According to “people who know stuff”, proper tackling is a dying art in modern football. Although you always get the feeling that when these sort of people (gritty ex-pros) say ‘proper tackling’, they actually mean ‘accidentally scraping the ball on the way to snapping someone’s shin in two’. As anyone who actually plays football can attest, this is bullshit.
In the last three weeks Moo Stringer has been exposed to what is effectively GBH dressed up as football. Luckily, there is also another side to tackling, one that showcases grace and culture. Goalposts for Goalposts has been granted unique access to archived photo footage of one such tackle, and it falls to your not-so-humble commentator to talk you through this momentous footballing event.
The antagonist of the piece is one Sam Fox. As anyone who has played against this liverpudlian legend will tell you, he is not so much a player as a force of nature. Trying to wrest the ball from his feet is akin to screaming at the sun to stop coming up. However, there are ways around this (my preferred technique is to kick him. A lot).
So we come to the first picture in this inspirational quadtych (real word). Sam knows that trying to go down the touchline can only lead to despair, death and dispossession, so he shifts the ball to his right foot and cuts inside. Notice our hero has already seen this and has started following him accordingly
In the second picture (in a series of four), Sam seems to have kicked the ball straight at Mark’s groin. However, this is nothing but a wily feint, as in fact the ball is almost glued to his boot. At this point he is running almost horizontally across the pitch, as our bee-striped champion accelerates to meet him. See the textbook low centre of gravity, and the use of arms to propel him against the air.
Contact is made! Like the inevitability of the asteroid at the end of Deep Impact, our two characters come together in a clash of titans, a meeting of minds, a concorde of charisma. Sam is now aiming to move vertically down the pitch towards goal, a heinous act that must be stopped at all costs. And stop it our waspish idol does. At almost full stretch, using his arms to maintain a perfect balance throughout the movement, our tiger-cloaked conqueror uses the outside of his gleaming off-white boot to steer the ball in the opposite direction to our blood-soaked villain’s movement, making it almost impossible for him to recover the ball without falling on his (fat) arse.
In the final instalment of this surely Nobel Prize deserving set, Sam can be seen desperately leaping to the ground, feigning contact in a futile attempt to convince all witnesses that he has not just been thoroughly bested. However, our hornet-clad hero cares not one whit for this. He has eyes only for the ball, looking to carry it towards goal and exploit the gap his efforts have gained him. James and Josh can only look on awestruck, realising that they are present in the presence of genius.
I didn’t score. Sam is in every way my superior at football. But for one shining moment, I felt like Edgar Davids, and isn’t that what the game’s all about? Those precious few times when any player can produce moments of inspiration. And aren’t we lucky that one of these has been captured on film, to be preserved for future generations to gaze in awe at?