My musings on Pokemon and Football
Thoughts of a football fan who has been missing football but is reliving his childhood dream thanks to Pokemon GO
A month long of football quietness. How can any football aficionado ever survive this dreary void of football nothingness? Of course there’s the ever exciting transfer market! But then everyone knows Messi is NOT going to Chelsea and has never been in talks with Roman Abramovich. And as far as all those transfer rumors and the razzmatazz surrounding goes they’re just like a football fans wet dreams. Close but no cigar. Of course the world is following the news as to where world’s best young player, Paul Pogba is going. But that’s news as stale as cheese or fresh as cheese whichever way you look at it. The rumor mill has been churning out news linking him to every big name big spending club over a year and yet it will blow up the internet if one of them is confirmed. All things said it’s not really the best time now for football fans. And then came along Pokemon GO…
My love affair with Pokemon
I grew up in a generation where “Catching them all” was every kids dream. If I’ve followed football feverishly ever since I saw the 2006 World Cup finals (yes that Zidane headbutt got me into following Real Madrid, the other reason being that my Dad is a Zidane fan). I’ve loved Pokemon ever since I memorized the Pokemon rap in first grade and ran around with my GameBoy, all stary eyed and indulging in a fantasy world. So even if I’ve tried to increasingly keep up with memorizing the Poke rap with an ever increasing roster of 791 strong Pokemon I have to admit I’m a tad bit more into football than Pokemon.
This was until Pokemon GO came out! A masterclass in how to get generations of people out of their rooms to catch virtual monsters yet retaining a touch of reality. Isn’t this what football has done for so long? Getting people out and running for something they love!
Pokemon playing football?
I couldn’t help but imagine pokemon playing football for quite some time. My mind’s eye could literally conjure up the same. And not likenesses (yes, no Suarez teeth jokes on comparisons with Rattata or comparing Zlatan with Nosepass because obviously…)! Real Pokemon playing football! Can one even imagine how they could attack, defend and change the entire gameplan thanks to their elemental abilities! Imagine a fast Rapidash running down the wings with a football backpassing with his hind legs for Hitmonlee to use a wicked Low Kick attack to put the ball rustling into the net. Truly a sight to behold. And so I’d like to share the same with my football hungry and Pokemon loving friends, a best Pokemon eleven. For the sake of simplicity and to be able to relate to all the people currently playing Pokemon GO I’ve restricted myself to the original 151 monsters.
Between the posts
How goalkeepers wish they’d have more than two hands (with all due respect to Rene Higuita’s third hand, his legs or the scorpion kick’s tail rather) to save. Luckily we have the perfect Pokemon just for that, yes Machamp!
With strength that can move mountains and two pairs of shot stopping arms Machamp is the first name to be nominated in any pokemon eleven as a goalkeeper. Imagine this hulk of a pokemon covering goal with its outstretched arms, with bulging muscles and athleticism achieved by years of working out and evolution. Good enough to make the best of strikers faint or run away safely on sight! Punching clear in case of danger is a no brainer. And goal kicks till the right end of the pitch are guaranteed!
Honourable mention: Poliwrath does all this and can hurl the ball with a jet spray too but misses out because he doesn’t wear an extra pair of gloves.
The defensive wall
Defense is the best offense. No team with the best of strikers can win without a rock solid defence (Atletico I’m looking at you). So we’ll start with picking up a back four.
In the heart of defence I’ll opt to play a Nidoking and a Nidoqueen. A good understanding is necessary between the two central defenders and who better than this duo. With a huge physique and loads of strength, they have all what a classic defender needs. And obviously if need be they can be as sneaky as Pepe and Ramos and poison the opposing attackers. The physical play is no doubt at all. And if need be they can put the opposition off its legs literally by causing an earthquake.
A Golem as a wing back would make our defence literally rock solid! With the ability to roll up and move at high speed, not only does it perform its defensive duties well with a good sense of positioning it also sets up attackers by charging forward with the ball. Its strength is enough to make attackers vary of him.
The complementary wing back would be a Starmie. A fast pokemon, its unique ability is that it can squirt poison and water onto the opposition to gain an edge. With Swift as an attack you can count on it to be swift and vicious.
Honourable mention: Kangaskhan with its baby would make a great Centre back owing to its physicality and Gengar too for playing a deceptive game to scare the opponents of their wits. But miss out because the opposition was simply better suited.
The creative destroyers, midfield
This is where it becomes tricky. Critics, fans, pundits and even casual viewers appreciate different types of football. While some enjoy the intricate tiki taka passing and fluid attacking style others like a speedier and reactive counter attacking play, and if you’re a Chelsea fan you might even enjoy the bus parking routine. The core of any team thus depends on the midfield, on what mould the midfielders are of.
My first pick would be the psychic type pokemon Alakazam. Let those spoons in his hand not fool you (they even prevent hand balls and penalty boxes! Yep, Germany wouldn’t have crashed out of the Euros if Alakazam had played instead of Bastian Schweinsteiger). In the mould of a diminutive yet creative attacking midfielders, an Alakazam is too weak to move its muscles but uses its psychic powers for motion.
