckham. What has Beckham done in his two seasons there? There is Solari who is 1000-fold better than Beckham, but Perez rather would have Beckham in the first line-up. There’s no way that Solari and players like Redondo can ever be likened to Becks. Please don’t tell me about set-pieces. Madrid has nine European Cups and 29 Liga titles having had players who can take set-pieces and exhibit dream footballing skills. Madrid was never about one-dimensional abilities in players.

I guess I am so sore at the way attention is directed at the wrong targets. Certainly stars I know of like Carlos, ZZ, Figo, Raul, Ronaldo, Solari, Guti, Helguera never fell. Remember the chain is as strong as the weakest link. Why is it that Beckham always passes the ball out faster than any other player in Madrid? Why can’t he wait and showcase his prowess by outsmarting his markers?

You see the answers to my BIG PROBLEM will also benefit England a lot. But for as long as the tendency of aggrandising Beckham-mania moments over what should be the goal continues, then England is doomed to perpetually fail. Meanwhile there are better players to introduce effective and beautiful football to complement what Lampard, Terry and Cole bring to the game. That’s the extent to which Ranieri and Mourinho have helped raise their skills, awareness and effectiveness. Why fear starting Beckham on the bench? This can be a tactic for both Real Madrid and England to make use of. I don’t believe that the Real stars have fallen. The tumour is Spice Boy and it must be uprooted.

Thembela, South Africa


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