Usain Bolt has been headlining the futbol news trying to get a professional career started at the Central Coast Mariners. Though he did score two goals in a practice match there is still no professional contract pending. Recently players have crossed codes though the successes have been few.
Bolt is now 32 and it is possible that there are skills that you cannot learn at such a late stage. In any, game not understanding the patterns and structures leads to failure. Yes, there are those who are gifted enough to transfer skills over. We have seen this with Mason Cox at Collingwood.
Cox, now 27 has after four years of coaching and playing been able to transfer his basketball skills into becoming a goal scoring option. Of course, when you are as tall as Mason Cox the old Aussie Rules truth that the tall players do not get shorter is a great advantage.
The many ways of Futbol
The difference between the two is time spent learning and how to play the game. What has helped Mason Cox is that unlike Bolt, Cox has spent time playing a team sport that has strategies and plans. That Bolt has the physical traits to play futbol is not in doubt but wether he can harness them to play a game that has different ways of playing across the globe.
It is the strategy that enables teams at all levels to play at their best. Having played futbol with Englishmen, Canadians and West Africans the methodology is not the point of confusion but the habits that each culture brings to the game.
The English habit is kick it long and hope. Most commonwealth nations have a variation on this. My experience of African futbol is they always want to take it to the goal line. The Spanish at their height looked for the perfect sequence of passes to goal.
In a cultural mix like Australia a national way of playing that can succeed and still score plenty of goals has been a constant issue. It is for this reason that Australian futbol has had a flirtation with the Dutch enigma that is Total Football.
Total Football, The Dutch Enigma.
Total Football is not just a style of play it is a national development plan. Without going into too much detail it is a foundation of three questions. What do I do when I have the ball? What do I do when my team has the ball? What do I do when the opposition has the ball?
It is simple as the game is divided neatly into phases of possession. The world of player is categorised into self, team, and opposition. These questions can be phrased in such a way that it is not about how good the player is but what the player can bring to the game as a whole.
Why the Dutch and Total Football is so attractive is due to its place in Socceroos history. It in the 2006 World Cup under Guus Hiddink. Under Hiddink I have never seen a Socceroos team play better. The passing was crisp and clean and they had winners in defence, midfield and up forward. They drew with Croatia and beat Japan to get to the second round where the horrible loss to Italy occurred.
Italy a nation that lives and breathes futbol. Italian football has been the same style for a very long time. Defend, defend, defend. Then win through a counter attack from a long ball or a daring solo run to score. They have a known brand that suits the players and the nation. It rarely lets them down.
Football Australia has continually made plans again and again to structure each generation of new players into a way of playing that seeks to get back to that golden moment that 2006 was supposed to be. It has had some success but not that ideal that was almost realised in Germany twelve years ago.
But who is the opposition?
Normally this is the part where we take the sporting analogy and apply it to faith and our Christian experiences. Yet when you transpose the three questions of total football there is a slight hiccup. Which team are we on? And who is the opposition?
Jesus never answered the question of which team are we on in this way. The question that was asked of Him was “Who is my neighbour?”. Those who know the Good Samaritan may know of the deeds done by the caring Samaritan who looked after an injured Jewish man. The irony in this was that the Samaritan's were hated enemies of the Jews, more than the Romans.
Immanuel “God with us.” confronts the nature of the game being played. Jesus does not break the structures but shifts them on their heads. Where our understanding of neighbour is moved beyond familiar ethnic and national boundaries. Those who also show that same Christlike love for others are kin. Immanuel means we are on God's side, not that God fights for us.
We cross codes when we come to Jesus. From the world of opposition to a world of servanthood. It is not easy and requires discipline and coaching. We hear this in baptisms and dedications where support in the faith and life of the new member is asked from those gathered. Jesus showed this path to the disciples and they carried it onwards. Where we play on God's team that calls for Faith, Hope and Love.
God enters the relationship between created beings and shows us a way of orientation that is radical relationship with Christ and the rest of creation. Instead of Self, Team and Opposition, Jesus changes it to God, World and Self. There is a structure of service and relationship that is begun by Jesus that calls for Faith, Hope and Love.
Phillip Hall has been too long in Melbourne to see AFL in the same light as those back in Fremantle. East Fremantle born and bred, he would love to see the Dockers back in the eight. But would settle for just beating West Coast twice a year.