As we are looking at brains over brawns here wouldn’t it be fascinating to crush the opposition mentally not just by telekinesis but by the very act of controlling the ball and wreaking havoc on the football pitch. Setting up team mates in impossible moves which of course Alakazam had already predicted by looking into the future. Highly intelligent and having heightened senses it will easily be able to act on the slightest mistake by the opposition to covert defence into offence. No look passes and impossible creative play a la Mesut Ozil( closest we can get to actual players with seemingly good telekinetic senses) will delight the crowds so will the swift transition to attack as each mistake by the opposition is used to destroy them immediately.
The regista position would be occupied by the majestic Ninetails. A position made his own by the legendary Andrea Pirlo. I think Ninetails gives off the same aura of class and sophistication. His Crossfield long passing from deep positions are similar to what Ninetails will be able to do thanks to its nine tails. Imagine confusing the opposition as to where the pass is going to go and then suddenly launching the ball with one majestic sweep of any one of its tails.
Ninetails will easily be able to play possession based keep ball by playing around with the ball on its nine tails. With a different supernatural power in each of its tails it will leave the opposition guessing what it will do next. Just like Pirlo has been a symbol of longevity and long age, Ninetails is supposed to live for a thousand years too!
Honourable mention: Rhyhorn could be used as fast yet tough tackling box to box midfielder but misses out on being as plain as Milner. Run, tackle and pass isn’t fun anymore!
The speedy wingers
These are as easy as it gets. Looking at a traditional 4-4-2 system speedy wingers are begging to be counted in. Wingers who leave the opposition chasing shadows, much like when we're playing Pokemon GO, are an asset to any team. Looking at the roster of 151 pocket monsters only two stood out, Rapidash and Tauros.
A very fast Pokemon, as fast as a car and ever willing to race anything faster than itself. That’s Rapidash for you. That’s the right mentality right there! Chasing balls and galloping down the wings when in possession will be a sight to behold. As all horses are known for powerful hind legs and are good kickers it would be lovely to see backpasses and backheel rabonas as it cuts in during attack. Upfield runs and evading defenders and leaving them in the dust (just like a certain Lionel Messi from the right wing) are as easy as it gets for Rapidash.
With due respect to Messi, if we’ve got Rapidash we obviously need a footballing equivalent of Ronaldo on any team. That will be Tauros. If Messi elegantly finds the crack in a wall, Ronaldo breaks the wall down. Similarly a Tauros is known for its headlong charges when it stops for nothing. Give it the ball and watch it charge down as it breaks down wall after wall of defence. A pokemon which is not satisfied if not rampaging, it provides the right impetus to attack and especially out wide. Fast and furious it provides the perfect guile for rest of the team as all the defenders try to bring it down. Not very different from Ronaldo who is often man marked with multiple defenders.
Honourable mention: The three headed speedster Dodrio would be a shoo in especially so thanks to its added headed ability thanks to a Raavan-esque 3 headed form. But it misses out because of its overthinking nature because of which it often ends up quarrelling with itself. Obviously a lack of discipline on the field is not a great sight, even if no one has been sent off for having a fight with one’s team mate.
The striking stars
The biggest stars in football are obviously the strikers. Goals win games and so it will be up to none other than Hitmonlee and the adorable and world famous Pikachu to take up the pitch and score the goals. Pikachu is the brand ambassador of Pokemon as are strikers the most recognisable faces in the game. With their abilities we’ll have a perfect Pokemon eleven.
Hitmonlee is the prince of kicks in the Pokemon world. It is a typical No.9 but lacks a heading ability, but it sure makes up for it owing to his legs. A powerful yet accurate kicker it’s no doubt he had to be picked in the team as a striker. With its flexible legs it can run with longer strides to get into position and trouble defenders with its movement. With a great reach and a good sense of balance it has the ability to kick well from any position thus providing an edge when the ball is inside the box. A poacher with a definite eye for goal as he pokes tap ins, connects with volleys off crosses and scores overhead kicks thanks to its superb kicking ability.
Pikachu will be the star of the team, the poster boy, the adulated No.10. An agile and diminutive player whose strength will be the ability to put the ball in thanks to its Iron Tail attack. Just like a strike combo in the 4-4-2 formation, Pikachu will play as the second striker making runs and heading in the ball thanks to Head Butt attack or will engage in battle with the opposition defenders thanks to its tackling ability.
Honourable mention: Charizard is another much loved Pokemon who’d be cool as a striker. But picking the ball up and soaring into the skies to score goals is not fair. And no one wants the pitch burned up, OR play Quidditch.
The comic fails
An Electrode/Voltrob as the football. Will make them angry and they’ll explode off self-destruct. But then we did see the ball burst during the Euros match between Switzerland and France.
The Seel who goes on doing tricks with the ball and showboats as a header only incarnation of Ronaldinho. Much to the delight of the crowd but to the annoyance of team mates. This is not an exhibition match!
The Slowpoke who keeps aimlessly wandering on the pitch (English players during major tournaments?).
Golem could’ve been a ball from the 80s football too… But no one wants to kicks rocks on the field.
Venasaur because it tries hard but can simply never be as good as its compatriots Charizard and Blastoise.
And last but not the least Nosepass because Zlatan is Zlatan.