Football: Animals take over the beautiful game
The adeptness with which Edinson Cavani and Radamel Falcao have set off on their respective French adventures recently drew an unlikely admirer. Monsieur Arsene Wenger, even with his fondness for the footballers that ply their trade in his native league, is the kind of man who would rather plough through the depths of French football with a fine-toothed comb, forever on the lookout for another potential exponent of Wengerball.
For a man who has always been very vocal about the money that has now become the lifeblood of modern football as we know it, he went out of his way to lavish praise on the two superstars – exponents of the big-money move if ever there were any. Not very surprising, since what these two superstars possess, in frightening quantities mind you, is a primal characteristic that has sadly been lacking in Arsenal’s own play over recent years.
That of the animal, the fighter; the man who’s hunger and raw physicality all on its own is merit enough to hand him a starting berth in most line-ups. And it is a curious thing, this animal that burns inside the chosen few. It blurs the line between the preening superstar we see posing for the paparazzi, all suited up and slick; and the raw, invigorating specimen that makes the crowd swoon for more.
The animal has a unique allure to it; to those watching its exploits from the stands, there can be no greater rush. Somehow, whilst in the company of a crowd that has a life of its own, the animal transports us back to a simpler time. When thousands gathered inside arenas to watch Gladiators battle to their deaths, and stories of bravery and valor swept the lands, enthralling the multitudes. When the swish of a blade or the sting of a spear were all that separated a man from his maker – for is there a greater spectacle than watching the eternal battle of life and death unfold before one’s eyes?
And as the world grew to be more “civilised”, the animal found himself searching desperately for a stage that showed him for what he truly was. And lo and behold, with the passage of time, he was revelling in a spectacle of a different kind – sport. And it is here that he has been finding acceptance, adoration even, as the changing times called for more humane pursuits.
Football has always been a very physical game. Right from all those rainy days in schoolyards where feisty lads spend the majority of their time “kickin the shite out of each other”, to the rough-and-tumble of the English Premier League, there is no denying that you need to have the fight to take one on the chin, and still keep coming back for more.
But the animal takes this to a whole new level. Watching him in full flight is a joy in itself; a tribute to the beast that runs free in the Savanna. Nobody who has seen a rampant Yaya Toure, striding forward purposefully with the ball at his feet, impatiently brushing away the challenges of lesser mortals, will ever deny that it is a feat of magnificence rivalled by few others in this game.
Just like the silken skill that a benevolent God chose to touch Messi and Ronaldo with displays itself in radically different, albeit equally stunning colors, the animal too brings out a unique flavor in the game of each of its exponents.