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Lords of the dance

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Tim Vickery | 09:32 UK time, Monday, 7 May 2012

Rashidi Yekini has died at a tragically early age, but in his all-too-brief time on earth he certainly left his mark. He will be remembered all over the globe not just for scoring Nigeria's first ever World Cup goal (against Bulgaria in USA 94), but also - perhaps more - for the way he celebrated.

One of the lasting images of the tournament is that of Yekini gripping the back of the net and then forcing his arms through the holes as he yelled out his thanks to the heavens. It was a beautiful moment because there was nothing contrived about it. It was a genuine, spontaneous show of deep emotion.

More cheesy but equally sincere was another famous goal celebration from that tournament - Bebeto scoring for Brazil in the quarter-final against Netherlands and then, joined by team-mates Mazinho and Romario, rocking an imaginary cradle. It was a tribute to newly born son Mateus, nearly 18 years later a promising player himself. As the proud father explained, the beauty of the celebration lay in the fact that it was entirely unplanned.

The same could certainly not be said of the thousands of imitations it spawned, and all the other little dances now found around the world in commemoration of the ball hitting the back of the net. These days planning new celebrations has become a cottage industry - one that has flourished in Brazil more than anywhere else.

It might be a consequence of the amount of time that Brazilian players are cooped up in hotels before every game. And, of course, what the professionals do, the kids will copy. I once saw a lecture by former national team coach Sebastiao Lazaroni in which he emphasised the motivational importance of goal celebrations when dealing with very young players. They should be encouraged to develop their own choreography, he said.

It is not advice that all would approve of. Cesar Luis Menotti who managed Argentina to the 1978 World Cup, is horrified by such modern fads. A few years ago, he wrote: "Many players have forgotten genuine emotion. Now they do little dances, take their shirts off or climb up the stands in the act of a demagogue. It's all planned for the media. I feel that the sense of respect towards the opponent is being lost."

Rashidi Yekini scored Nigeria's first ever World Cup goal at USA 94. Photo: Getty

Pep Guardiola would surely agree. The outgoing Barcelona coach was not at all happy recently when two of his players, Daniel Alves and Thiago Alcantara, celebrated a goal against Rayo Vallecano with a few dance steps. That is simply not the way things are done at Guardiola's Barcelona. Club captain Carles Puyol quickly ran over to put a stop to the festivities, and the coach made a point of apologising to Rayo Vallecano in the post-match news conference.

The background of the perpetrators is surely significant. Daniel Alves is Brazilian, while Thiago Alcantara, though born in Italy and a Spanish international, is the son of a high profile Brazilian - Mazinho, who rocked that imaginary cradle alongside Bebeto.

Thiago quickly apologised for his dance steps. Daniel Alves, meanwhile, seemed nonplussed by the reaction. He did not appear to accept that he had committed any transgression - which is hardly surprising given the fact back home that such celebrations are not only tolerated but actively encouraged.

This might seem a minor incident of little import. The fact that Guardiola felt the need to apologise shows that it touches on values in the game that he sees as fundamental. It also reveals a certain proximity with the more philosophical school of Argentine coaches.

Menotti's old friend, Angel Cappa, was one of the coaches Guardiola consulted before stepping up to take charge of the Barcelona first team. Another was Marcelo Bielsa, the former Argentina coach now in charge of Athletic Bilbao.

If Guardiola is close to a strand of Argentine football though, he seems distant from the mainstream in Brazil. After his team brushed Santos aside in last December's World Club Cup final, Guardiola talked of the great football played by Brazilian clubs in the past. Delivered with elegance, it was still a barb. Guardiola's mentor Johan Cruyff is a frequent critic of contemporary Brazilian football. Where once they played like Barcelona, he recently said, they now favour the counter-attack like Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid.

Since Guardiola announced his resignation, some In the Brazilian media have drooled over the idea that he might be tempted across the Atlantic to take over the national team. It would seem highly unlikely, though it would certainly be fascinating.

Brazil's production line of talent continues to work overtime. But is very hard to find equivalents of Xavi and Iniesta, which is no coincidence. In football the idea comes first, and the Brazilian game has not been looking for little midfielders whose game is based upon possession of the ball. The closest I can think of is a former Barcelona player, Deco, who made his name abroad and ended up playing his international football for Portugal.

Hopefully, his example will rub off, showing Brazilian coaches and kids the value of the cerebral central midfielder. If others are inspired to follow his example that really would be something to celebrate - with dance steps and all.

Comments on the piece in the space provided. No space for questions on South American football this week, but send them to and I'll pick out a couple for next time.

Hopefully, his example will rub off, showing Brazilian coaches and kids the value of the cerebral central midfielder. If others are inspired to follow his example that really would be something to celebrate - with dance steps and all.
Comments on the piece in the space provided. No space for questions on South American football this week, but send them to and I'll pick out a couple for next time.


  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    Interesting topic, Tim, and not one I've ever really thought about before, apart from registering my disappointment that failing to appropriately display the shirt sponsor when celebrating results in a booking for the player. But that's more about the commercialisation of football, rather than a lack and/or surfeit of imagination by the players.

    As regards the intelligent little midfield players, don't be so harsh on Brazil, they're not the only country that's been overlooking them for years. England has produced a few players like that as well, and they've always been misused and misplaced. I'm not in a position to comment on other nations, but I'm sure it's the same.

  • Comment number 3.

    For reasons which my name will make obvious, I thank Tim for his touching tribute to Yekini. If football in 1994 had been played by the current rules, Paolo Maldini would have been red-carded for his wrestling down of Yekini when he was in on goal in the Second Round, and who knows how far Nigeria might have gone?

    I think Tim missed a trick with the theme though. The death of Yekini re-awakened my sadness about the death of the great Garrincha almost 30 years ago, at the same age. Socrates' death is a bit different: an intelligent, strong man who chose to take the risks of life as an upper-class alcoholic.

