Time to appreciate the Kolarovs of soccer

Let’s talk about Aleksandar Kolarov. Not enough people talk about Aleksandar Kolarov, which is a shame, because he’s a fascinating individual with many varied interests, including botany and Agatha Christie novels.

(Sky Sport)

(Sky Sport)

How would you describe Kolarov? Would you suggest that he is a fine footballer, owner of 43 caps for Serbia, possessor of a fierce left foot, adept at swinging in viciously dipping crosses and capable of scoring wonderful goals from set pieces? Or would you see him as one-paced, occasionally a little work-shy and prone to lapses in concentration?

As a personal view, it’s a little from column A, a little from column B. Kolarov is not perfect. He is not as quick as Marcelo or as consistent as Ashley Cole or as threatening as Jordi Alba. But he is not without his merits. He’s a seven out of 10. He may not have been worth 19 million pounds, but he is certainly not terrible. You do not have his CV without at least considerable ability.

Kolarov is a good footballer. The problem is that we have lost that classification. The game in the 21st century contains no room for shades of grey. Good, decent, solid, OK: These adjectives no longer apply. There is black, and there is white. There is acceptable, and there is not. There is perfect, and there is awful. Anyone who is deemed not to make the grade is subject to the catcalls and the jeers and the demands that he be sold, ostracised, cast out into the wilderness, naked and alone.

Getty

Getty

Kolarov, of course, is not the only victim. There are countless others. Theo Walcott, Antonio Valencia, Lucas Leiva, Ramires, dozens, hundreds more, from the rarefied air of the elite to the scrap at the bottom of the Premier League and beyond. All fine players, all with a host of positive attributes, all condemned — in some quarters — because they have the nerve not to be flawless, all taunted as soon as they put a foot out of place, the error seized upon as proof of their incompetence.

Gone is the idea that while your left-back might only be decent, perhaps that is cause for celebration — “we’ve got a decent left-back, that’s not a problem” — so much as a reason for concern — “Kolarov’s decent, but at the top level, he’ll get found out.” Decent, OK, all those words have become the insults they were never intended to be.

There are a multitude of reasons for this.

One, of course, is the accumulation and concentration of talent at the very top of the game. Teams can no longer afford a seven-out-of-10 player if they wish to win the title, or compete with the very best in Europe (although if you look at Bayern Munich or Barcelona, they have a smattering of players who are no more than decent, too: Daniel van Buyten plays for the former, after all).

Another — and this is something touched on here before — is that football seems to matter so much more now. Declining newspaper circulations and the desire to ramp up television and radio audiences has introduced a hysterical note to football coverage…

…That has cost football its sentiment — consider how Manchester United fans have expressed their desire to see Patrice Evra dropped, despite almost a decade of fine service; is he not entitled to play as he enters the autumn of his career, for all that he has done? Do the club, and the fans, not owe him that thank-you, that support? It has cost its patience and perspective, too

Perhaps the most important factor, though, is the globalisation of the sport in the past two decades….That has changed now, of course. Fans can watch the very best in the world every week; they can see them play their side once a year. They can look at Barcelona and Bayern and know that is what football is supposed to look like, and they can then see quite how far from that standard their team is.

…That breeds dissatisfaction. It breeds contempt. It turns decent and good into insults; it highlights everything that is wrong and casts a shadow over all that is right. It makes Kolarov, and all the others, criticised for what they cannot do, rather than celebrated for what they can. And it robs a little of the innocence of the game, makes it less of a sport and more of a demand for entertainment. It is an expression of a desire to see machines, not people. Part of the joy of sport is seeing your fellow man exceed his limits. It removes all of that. It costs football its humanity.

Source: ESPN 

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