I always find it fascinating, when playing in an amateur Sunday league match or discussing an amateur result at the pub with my teammates - just how much we compare and contrast our plays, body types, skill-sets, and formations to those of professional teams and players.
Most readers of this blog are players who have significantly less ability and less time to devote to the sport than professionals, but that doesn’t matter. As football fanatics, as players, or even supporters, we have so much information at our fingertips that we find ourselves making comments like, “Alan, the new guy that works with Mike, is a good addition to the team but he’s like Theo Walcott circa 2008-2010: Speedy with lots of emphasis on dribbling, but not so much on positioning, awareness and passing. He needs to learn to pass more.”
Of course, in all walks of life, we compare and contrast, but in football – we take it to another level. There is nothing better than comparing your style of play to that of world-class footballers. My teammates say outrageous things like:
“I used to be like a vintage Ricky Kaka, picking the ball up in attacking midfield and attacking through the space between midfield and defence. Now, I’m forced to play more like a vintage Michael Essien - still have the ability to get forward and score, but generally lay deeper to slow the counter, win balls, then distribute. I would love to go to the World Cup with Brasil, but I just can’t see myself turning my back on Ireland.”
“I play like Andrei Kanchelskis.”
So it got me to thinking. We love to do this. We love to compare. We love to fantasize. We take it seriously. Well, what about the next President of the United States? What about Obama or Romney? There’s a pretty big election – with global implications – in just a fortnight’s time – and regardless of your political leanings, I think we can all agree that comparing Obama and Romney to world class footballers is something we need, and want, as a quick distraction from the otherwise negative and depressing campaign tactics surrounding this massive global event. So, let’s do it.
The good news for both Romney and Obama is that professional footballers aren’t usually “Type B” personalities. The typical alpha-male personality type is over represented in the elite footballer community. Aggression, speed, firmness of decision making, independence and rapid responses are all prized attributes of the elite footballer. They fit right in.
Barack Obama is without a doubt, a deep lying playmaker. Deep-lying playmakers typically require a good first touch under opposition pressure and the ability to play long crossfield passes to attacking players further upfield. Good stamina is also a prerequisite. In Brazil, we call this player a “volante,” Spanish or Portuguese for the word “Steering wheel,” or one who gives direction to others. As the incumbent President, Obama must dictate play despite his withdrawn, or deeper position. He relied on his team of Navy Seals for the mission to find and kill Osama Bin Laden. He directed. He orchestrated. But he didn’t finish the play. It’s one he just began. His detractors would say, he promised us hope and change in 2008, so he made the initial tackle and won the ball, but he hasn’t delivered – his distribution – or final ball, has been lacking… Regardless, perhaps he’s more Michael Carrick or Andrea Pirlo than Gennaro Gattuso or Claude Makelele, but he operates from deep positions and he’s smooth – with a superb first touch. He’s constantly running, but can he run for 8 years?
Mitt Romney is known for his versatility, his work ethic, focus on business, and achievements in the public and private sector. He’s aways made his goals. From running successful businesses, to an Olympics, to running a state, he’s clearly a goalscorer. But he’s been criticized by opposition for switching his views on healthcare, social issues, and having a cloud of mystery around him. Perhaps he’s using this deflection to his advantage? Or perhaps he’s not being transparent? Either way- he’s clearly a modern “False 9.” Romney is a player who appears to be playing centre-forward but may drop deep to operate. He’s deceptive. Tricky. And classy.
The false 9 needs to have the goalscoring ability of a typical striker (Romney has achieved all of his life goals) but also needs the vision to play through team-mates making runs from deep. Think Francesco Totti at Roma. Cesc Fabregas under Vincent Del Bosque during Spain’s Euro 2012 run in their 4-6-0.
The purpose of the False 9 is that it creates a problem for defenders – do they follow him, leaving space behind for onrushing wingers? Or do they leave him alone and give him time and space to pick out a dribble or a pass? Obama’s Campaign has a challenge on its hands with this False 9…
It’s an issue not too different from one that Romney and Obama are employing on the campaign trail. A game of chess. Attack / defend.
Romney is Totti. Headed for goal. Obama is creating plays from deep – but he can’t shirk his defensive responsibilities either as a midfielder.
In a few weeks time, the final result will be in the books. Both candidates are flying in with their two-footed tackles… Regardless of your political persuasion, the next few weeks promise to be interesting.