    In recent years we have seen mental illness show its face in football. Robert Enke's death still touches a huge raw nerve in Germany, while the PFA seems to have had a positive influence in helping the likes of Paul Merson and Tony Adams receive treatment for their addictive behaviour. Paul Gascoigne, of course, has been placed under the Mental Health Act on several occasions in recent years.

    What about Brazil? We see players like Adriano who are basically uneducated boys who find themselves in the body of a gifted footballer, but who lack the upbringing and discipline to work hard, which is pretty much the opposite to the story of Yekini, who was brought up to be an honest, God-fearing hard worker.

    Brazilian football to those of us in other western societies seems to be filled with two polar opposites. At one extreme are Christian fundamentalists like Kaka, Jorginho, Cafu et al with their "I belong to Jesus" vests while at the other end are hedonists like Ronaldo, Garrincha, Ronaldinho and Adriano.

    Is there any middle ground? Cristiano Ronaldo's nocturnal proclivities are well-documented in the UK: even today a respectable British newspaper mentioned which agency he used to hire company from when he played at Manchester United. How on earth do he and Kaka tolerate one another as Portuguese speakers in the Real Madrid dressing room, with their starkly different moral compasses?

    I can only compare it to Peter Stringfellow and Mary Whitehouse being thrown together somehow.

  • Comment number 4.

    Hi Tim fantastic blogging as always, one of the highlights of my week as is the excellent 5 live football phone in. Have heard you speak a lot of Giovanni Moreno, and last night saw him score an excellent goal for racing in argentina. Where do you see his future? Now in his mid-20s do you think he is ready to move to Europe or has his chance passed?

  • Comment number 5.

    yakubusdiet - what rubbish! You give a couple of examples of extreme personalities and then claim that Brazilian football "seems to be filled with two polar opposites". What about the vast majority who lie in the middle of the spectrum?

    You then go on to describe a Portuguese player as if that somehow strengthens your argument.

    It's a bit prejudicial.

  • Comment number 6.

    DirtyDollie, you've misunderstood my point.

    Yekini appears to have been suffering from schizophrenia prior to his death. I commented on how English football now seems to look after many of its mentally ill players, whereas in the previous thirty years Dave Clement, Alan Davies, Justin Fashanu and John Lyons killed themselves. The most notorious football suicide of all was probably Hughie Gallacher's awful death in Gateshead in the 1950s.

    Brazilian football seems to have a stark gulf between hedonism and religious fanaticism, and I was interested to hear Tim's thoughts on that - and whether a Yekini figure in Brazil in 2012 could die like this.

    As for my Cristiano Ronaldo comment, that was all about Kaka's behaviour. Kaka's faith plays a role in his life which I struggle to understand - whereas Tevez wanted to leave Manchester because it "only has two restaurants", Kaka's main objection to moving to Man City appears to have been the lack of the religious infrastructure he requires to be able to live in a city.

    I can't remember such a fundamentalist British sportsman. The All Black Michael Jones would not play on his sabbath, which is similar, but I can't remember any similarly observant British sportsman.

  • Comment number 7.

    It's interesting to see that you praise Guardiaola for apologizing about the celebrations of his two barcelona players and yet you fail to mention the fact that when Busquets and Cesc Fabregas were allegedly accused of racial slurs against other players, he (Guardiola) did not even condemn racism. He didn't bother to say that such act will not be tolerated albeit there was nothing conclusive, the fact that he merely said Busquets made a mistake says it all.

    I personally find it quite offensive that you have quoted him as having morals.

  • Comment number 8.

    Yakubu's diet - in terms of British sportsman try Jonathan Edwards (triple jump) - he missed the chace to compete in the 1991 world championship because some of the rounds would be on a Sunday although he later relaxed that position

  • Comment number 9.

    Harry Hotspur (#2),

    While I also disagree with booking a player for removing his shirt in the modern game I feel I need to correct you on a point
    The booking is for removing the shirt not for not showing the sponsorship.
    The sponsorship the FA and PL care about is that of sky and their own partners. The Club sponsor on the shirt (which is the one covered up when a player removes the shirt/pulls it over his head) does not bring money to the FA so they don't care if it isn't seen. While the individual sponser would prefer it to be seen they have no direct influence with the FA and would have to lobby through the clubs to get that rule in place and the clubs have no reason to get their players booked

  • Comment number 10.

    Well, I am brazilian and I agree with yakubusdiet on the polar opposites point. Christian fundamentalism has become a very serious and sensitive issue here, with extreme right wing religious and "richteous" politicians taking over, well, basically taking over everything. It is only natural that football would be a reflection of what happens in our society.

    Of course, people who like to keep their own lives "out of the radar" have not been considered. Nobody talks about the Twins at Man United, or low-profile Hulk in Portugal, or Ramires in London's bright lights and nightlife (well, consider that he's been hanging around with the likes of Terry, that can't be good to any lad).

    Media likes what's bright and sparkly. Low profile people just are not so interesting. The open media doesn't talk about Michael Owen's passion for puzzles and breeding horses. Would he be a 24/7 party boy like Romario or a good boy scout and soon-to-be-preacher like Kaka, well, that's the kind of stuff that sells, isn't it?

    Regarding brazilian players' dances and celebration, I think it's a deviation from what's really important: playing football. Brazil isn't the same as 10 years ago: most promissing young players leave the country as teenagers and our clubs do not tend to their youth academies as before. Tim will surely remember a 14 y.o. boy who died at Vasco da Gama's youth training center a few months ago because they didn't have proper medical care available at the site.

    Seems to me that the agents and clubs just want to pocket their money as soon as possible, and players with limited skills and talent dig their way through media and public opinion with funny celebrations, dances and unnecessary exposition.

  • Comment number 11.

    Interesting article and some great responses from yakubusdiet about the split between the Christian fundamentalists and the hedonists.

    If you're looking for someone to bridge the gap, might I make the unlikely suggestion of Neymar. A couple of years ago, it looked like he would be following Adriano, Roanldinho and the rest with acts of on and off-field discipline. He was even responsible for getting his manager, Dorival Junior, sacked for refusing to be fined for an act of insubordination.

