This site uses cookies to improve your experience and to provide services and advertising. By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies described in our Cookies Policy. You may change your settings at any time but this may impact on the functionality of the site. To learn more see our Cookies Policy.
OK
Dublin: 16 °C Sunday 22 July, 2018
Advertisement

Cruyff on football's lost values and Roger Goodell's parental paradox; it's the week's best sportswriting

Also, the divisive Joey Barton talks Immanuel Kant while a NBA curiosity is remembered.

Image: Wilfried Witters/Witters/Press Association Images

1. Cruyff turned Michels’ vision into a practical reality, especially at Barcelona, but it is striking how he seems even more proud of his work with the foundation that bears his name. After a day in which he has devoted himself to the cause of helping disabled children develop through playing various sports, Cruyff says simply: “It’s beautiful. And the crazy thing is that it gives you more. Of course I am trying to help them but they are helping me too. The president of the Paralympics once told me the difference between able-bodied and disabled people. He said: ‘Disabled people don’t think about what they don’t have. They just think about what they do have.’ If only we could all learn to think like this.

“We have our institute with a lot of young people who can help out their federations and clubs and sports. It’s fantastic to see this happen because they always surprise me. If you see what they can do and how they can develop as a person you learn so many things.”

The old footballer appears to share Di Stéfano’s pleasures in the consolations of “working with the young”. And, with his own legacy as a player and coach enshrined, Cruyff can watch Van Gaal from a detached distance – and wonder whether his rival might still succumb, even fleetingly, to Di Stéfano’s more searing belief that football management is “the most horrible profession that could exist”.

Cruyff appears even more interested in how Guardiola will fare in his second season at Bayern. He steered the champions to a runaway defence of their Bundesliga title – but they could not retain the Champions League trophy which they had won under Jupp Heynckes in 2013. But Cruyff sees the best tenets of his philosophy within Guardiola. “Yes, he’s got it,” he says of Guardiola. “Normally I would say that the most important thing for a coach is that he [overcame] difficulties when he was young. Look at Guardiola and myself. Like me he was very thin and so he had to take care of his technique. You see it with Iniesta and Messi too. They must do something quick otherwise they will never get there. It means that they are aware of all the details. You have to think quicker and see more things. And if you see more things you can help more people.”

Cruyff looks across the old Olympic arena in Amsterdam and, with a familiar shrug, he says, finally: “It’s like everything in football – and life. You need to look, you need to think, you need to move, you need to find space, you need to help others. It’s very simple in the end.”

The Guardian’s Donald McRae sits down for an illuminating discussion with Johan Cruyff who riffs on Van Gaal, Guardiola and laments the loss of football’s values.    

2. Unlike an elected official, Goodell serves neither the public nor a particular political party. He doesn’t even serve the game of football, despite airy proclamations to the contrary. Goodell has 32 bosses—the 32 billionaires who own NFL franchises—and his job is to make them even more money. That’s it. Likewise, the league office does not exist as a public good. It exists as a private entity, as a business whose sole purpose is promoting football (in order to make money). Sometimes, that means doing things that are admirable. Sometimes, that means doing things that might be called “Nixonian.

In the wake of the Ray Rice controversy, Patrick Hruby profiles NFL commissioner Charles Goodell, his desire to do his father proud and how he’s allowed self-preservation get in the way.

3. As his future was being debated in the summer of 2013, Barton returned to England. “My granddad who’d brought me up was dying. I came back to watch him pass away. At the time, I’d been reading a lot about Genghis Khan, who had this famous monk to find the key for eternal life from. Peter Kay [from Sporting Chance] and I were discussing it a lot in. My belief is we live forever through our children, they echo you and your partner and pass it to their kids. Peter died a year ago and I carry a lot of the lessons Peter learned; so he lives on.

“They brought my grandfather home to die and I saw all these people around him. My grandfather probably never realised how he impacted on the people around him. I felt that’s going to be me, that’s the one guarantee: that I’m going to die. How impactful am I going to be, what is my legacy? ‘Good at football?’ What a s*** legacy that is. If I’m good at football but I’m a totally horrific parent and a total knob as a person, who’ve I helped, barring myself?

“Our generation of footballers could set a better standard. I try to set better standards for my family, for the younger team-mates. For a long time I didn’t set the right example. I was f****** up.’’

Why? “It would be easy to say I’m from a sinkhole council estate, and I’m a product of my environment. But there’s a lot of people who’ve had similar backgrounds and been fine. Steven Gerrard had a virtually identical upbringing [in Huyton] but we’re worlds apart.

“You can live in a nice house in Chelsea but have parents who don’t give you the social skills and tools to deal with life. I had a few years resenting my mum and dad. I thought they hadn’t given me the tools to deal with things. I’m not saying my parents were bad, they did the best to their abilities. My dad [a roofer] was an incredibly hard-working man and I’m close to my dad today but when somebody came at me aggressively, my dad told me to react aggressively, which didn’t help me. It would have helped me survive in the council estate but not survive in life. I resented that. I felt he should have given me a different tool kit.

“I was 14 when my parents split up. I watched my parents when they divorced, baffled as they set up separate lives. At the same time I was released by Everton who I loved, gave my heart to, thought I’d be here forever, but then told not good enough, not big enough. All that rejection goes on in the midst of puberty. I’d been formed to be mistrusting. I ask my dad what I was like as a kid. He said: ‘I’d never met a kid as headstrong as you at six or seven. I’d say don’t do something, but there was nothing to stop you.’ Immanuel Kant said: ‘Dare to think!’ That applies to me.

Love him or loathe him, Joey ‘Joseph’ Barton isn’t afraid to open his mouth. In a lengthy interview with The Daily Telegraph’s Henry Winter, he talks. A lot. About a lot.

4. But from the start, Barnes was one of sport’s most flamboyant problem children; his nickname, given by a teammate, was Bad News. By his admission, he started using drugs in his second season in the pros, and from then on his skills diminished and his life spiraled downward. From 1976 to 1980 he played for four N.B.A. teams, averaging 9.2 points and 5.5 rebounds per game.

He admitted snorting cocaine on the bench as a member of the Boston Celtics. After leaving the game, he spent many years in bad shape, reportedly living in California, Texas and Virginia, sometimes homeless, sometimes in prison.

Like Muhammad Ali, to whom he was sometimes compared, he was a joyous braggart who promoted his great gifts and then proved he had them. Like Ali, he wrote poems to his opponents — “There once was a doctor named Erving/Whose slam dunks were especially unnerving” — and like Ali, he had the kind of charisma that made more friends than enemies, even among those he disappointed.

Writing in the New York Times, Bruce Weber remembers the renegade and rambunctious Marvin Barnes – an enigmatic basketball player who succumbed to cliche and burned out this week aged 62.     

Here’s your GAA coverage on TV this weekend

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this article
  •  

About the author:

Eoin O'Callaghan

Read next:

COMMENTS