This isn’t Fulham related at all, but I thought it would be interesting to bring an excellent article to you. Words can’t express how big a fan I am of Tim Vickery. He’s an expert on South American football and provides all the colour and fascination on a part of the world whose game we hardly see on this side of the world. Vickery is a regular on the BBC’s World Football Phone-In – an excellent programme I’d recommend that readers check out – and has his own blog on the BBC Sport website.
In his latest blog post, Vickery tackles a constant bugbear of mine: the misapplication of statistics and the love of lists that sports editors seem to have. Stastics are all well and good but they can’t replace the cold, hard fgacts about a game that you’ve seen with your own eyes. Whenever I read about the pass completion rate of players, it’s impossible not to wonder about the presence of what I call the ‘completion syndrome,’ which Vickery also identifies. What is an accurate pass? A ball can get to his target but be lost by the player who receives it because it’s struck too hard or plays them into trouble. By the same token, a marvellous bit of vision is often categorised as ‘incomplete’ simply because a team-mate has either not seen it or been too lazy to reach the ball.
Football rankings are perhaps the biggest waste of time, though. Anyone who’s been a regular reader of my sports writing over the years will not need reminding of the scorn I have deep in my hard for the ridiculous FIFA rankings, which exist for no more discernible reason than to try and do something that’s impossible – tell us at any given time who the best team in the world is. That’s what we have World Cups for. They are glorious in their unpredictability and come around every four years. That’s the beauty of it. No side can face the best teams in the world within a one or two-year circle (even every four years is stretching it) so the battle for that Jules Rimet trophy is the place where we decide which team is the best on the planet.
Until I read the Vickery piece, I wasn’t aware of the IFFHS stats. How do you rank the strength of individual leagues? It’s surely as subjective as what you and your mates think is the best pint out there. Plus, the list itself doesn’t make sense. The Argentinian league over the Spanish league? Give me a break. Vickery nails it brilliantly:
I think the biggest dent is in the brains of those responsible for such nonsense. Both countries have been placed too high [he’s talking about Brazil and Argentina here in response to a leading question from a correspondent] – almost all their top players in their prime are in Europe, leaving the domestic game with youngsters on the way up, veterans on the way down and journeymen in between.
Read the rest. It’s well worth it.