    Now, a couple of years on at the grand old age of 20, his behaviour is exemplary and he turns in stellar performances just about every week. He gives 10 percent of his considerable income to the church, takes his responsibilities as a father seriously and currently he seems to be coping admirably with the pressures of his popstar status.

    Mind you, he is also responsible for some of Brazil's silliest and most overblown goal celebrations and 'dancinhas'. But as Tim said - different cultures.

  • Comment number 12.

    3 - by the rules in operation in 94 Maldini had to be sent off in that game - got away with it because of his prestige. Shouldn't have.

    'Missed a trick' on the Yekini thing. It's a fascinating subject (the mental health thing and the bi-polar issue you raised). Didn't get in to on it on the Yekini hook because I simply don't know enough about what happened to him afterwards.

  • Comment number 13.

    7 - I'm not aware of the Barcelona racial slur incident - please feel free to come back and post the details. But of course Guardiola has a code of morals - not necessarily the same as yours, mine or anyone else's.

    11 - interesting on Neymar - watching him grow up up in public is a thrilling ride.

  • Comment number 14.

    By the way, ran out of space ths week for questions on South American football. Normal service will be resumed next time, so send 'em in to

  • Comment number 15.

    Part of this article was inspired by watching Deco jjst before writing it - I was at the first leg of the Rio State final yesterday where Deco gave a second half masterclass, passing holes in the Botafogo team as his Fluminense side came from behind to win 4-1.
    The clarity of his vision and the technique of his passing were outstanding - would be lovely to see more of it.

  • Comment number 16.

    When will England ever produce a cerebral central midfielder? The talent pool here is a joke. English football needs a revolution from top to bottom.

  • Comment number 17.

    nice tribute to yekini. that celebration certainly stuck in my mind. it was their 1st world cup i think, and they were so keen to project a positive image of nigeria to the world, rather like croatia's euro (and world cup) debut that followed. before a ball was kicked, everyone knew the talent was there...but that first goal was such a release for them. as you say, spontaneous and therefore meaningful....

    3 - yes, maldini should have walked. can remember being furious about it (was only 14). i'm starting to get annoyed all over again just thinking about it.

    i've nothing per se against a more choreographed celebration. find it a tad silly more than anything, but i can see why it wouldn't sit well with guardiola or menotti, both of whom i have a lot of respect for.

    16 - surely england has produced cerebral central midfielders historically. i think 'revolution' and 'a joke' are a bit strong. we've always been fairly competitive, amongst the top 10 in the world.

  • Comment number 18.

    What about Ganso, I thought he was supposed to be a player in the mould of Xavi/ Iniesta.

    Interesting comment about Kaka and his Christian beliefs, the real question is how did Kaka stomach being the golden boy of the Bunga Bunga king Silvio Berlusconi. Ronaldinho et all are choir boys compared to him

  • Comment number 19.

    No mention of the Icelandic's' in a blog about celebrations??!!
    If you want a masterclass of fantastic celebrations look no further...

    I enjoy watching a player score and celebrate because of emotion, like many examples above, but nowadays its all too contrived and unemotional. I hate it when a player kisses the badge...
    Also i get the yellow for removing the shirt, but it is a bit harsh

  • Comment number 20.

    Been a huge fan of your blog Tim. Funny I just decided to comment after the post on Yekini (a fellow countryman) RIP. Being 15 at the time I remember feeling a bit embarrassed: Why couldn't he just celebrate like everyone else and just do a little run and jump.

    Now I really see how spontaneously overjoyed he was and think people should celebrate however they feel provided they don't do anything too provocative or disrespectful to the other team. You've scored a goal. You deserve to celebrate as you see fit.

  • Comment number 21.

    9. At 13:40 7th May 2012, ManchesterUnited4Ever wrote:
    Harry Hotspur (#2),

    While I also disagree with booking a player for removing his shirt in the modern game I feel I need to correct you on a point
    The booking is for removing the shirt not for not showing the sponsorship.
    The sponsorship the FA and PL care about is that of sky and their own partners. The Club sponsor on the shirt (which is the one covered up when a player removes the shirt/pulls it over his head) does not bring money to the FA so they don't care if it isn't seen. While the individual sponser would prefer it to be seen they have no direct influence with the FA and would have to lobby through the clubs to get that rule in place and the clubs have no reason to get their players booked


    It's the FA that made the rule. Why else would they put that in place, if not sponsorship reasons? It's not like taking your shirt off for 30 seconds impacts a passage of play or brings the game into disrepute, nor is it dangerous to any of the other players. If anybody can explain why it is worth a yellow card, I would love to be enlightened in that regard.

    #20 has it right. If you've done the thing you're being paid to do, why can you then be punished for celebrating it?

  • Comment number 22.

    This article does show one thing that is true, celebrations are very irritating in Brazil. It is always one dance routine here, another one there. Samba here, samba there. What ever happened to the joy and ecstasy of scoring a goal? What is wrong with punching the air, running around with your hand up or just jumping for joy spontaneously? We also have to put up with dance routines of certain things such as the horrible 'Ai, se eu te pego'. Christ help us.

    I read this line about Deco, "Hopefully, his example will rub off, showing Brazilian coaches and kids the value of the cerebral central midfielder. If others are inspired to follow his example that really would be something to celebrate - with dance steps and all" Well, ummmm, Ganso. Better player than Deco and will be better than Deco ever was and I think with the way things can go, better than Xavi or Iniesta. Enough said.

  • Comment number 23.

    @yakubusdiet- i know the scottish rugby player euan murray refuses to play on a sunday due to religious reasons, which is very impressive for a modern day sportsman, but very annoying for a fan having one of your top players not playing on a sunday...

  • Comment number 24.

    yakubusdiet thank you for your gentlemanly response in post 6 to DirtyDollie's insulting and unduly aggressive comments in post 5.

