Modern Football, is it really bad?. Boudewijn Van Der Beek.
Journalist, bachelor’s degree at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Netherlands.

22nd December 2020

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Look how far we have come and how modern football formations or even modern football stadiums have changed from the past, some of them unfortunately have ended up abandoned. I am Ajax supporter, my father always reminds me episodes that explain the greatness of Ajax in order not to forget where we come from.

Luckily, I have been able to watch Ajax football games at the stadium with my father and live together good moments for the past 15 years.

Moments, such as: 2018-19 Ajax season, formation of 4-2-3-1, known as the “Tadic-variant”, as used in the successful Champions League campaign where Ajax reached the semi-finals for the first time since 1997 after beating European giants Real Madrid and Juventus. 2001-04 Ajax seasons, the Ajax of a young Zlatan Ibrahimović, or 2007-11 Ajax seasons, the Ajax of Luis Suarez.

However, my father always tells me that the total dutch football comes from the past, our glory, the pure football. He mentions two figures, our legend, Hendrik Johannes Cruijff, and the coach who started it all, Rinus Michels.

The new generations like me, we may forget the achievements that Ajax made in the past. 

In the early 70s, Ajax dominated Europe defeating all of its rivals practicing what was called ‘total football’ raised to the maximum expression. That was the brightest era in Ajax history with the conquest of three consecutive Champions league (1971, 1972, 1973) and six Eredivisie titles. In 1992, Ajax won the UEFA Cup with Dennis Bergkamp in all his glory. In 1995, the fourth Champions League lifted to the raining Vienna sky against Milan, under the command of Louis Van Gaal, and great players, such as: Patrick Kluivert, Jari Litmanen, Clarence Seedorf, Frank Rijkaard, Finidi George and much more.

The great Ajax of the 70s brought the best Netherlands 1974 and 1978, the “Mechanical orange”. Modern football owes much to that wonderful Dutch team that served as an inspiration for future teams.

In fact, the “Mechanical orange” was one of the sensations of the World 1974. Unfortunately, they lost in the final against the almighty Germany of Franz Beckenbauer. In 1978, and without Cruyff as he denied to play for Netherlands due to numerous complaints, Netherlands reached the final again and lost again, this time against the Argentina of Mario Kempes.

Said this, I would like to finish this little introduction with my favourite quote of Hendrik Johannes Cruijff,

“If you have the ball you must make the field as big as possible, and if you don’t have the ball you must make it as small as possible.”

Modern football and what has happened. I have written that short introduction to analyse and find the answers to the following questions: What is the reason why football has changed for the worse? Why has football lost the essence? Is there something positive in this change? Because, in terms of passion, I think it remains as before.

I am only 22 years old, but believe me that I have watched almost all the football World Cup matches from 1974 onwards and almost all the Ajax matches from that time. Besides, the recent deaths of Diego Armando Maradona and Paolo Rossi, football legends, aroused my curiosity to watch their football, how they played, the atmosphere, etc.

The actual football situation, makes me angry because I have been able to watch all the way, observe those changes and compare. Don’t get me wrong, I like the football I have been watching in the last 15 years because I have grown with it. However, I have lost a bit of enthusiasm to watch football in the last years and it hurts to admit. In some occasions, I have even found it boring.

I literally envy to see the football of the past. The freedom of football existed in the fields, at the stadiums, how the fans vibrated, the celebrations, basically the pure essence of football. I am pretty sure that if you watch football games from the 70s on YouTube, you will have the same feeling.

In these last weeks with the covid-19 situation I have taken advantage of it to watch more and more football matches of Maradona or Rossi, as I have said before. It is curious, but I realised that even the modern football boots are very eccentric, I prefer the old black boots.

I don’t know why I am more entertained watching the games of the 70s, 80s, 90s than the current football games. Even though the video quality is not the best.

The national football matches of today disappoint me, there is lack of creativity, a lack of magic.

The physical condition of the footballer is more valuable than his own quality, and that is one of the reasons why football has been equaled and has made it a little more mechanical. The clubs should now be more worried to sign a good physical trainer, nutritionist, physiotherapist than a football player with great quality.

Also the intensity, the tackles, the kicks, the aggressions have decreased. The rivals study each other more and more, they play to defend and wait for the mistake of the opponent instead of attacking.

