Monday, 12 July 2010
Well, after a comment here and now that Forlan has (deservedly, I think) won the Golden Ball, I'd better make my position clear...
When I said: "If he'd scored a few for Man U he'd be a real star now, I think."
I meant this not as a part of my "Bloody typical English delusion" (though I do have plenty of typical English delusions and I'm trying my best to deal with them - the English Optimists Support Group are still awaiting my adoption of a power animal so that my membership can be complete) but as a comment on the devastating capital power of the Premiership. Forlan was a good player at Manchester United, very unlucky (I seem to remember he hit the woodwork a lot) and would no doubt eventually have done really well... if those shots had gone in (the striker really must score goals) he'd have been seamlessly assimilated into the Man U megadeath narrative and would have thus become a Global star. He'd be on the Nike adverts. As it is, even despite crushing English club hopes in Europe and generally slamming in goals all through the last two or three seasons, he was still regarded as somehow below the top tier, as a club player, as an almost star.
The notional status of star, of Golden Balls, is only marginally related to actual ability and it's the margins that work wonders. It's not just scoring that counts but when and how and where and who against. Goals in the 'big three' leagues are more than goals; they are immense cultural artefacts and thus expert pitches to advertisers. And goals in the Premiership are arguably the biggest pitches of all.
There are no stars in the other leagues? Well, perhaps. Certainly, we never notice how individually brilliant some of the Bundesliga playing Germans are until they turn up at the World Cup and then we look surprised that they're doing so well. Idiotic perhaps, but a consequence of the star system that we need to shake.
And yes, Anon, you're right: the Premiership has been largely irrelevant during this World Cup and this is it's real narrative arc - the stars have gone out, the team has prospered. Even Spain's collection of stars are arguably more about the way the team play than the players per se. This has proved mesmerising to the TV pundits - "they keep making substitutes and you can't tell..."
Somewhere, not far into the future, the Premiership is shuddering; could the days of the star be numbered? Is it even appropriate to try and build a team of individuals, rather than focus on the collective whole? Let Man City decide.
For that reason, Forlan is a worthy winner. He was bigger than his team, played bigger but still remained a part of Uruguay's team-spirit. Every look was a stare into the abyss. He could see the stars collapsing and he knew his team's place in that collapse. Forlan was elemental at times but grounded. You can see him on a mountain top in a Caspar David Friedrich Painting, apart from and immersed into the Uruguayan Nature. And he was playing his heart out on the most difficult stage of all.
The only other individual performer in the running (but not in the running) would have been perhaps Muller who showed his worth by his presence (and more importantly by his absence) in a Germany team that was perhaps only bettered by Spain at the level of substitutes. I'm glad he got the Golden Boot. He's also not a star. He was much better than that.
A final thought on where all the stars went:
The World Cup has it's critics. They argue that the Champions League is where the true class football resides. Hiding inside the moneypits, where it's really difficult for the stars to get dwarfed before the knockout stage. But The World Cup is an especially pressurised (and thus dificult to win) tournament - it's football upscaled, as near as we're ever going to get to a universal fixture, a match that everyone watches. The pressure of your fans' expectations must be immense (it's killing Liverpool, for example ) but it's less than the pressure of the Nation's expectations, or even in Ghana's case, the Continent's.
It's in this (occasionally literal) furnace that stars falter and new ones are born. Has there ever been a World Cup where this has been more apparent?
Posted by Loki at 09:43