    I remember Yekini's celebrations, just as I remember Bebeto's at USA 1994. I was shocked at news of his death and wept when I learnt of his circumstances in the immediate period before his death.

    The fact that the only way the great Maldini could stop Yekini from scoring a certain goal against Italy at USA 94 was to blatantly and desperately wrestle him to the ground, is a testament to Yekini's quality as a striker.

    Maldini should have been red carded - he walked. In South Africa 2010 we saw Suarez's desperate handball that stopped a Ghanaian goal - ho got the red card. I wonder why these desperate measures against African teams.

    I digressed. On celebrations, I like the Germans. They are spontaneous, exciting but not overboard. Klinsmann's pure joy in his team's performance in Germany 2006 is the iconic positive image of that tournament for me.

  • Comment number 25.

    @21 Harry Hotspur

    the yellow card for removal of the shirt, to my knowledge, was put in place by FIFA and is not for commercial reasons but for religious reasons of wearing modest clothing. I think it was for this; some of the middle eastern religions; islam, judaism, fundamental christianity and possibly others.

  • Comment number 26.


    Maldini should have been red carded - he walked. In South Africa 2010 we saw Suarez's desperate handball that stopped a Ghanaian goal - ho got the red card. I wonder why these desperate measures against African teams.
    i know! thats 2 in only 16 years! its an epidemic i tells ya, im sure nothing of the sort happened to anyone else

  • Comment number 27.

    I have no problem with goal celebrations. The more elaborate the better.

    Yesterday i went to El Nacional vs LDU Quito in the Athaulpa Stadium, Quito.

    When the first goal was scored the player vaulted the advertising hoarding and rode it like a horse or donkey. I had never seen that one before and it was one step better than Gordon Strachans famous leg vault against West Germany in Mexico 1986.

    Similarly, on Thursday night when Fidel Martinez scored Deportivo Quito's 4rth goal he pretended to pose for a photo while his team-mate took imaginary photos. Fairly original.

    On the way to the match yesterday i was listening to the World Football phone in podcast and thinking about Tim's blog last week about Luis Suarez and racism.

    Although i agree that Luis Suarez was very wrong in his actions I think it is very important to consider the culture aspect and how things are different in Latin America.

    To illustrate my point have a look at this picture I took which i took while walking to the game.

    Now this is a very popular restaurant chain in Quito called menestras del negro or “The Black Guy's Beans”(loosely translated).

    I not making any judgement on the name or the minstrel caricature (nor the bone through the hair!!!!!).

    I have been in Quito for almost 3 months and I have never witnessed any type of racism indeed quite the opposite, the people are very friendly and welcoming.

    However, imagine the fur-ore, protests and anger if this type of restaraunt existed in the UK,Europe or US.

  • Comment number 28.

    Tim, Deco's performance yesterday was brilliant, it really shows the sort of cerebral player he is. He dictates the rythym of the game, rarely loses the ball and has remarkable vision which, coupled with his great passing skills, makes for a trully outstanding player.

    But I really think that Ganso has that same potential, he's making a slow, but steady, recovery...

    Any words on Marcos Junior, the young little forward who's been coming in as a substitute in Fluminense's latest games? He seems to be a very talented young forward but I haven't heard much from him so far...

  • Comment number 29.

    Can i clear up the Removing the shirt is a Yellow debate
    I am a qualified FA referee
    The Laws of the Game (from FIFA) are as follows (and slightly paraphrased)

    This is the important bit;

    While it is permissible for a player to demonstrate his joy when a goal has been scored, the celebration must not be excessive.
    Reasonable celebrations are allowed, but the practice of choreographed celebrations is not to be encouraged when it results in excessive time-wasting and referees are instructed to intervene in such cases.
    A player MUST be cautioned is:
    - in the opinion of the referee, he makes gestures which are provocative, derisory or inflammatory
    - he climbs on to a perimeter fence to celebrate a goal being scored
    - he covers his head or face with a mask or other similar item
    Leaving the field of play to celebrate a goal is not a cautionable offense in itself but it is essential that players return to the field of play as soon as possible.
    Referees are expected to act in a preventative manner and to exercise common sense in dealing with the celebration of a goal.

    Hope that clears it up

  • Comment number 30.

    the add why this was introduced.
    To avoid time-wasting and slowing the game.
    Simple as.
    There is a separate piece of law determining what undergarments can be worn, because of sponsors.
    Religion does not play a role in the Laws of Association Football by FIFA

  • Comment number 31.

    Yes - I enjoyed both Deco's masterclass and Marcos Junior's cameo performance. It was the first time I'd seen him and he's certainly got confidence and pace - and he looks all of about 14 years old.

  • Comment number 32.

    God save us from these post-goal rituals by overrated Brazilian players.

    Yesterday in the Santos-Guarini game, Ganso, ran to the crowd and tried to orchestrate it, presumably to chant his name which, incidentally, translates into "goose".

    He was followed by Neymar who had obviously exhausted his repertoire of antics and just tumbled onto the pitch like a legless drunk.

    I can´t wait for the days when these two hyped-up egomaniacs finally end up in Europe playing against real professionals over a gruelling season.

    Meanwhile, over in Rio, a real player called Fred - remember him from Lyon? - scored a superb bicycle kick goal for Fluminense against Botafogo.

  • Comment number 33.


    If Maldini's action against Nigeria, Suarez's action against Ghana, the atrocious refereeing of Cameroon-England at Italia 90, the suspect Austria-German game of 1982 to kick out Algeria, are not indicative of unique difficulties African teams experience, please feel free to provide examples of teams from the any other continent that have had the same experience at world cups.

    Avoid being abusive or insulting, its a conversation not war...


    A tolerance for black face in a culture does not make it less racist as an icon. A friendly society can still be racist at its core, especially when the group discriminated upon do not have social movements actively protesting their denigration. Suarez's actions can still be categorized as racist even if he does not recognize them to be so - he simply has to learn to do better...

