Sunday, 7 July 2013

True commitment: football the Shankly way. Or Brazil's.

‘Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that,’ said Bill Shankly, legendary manager of Liverpool Football Club.

Bill Shankly, football legend and model of commitment
England has won the Football World Cup just once. Brazil has won it five times. That record suggests the Latin Americans have a different mindset from ours, one that corresponds rather more closely to Shankly’s. One can be forgiven for thinking they display a level of commitment usually reserved for world religions, major political movements or making large amounts of money (or are all those the same thing?)

Recent events shown the Brazilians are capable of all of that and then some.

I’ve heard of referees who take a dim view of the behaviour of certain players, and penalise them harshly in consequence. But stabbing them? Fatally, to boot? That’s really impressive.

Equally, I know that it’s easy for spectators to lose their rag with referees, demanding their expulsion (or at least that they visit the opticians). Another legendary manager, Alex Ferguson, who stood down at the end of last season from over a quarter of a century in charge at Manchester United, famously denounced refs in lurid terms on numerous occasions and was disciplined more than once in consequence.

Decapitating the ref, however, as happened to the unfortunate who stabbed the recalcitrant player? Generally, in England we like to reserve our mob decapitations for kings.

Brazil: serious enough about football even for Shankly
But, hey, the Brazilians have true commitment. The kind that makes you realise that Shankly was literally right and football is much more serious than mere life and death. Which, in this case at least, truly made it a matter of life and death. 

The results speak for themselves. Five world cups. To our one.

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