The footballers of the past were warriors, sometimes watching the matches they scare me. They knew they were going to war and their skills finally made the difference. They weren’t willing to speculate, they came out to play attack no matter what. That is one of the things we miss as football fans. 

I remember the most competitive matches in Europe, the famous ‘Derby‘ matches. A match between teams that are from the same city or the same part of the country. These local games have a special place in the hearts of fans and players.

Nowadays, that atmosphere of a derby is gone, Barcelona-Madrid, Liverpool-Everton, Arsenal-Tottenham, Inter-Milan, even a Turkish or Greek derby, called as the famous Turkish hell or Greek hell, they are now the heaven. The flame of competitiveness has disappeared.

Something was wrong, this situation annoys me and in the last years is being worse. I dare to say that the consequence of this modern football today is due to technology, money, power, social networks and among other things.

If the latest proposals that come from FIFA give the green light, and it seems that it has already been the case, all I can say is that a true monster has been created and now feeds itself with its own star power.

Proposals, such as:

  1. The European and World Cup editions are held in different countries. This is already happening with the European Cup and soon, with the World Cup, after Qatar 2022. This will completely destroy the atmosphere of football, such a terrible thing, they want to make more money by moving fans from one country to another. Absolutely, they don’t care about the fans or football, simply crazy. We need people who want to keep the football of flame alive, like the flame of Let’s Prowess facebook banner, we have to keep that flame big.
  2. They now want to create a ‘Super League’ because modern football is losing interest to the public and foreign investors. They want to play this league on weekends and leave the national leagues on weekdays which would lead to a loss of TV revenue from most football teams making them disappear or making them mediocre, while powerful teams would be even more powerful. Basically, they want more money, more games and leaving national competitions to a second level, no care about solidarity.

The companies which control the broadcasting rights are making the decisions inside the boardrooms of the most powerful football clubs in Europe concern TV companies interests, not fans, and the pull of the crowd has been entirely demolished. Billion-dollar investments are killing the sport before our very eyes.

The mismanagement of big football clubs spending huge amounts of money on football players not very worthy, with all my respects, have led them to bankruptcy. These debts have allowed foreign billionaires to see new business opportunities in European football teams, with the bad that all that entails.

Another detail that I paid attention, the football T-shirts. Before, they didn’t carry propaganda and they were much prettier, retro/vintage style, I like it. Today, all football teams have sold their soul to the devil and this is due to the debts that I have mentioned. They are all carry propaganda of sponsors and many of them are bookmakers, what a way to stain your football T-shirt.

So, billionaire takeovers, superstar wage packets and preferential law treatment… The perfect storm.

Another problem involved is the technology, VAR, is good for cheating players, but not for every detail (hands air or even a single offside). Make the game down, trust on referee even if he is wrong, don’t kill the spark of football.

The players of today are very spoiled thanks to social networks, eventually Instagram is doing the most damage. What a puppies players they are, they should be ashamed of theirselves. What will Vinnie Jones or Roy Keane think of this?

Players seem to be more focused on taking pictures for Instagram than anything else. As a fans, we don’t care about their instagram pictures, we care of playing football and winning. It is look like work-ethic and attitude has been missed, it is my impression. Players are not focused as they should, there is a lack of will.

There are no more heroes like in the past. The modern football has killed them, there is no football player who transmits something to me. I miss Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Henry, Maldini, Baggio, Seedorf, Iniesta, Steven Gerrard, Drogba, Eto’o, Puyol, Robben, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Stefan Effenberg, Inzaghi, etc

But not everything is bad with the modern football, it is also bringing positive things:

  1. Women football is more recognised.
  2. The debts force football teams to give more opportunities to their youth players and not to waste huge amounts of money on foreign players.
  3. The football stadiums are more spectacular and more attendance is available.

To end, I will never forget on October 24, 2012, Ajax defeated Manchester City 3-1 in the Champions League. The Amsterdam Arena held a banner aloft that stated “Against modern football,” and the team their side fielded that day had been accumulated for an estimated £3.5 million. Manchester City, on the other side, was estimated to have cost £185 million.

We can still bring the essence of football back, but big changes need to be done. Thank you and Let’s Prowess.

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