  • Comment number 34.

    #32 And I can't wait to see these two hyped-up players going to Europe and shattering all these biased uniformed comments that I'm so tired of reading... if you think Neymar is overrated, trust me, you have no clue whatsoever.

    You want a gruelling season? Come to Brazil and play in the conditions that South Americans have to cope with... not that I think that this is fancy and all that, it's just that Europe has much smoother and better organized seasons, with fewer competitive matches.

  • Comment number 35.

    # 34 I don´t need to come to Brazil because I live there.

    Neymar and Ganso are obviously talented players but they have yet to face real professional competition and will have to go to Europe to justify the hype.

    There is nothing "biased" about this view. No less a person than Ronaldo said something similar a couple of weeks ago.

    I watch Brazilian football and find it pretty dire compared with I see of European football. I certainly don´t think Europe has "fewer competitive matches".

  • Comment number 36.

    Great stuff Tim and some excellent comments, an enjoyable read as always. Enjoyed yakubusdiet's insight particularly.

    Yekini's death sounds like an especially tragic tale, seems scandalous that a legend like that couldn't get the help he needed. The raw emotion of his goal celebration was what football is all about for so many, and so it's right to go down as a classic WC image.

    Pre-planned, over-elaborate celebrations can be funny, but just don't have the empathy of the sort of passionate goal-scoring reaction, typified by the likes of Milito against AC last night. At the other end of the spectrum, a daft wee Robinho-type dance... I'd rather see a player at least look as if they care as much as I do, but take your pick I suppose.

    Great to hear that Deco is still showing his brilliance, what a fantastic player. He was really something to behold in those 2 European winning seasons at Porto (quite terrifying actually as a Celtic fan in Seville...) and again absolutely terrific for Barca. Possibly the more unselfish role there held him back a bit, but it was still a real joy to see him playing with the likes of Xavi and Ronaldhino. Being almost as good as those 2 is something in itself surely!

    Still remember his debut for Portugal against Brasil, amazing scenes!

  • Comment number 37.

    Real sad about yekeni , and shame that African teams don't seem to have progressed since them.i remember the hope we Africans had for that team , an indeed for African football in general. We have undoubtly produced some great players since then but somehow the teams have not produced the goods.
    16: what about scholes as a cerebral midfielder(and this from a Liverpool fan).
    And Wiltshire for the future if he can be used properly

  • Comment number 38.

    #35 The total number of matches that are played is less than in Brazil. FC Barcelona played 60 competitive matches during the full 2010-2011 season. Santos FC played 68 during a full 2011 season. That's a considerable difference.

    Aside from that, european clubs don't have to deal with bad pitch conditions as much as what you see in South America, as well as other problems people sometimes forget (vast distances, altitude in south american competitions, extreme heat, bad stadiums etc.).

    In terms of the quality of the play, sure, the Champions League is of a higher standard... but you'll get the same amount of bad play in a Osasuna-Tenerife match or a Blackburn-Wigan match as you'll see in a domestic match in Brazil... problem is that people tend to compare the crème de la crème (such as a Barcelona - Real Madrid match) with the usual weekend game between two average Brazilian teams...

    Some would point Barcelona as an example... But Barcelona is not representative of European Football in general... it is a representative of Barcelona and Barcelona alone.

    But the standards are indeed higher, I think, though not as high as people tend to think...

    Now, sure Neymar and other talented players have to go to Europe to show their prowess in the main stage for football today, but to think they'll suffer (specially Neymar) in the bigger stage is the same as trying to block the sun with clear glass...

  • Comment number 39.


    I think you are looking for conspiracy that does not exist. Sure those things happened, but...
    - if you think Suarez wouldnt have done that against a non african team at that stage in the world cup, i think you're living in a dream world. He didnt even have time to think about who he was facing, he just palmed it away
    - Likewise Maldini - do you think he had it on his mind that his opposition was african when deciding to commit that foul? Or the ref considering the fact the offence was committed against an african team whe deciding Maldini's punishment? Again, that would have happened no matter who the opposition was
    - The Austria Germany farce was due to those two countries and their friendship bending the rules of the tournament itself. They preserved their own interests, not colluded to specifically eliminate an african enemy, the side they knocked out could easily have been non african
    - Cameroon vs England is not by any stretch the only time there has been a questionable refereeing performance at a world cup, and i would suggest either Italy vs S Korea or spain vs S Korea 2002, or Portugal vs Holland 2006 would be up there along with this

    Dont get me wrong, all of the above were wrong to have happened. But you seem to think they happened to spite Africa, or to spite a team due to them being african, which i would seriously contest ever came into it. I wonder if anyone else has ever come to the same conclusion as you on this one. It is also worth noting that 2 of the 4 examples would not be possible in today's game due to rule changes made to prevent the injustices, so its not as though it was deemed acceptable in this conspiracy. And in Suarez's case he got sent off, and Gyan had a penalty to win the game which he missed

    Similarly, they are by no means they only farcical elements to have happened in a world cup.
    - Schumacher wiping out Battiston in 1982 and not even getting a caution while Battiston was hospitalised.
    - England's goal not given in 2010 which would've levelled the tie at half time, not given despite being several feet over the line
    - Argentina getting the required hatfull of goals against an unexpectedly sluggish Peru side in 1978, with rumours of payoffs to Peru ever since. Argentina would not have got to the final without that result, and the world cup would have had a completely different look
    - The hand of god goal at the 1986 world cup
    - 2002 south korea - italy having a goal disallowed and controversial sending off before being put out of the tournament by a late S Korea goal. Followed by Spain having 2 goals wrongly chalked off and a S Korea cross being off the pitch iirc
    - Fabio Grosso going down a bit easy against Australia to get a last minute penalty winner in 2006
    - England's 3rd goal in the 1966 WC final

    All of the above absolutely nailed another team unfairly with their occurrence. Do you need any more examples of teams that have been screwed over by dodgy decisions or actions? This is by no means an anti african conspiracy

  • Comment number 40.

    #38 I would love to see Neymar star on the world stage - I had the same hope with Robinho and that came to nothing - but I don´t think he would get away with the faked writhings and divings. This is probably the first lesson he will be given when he arrives at Barcelona or Real Madrid, that is, if this novela ever ends.

    It is true that teams like Aston Villa, Wigan, Osasuna etc are not as successful as the top dogs but in overall terms I am quite happy to watch them. Teams like Everton or Stoke often play entertaining football and spring a surprise.

    I do not think, for example, that QPR or Sunderland will be walkovers for Man City and Man Utd in the final games. That is one of the reasons why English league football is much more interesting than the Brazilian game.

  • Comment number 41.


    I see you point and they are logically sound.

    Are there Africans and fans of African football who think African teams don't get the rub of the green at world cups - you bet there are.

    Nevertheless, I hold my tongue till the next African team at the world cup gets turned over in controversial circumstances.

  • Comment number 42.

    @1 comment removed...
    Sorry, I forgot that sarcasm was not part of british humour ;)

  • Comment number 43.

    Sure, the african teams have had their fair share of controversial decisions, but they have nobody but themselves to blame.

    Cameroon v England (1990) Cameroon should've scored 10 goals in that game but didn't. Why?, because their strikers were naive in front of goal trying to blast the ball through the goalkeeper instead of around him and in general wasting chance after chance so all it took was for Lineker to display his inner ear problems everytime he got in the box and the rest is history.

    Similar story with Nigeria v Italy, Nigeria failed to take their many chances and we all know the italians only need one to win a match.

    Ghana v Uruguay, same story. Not sure what the conspiracy theory is about Suarez on that one. He handed the ball, got sent off, Ghana were awarded a match winning penalty and ... they wasted their opportunity...again.

    Senegal just ran out of puff in their great run during the 2002.

    African teams have had great teams and played some exhilarating football in the past but have lacked that killer instinct that big teams have.

    Meantime, they seem to have gone backwards as teams as far as performance is concerned. Let's hope the likes of Cameroon and Nigeria get back on their feet again to see some exciting football once more.

  • Comment number 44.

    "Brazil's production line of talent continues to work overtime. But is very hard to find equivalents of Xavi and Iniesta" ––– Equivalents?! They can find five to ten guys who play better!

    If Brazil wants to improve, stop calling up European-based players... that's the World Football Cancer right there, too many players abroad are only interested in using the brazilian call-up as a business transaction, forget them... instead form a team that can pass the ball, play with some balls too... take chances. The Counter-Attack is the coward's way out, playing 4 in the back is also bush-league, European garbage concept... go with 3, flood the midfield with playmakers... Only NT with balls in South America is Chile, the rest including Uruguay live and die by the counter-attack, no imagination, no bravado... nothing!

    You want a player to build the Brazilian NT team around? Diego Souza... results be damned, I can guarantee you the team will be better to watch... that's one dude who has cajones to spare.

  • Comment number 45.

    @44 "...that's the World Football Cancer right there..."
    Interesting choice of words. I assume you refer to forming a locally based team instead. The problem with your theory is that you'll find that as soon as you get a team that plays well, those same players will be tempted to make their way to Europe where the big money is and the whole cycle will start again...can't help it...unfortunately.

    And the lack of imagination and bravado is not due to them playing in Europe, it has more to do with the coach. Chile had no style of play until Bielsa took over and applied his attacking football philosophy which won Chile so many fans. Notice too that most, if not all, players in that team were based abroad.

    At club level, Bielsa himself, Guardiola in Europe and Sampaoli in South America have continued with that attacking philosophy which has brought praise to their teams but sadly, they are in a minority because playing like that involves high risk and in a football world dominated by results and money, that is way too dangerous/risky/daring for most.

    Brazil playing the counterattacking game for the past 3 decades is just a sample of this "cancer". Apart from Bielsa's Chile, the last exciting South American team was also Bielsa's...Argentina back in the 90's.

    It's a bit like this...everyone admires Barcelona but it's much easier to play like Chelsea, parking the bus and hoping for the lucky long ball to the lone striker who will hopefully win you the game in a counterattack. Chelsea is in the final of the CL, Barcelona isn't. So why bother playing attractive football when you can get the results otherwise. Brazil 1982 played great football...won nothing. Since then, 2 WC, Copa America wins, Conf Cups, etc...all playing counterattack. I know which style the bean counters will prefer.

    I just hope this "cancer" is not terminal...

  • Comment number 46.

    maybe religious players like Kaka are rare in Europe, but I would suppose there are more of them in the US, like Tim Tebow, Reggie White?

    the dance thing also seems to be similar between Brazil and the US... just type "touchdown dance" for hundreds of examples, on Youtube.

  • Comment number 47.

    @45 - BladeRunner
    If I could just interject, this line is wrong:
    "Brazil playing the counterattacking game for the past 3 decades is just a sample of this "cancer"
    There is nothing wrong with playing a counter attacking game, parking the bus or dominating possession as long as you do it and play well. This is comparible to the wave of criticism Chelsea has received after their succesful tactics against Barcelona. There is nothing in the rules of the game that prohibit you from playing these styles, so I do not see how Brazil playing a counter attacking style is a "cancer". If Brazil finds it better for them to play counter attacking ok, just like Italians find it better and easier to hold a result. The numerous titles you listed afterwards are an example of this.

    "Brazil 1982 played great football...won nothing. Since then, 2 WC, Copa America wins, Conf Cups, etc...all playing counterattack."
    You are in danger of generalising. Brazil 1982 played great football, OK, but it could have been greater. Brazil 2002 played great football too, not entirely counter attacking either and they won.

    The real "cancer" in football is doing what Spain did in the last World Cup, playing their football of scoring one goal and then passing the ball around, perfectly well and fine, but then needing unreliable refereeing to help them through. Barcelona passing the ball around and dominating possession, again really well and totally ok, but still needing the officials to help them is just an extension of this.

  • Comment number 48.

    @47 "...There is nothing wrong with playing a counter attacking game..."

    of course not, but when you have the full potential and talent to play attacking football and still prefer to play defensively then the spectacle suffers. If the opposition is much stronger and you have no choice, fine, as it was the case with Chelsea. But we're talking adopting it as a style.

    Spain/Barcelona?...if the other team just parks the bus and defends with 10, then it's difficult to score many goals. The only team that gave Spain a go in the WC was Chile and that was some game. The rest, even the Germans were scared of Spain and that translated into one team playing extremely defensive football and the other (Spain) trying to break it down. The fact that Spain/Barcelona don't have players who can shoot from distance makes it even more difficult for them to score against ultradefensive teams.

    As for the conspiracy theories on refereeing...well, we'll leave them at that.

  • Comment number 49.

    you forgot one of the most famous of world cup goal celebrations, that of brandi chastaine taking her shirt off in the final of 99

  • Comment number 50.

    @48 - BladeRunner

    It is true that if you have the talent and potential to play attacking football, maybe you should but, since the team mentioned was Brazil, what really talented attacking players do Brazil have that Mano Menezes actually decides to play? I mean, Brazil obviously does have good attacking players but their manager isn't exactly doing a good job with them. In the same way Brazil's manager is choosing his way, it will always be up to the manager of a team with attacking potential whether or not to adopt an attacking style or not.

    And at the end of the day, there is nothing at all wrong with that. Football is not only just a spectacle, it is a sporting competition. The spectacle may suffer but the competition may be won. What is more important? Catenaccio gave Italy two World Cups. What did Tele Santana's beautiful yet decisively useless style give Brazil? A bunch of players that could play beautifully yet a bunch of rubbish ones that cost them a World Cup. Ugly football can get you places. The teams we remember are the ones that win fair and square giving a spectacle, like Brazil 2002.

  • Comment number 51.

    # 47 Barcelona and Spain= cancer in football? I beg to differ. Stroooooongly. The real cancer are teams that refuse to play against FCB and Spain and forget the ball even exists. Chelsea did it recently and in the WC Paraguay, Portugal, Germany and Netherlands did the same. I'm afraid we'll see much of the same in the Eurocup. Spain with 80% of possession and the rival, waiting for a small mistake. In 2008 Spain took everybody by surprise and we saw great open games. After that, teams pretty much admitted their inferiority and parked the bus. Barcelona-Santos better reflects the kind of football the Catalans can display when in front they have a team willing to play. Also read #48.

  • Comment number 52.


    maybe religious players like Kaka are rare in Europe,

    Not sure there is an absence of religious players in Europe at all but there certainly is an absence of christian fundamentalists who refuse to play on the 'sabbath'

    Thank god!!


    Conspiracy theories often come without any credible evidence. That's why they are conspiracy theories! Ghana were just not good enough to beat Uruguay in the last WC. Looking for explanations outwith that is usually just a way of avoiding coming to this conclusion. For example, for some English fans, they would have won every WC and Euro Championships if it just hadn't been for the anti-English agenda of UEFA/FIFA! The phrase 'always cheated, never defeated' comes to mind to describe this type of rampant paranoia.

  • Comment number 53.

    Not sure there is an absence of religious players in Europe at all but there certainly is an absence of christian fundamentalists who refuse to play on the 'sabbath'

    Thank god!!
    Amen to that!

    Incidentally, is anyone aware of any orthodox jewish players plying their trade in European football? They would surely have to set aside their beliefs as they would be virtually unemployable otherwise.

  • Comment number 54.

    Here's to a complete absence of religion and the religious in football (and indeed in general society).

    As a Scotsman and Rangers fan i have witnessed the negative effect religion can have on football and society.(Although this not Scotland's shame but more Glasgow's).

    Luckily, i have a medical condition which means that when reading/thinking/speaking about religion i immediately fall asleeee....zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  • Comment number 55.


    On another note, I see Brazilian sports minister Aldo Rebelo has stood firm against FIFA in insisting that not only will half price tickets be available for students an pensioners (as is Brazilian law?) but that there will be a limited number of tickets available for free to poor and indigenous Brazilians.

    Good for him!

  • Comment number 56.

    @51 - AntonioSaucedo
    Oh, Chelsea parking the bus and winning against Barcelona is a cancer? I never knew winning the Champion's League was a cancer, which is possible for Chelsea after their performance against the Catalans. If Barcelona in 45 minutes could not score a goal with a player more than Chelsea, who deserved to go through? Chelsea played above themselves, Barcelona didn't. The format of such a competition is designed to eliminate the lesser teams and let the better ones through. This is what happened. Simple as, nothing wrong involved.

    Paraguay playing against Spain was an example of a cancer? What, having a goal wrongly disallowed? Bad refereeing was really the tumour there. 2008 - Spain surprising? What was surprising was that such a Spain side had to beat a weakened Italy on penalties, where is the superiority of Spain there? They were lucky they got Germany in the final, what would have happened if they got Turkey?

    Barcelona - Santos? Did you even watch the game? Santos entered it not wanting to play football, they entered it already defeated and trying their hardest to concede as little as possible. This is not exactly willing to play.

  • Comment number 57.

    you think the Brazilian citizens would let a guy born in Spain to train the Brazilian national team, would admit that we fail ugly and changed for the worse, Pepe Guardiola is very good but I doubt he can impose his philosophy on the other team and Xavi and Iniesta do not will play forever. in the categories of spain is based on our shopper and always won them on the iniesta is nothing surprising is a great owner like any owner should now be xavi is fantastic.
    the problem of shipowners, alias the worsening of Brazilian football was the opening of football in the world that tries to mimic the physical strength of English football, the businessmen are anxious to quickly form players to negotiate them with the rest of the world, if a boy of 18 years has reasonable technique but has physical strength of man he can be negotiated and fast, so they do not give opportunity to the smaller guys that are much more talented than the heavies.
    When there was once a great young player with a chance of progressing it tranferia to Italy, Spain, Portugal, Holland, Germany, France or remain in Brazil, fantastic kids today come with much to learn and progress and are forced to transfer to Ukraine , russia, turqia, Japan and other alloys which will never progress, this is the biggest problem of owners in south america in general.

  • Comment number 58.

    I cannot believe so many people have fell for Barcelona and Spain's facade of success.

    Spain didn't deserve the World Cup. They lost to Switzerland. Villa should have been sent off against Honduras. Villa then went on to also score against Chile. Chile got a player sent off because Torres dived and even then Spain could barely hold on with a man advantage. Villa's goal against Portugal was offside. A Portuguese player got sent off because a Spanish player pretended to get hit in the face. Paraguay had a goal disallowed. Also, Paraguay's missed penalty should have been retaken because at least 4 Spanish players encroached in the box. Germany's Oezil was clearly fouled in the box and should have gotten a penalty. In the final, at least 2 players on both teams should have been red carded (which includes Iniesta). Also, Elia was fouled right before Spain's counterattack to score their goal.

    It's amazing people always bring up Nigel De Jong's challenge on Alonso but no one brings up Valdes' challenge on N'Doye in Champions League in 2010. He almost killed N'Doye and Valdes didn't even get a yellow card. In fact, N'Doye was yellow carded. Both of Barcelona's 2009 and 2011 Champions League victories are facades. In 2009, Chelsea should have beaten them if it wasn't for referee. Arsenal would have done the same in 2011. This year Barcelona shouldn't have even made it to the semifinals as they were awarded two controversial penalties against AC Milan.

  • Comment number 59.

    Cryuff: "they now favour the counter-attack like Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid."

    Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid is the highest scoring team in the history of La Liga an Cryuff is just jealous.

    FC Stjarnan from Iceland have many examples of overelaborate yet entertaining choreographed goal celebrations.

  • Comment number 60.

    Very interesting article and some interesting comments

    I personally love a bit of acrobatics in a celebration - lomana lua lua being my favourite!

    @53 with regards to Jewish players playing in Europe. The most well known players around at the moment are probably Yossi Benayoun and Tal Ben-Haim. There are plenty of others around as well - keep an eye out for Dean Furman who could well become a decent premiership midfielder.
    As far as I am aware, none of these players are religious - obviously playing on a Saturday would provide a bit of a problem. If memory serves however, Avram Grant and Benayoun were both criticised in the press when they refused to play/manage on Yom Kippur - probably the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.

  • Comment number 61.

    @ 58 & 59 - 764dak
    Finally someone that understands about these overrated "champions" and the real cancer of football. Well done my friend. I think we enlightened are a select few. And Cruyff is a dope. He said that Brazil in 2002 played anti-football. This is down to what you said jealousy, or as the Brazilians put it, "dor de cotovelo". Cruyff cannot bear the fact that he, playing his style, never won anything with Holland.

  • Comment number 62.

    Independiente de Valle(Jose Teran) currently lead the Ecuadorian Serie A. With a stadium capacity of only 8,000 is there any other league in the World that has such a small champions elect???

  • Comment number 63.

    @62 I think you can find many Caribbean and small European countries with champions that only have capacities much smaller than 8000. For example, KR of Iceland only has a stadium capacity of around 3000. Valetta of Malta has around 2000 and Portmore United of Jamaica also has around 2000.

  • Comment number 64.

    51.At 09:15 8th May 2012, AntonioSaucedo wrote:
    # 47 Barcelona and Spain= cancer in football?

    Mate, both styles are as bad as eachother, for the simple reason that both are successful.
    Catenaccio has given Italy 2 world cups and coutnless european cups. Tiki-Taka has given spain a world cup and euro and 3 CLs. But both styles are dire to watch.

    You say that teams park the bus and wait for a mistake, but why would you try and attack Spain / Barca and ultimately lose the match? Look at Man Utd or Germany. Both times they tried to attack and both times they were cut open because they left too much space.

  • Comment number 65.

    Sad and shocked to hear about Yekini's death. Too early for him to leave us.
    As regards Guardiola managing Brazil, brilliant idea. Mano Menesez seems a bit clueless after nearly 2 years in charge. He ignores Diego, Kaka, maicon, ramires and his playing style is atrocious. There is no cohesion and solidity about it. The Copa America had very ordinary teams and Brazil could not even get to the latter stages..
    Guardiola would hopefully start choosing the best players for the national team and start preparing for the WC 2014, which on current form Brazil don't have a hope of winning.

  • Comment number 66.


    It's really a false dichotomy. I don't see two styles, just one style, Barcelona's, and then attempts to derail it --actually, to destroy it--, the latest incarnation being Chelsea. To be fair, it's not really a question of choosing styles, because very few teams in history have been able to play like Barcelona. Chelsea didn't play like Barcelona because they don't have what it takes, not because they chose not to.

    Again, it's not a question of style, but of attitude. Chelsea played like a small team, regardless of their fantastic and very expensive players. That you can choose to do. I mean, you can choose to display that kind of sad attitude, cynically claiming you can win titles playing like that. Plus, Chelsea didn't qualify because of the way they played, but because Barcelona didn't put away the many chances they had. Messi proved he's human after all and didn't convert the PK. That said, what's even sadder is the fact that Chelsea's first goal was awesome, showing they could play with an attacking attitude and create some magic, but chose not to. Let me write that again for dramatic effect: Chelsea chose not to.

    You're desperately wrong to say tiki-taka is dire to see. What's dire to see is what other teams do to stop it, which is something completely different. In 08 we witnessed the level of artistry and sheer effectiveness tiki-taka can achieve. That won't happen again, because most teams will be content to have 10-15% of possession and wait for a mistake. I say most because once in a while a few will dare to face Barcelona and Spain with the right attitude, and they may even be able to win titles while they're at it.


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