Maturana’s the manRegular readers of Albion News – and if you’re not, this is your last warning, we know where you live – will have doubtless seen the recent interview with Jonathan Wilson, founder of The Blizzard, the in depth quarterly publication that gathers together some of the best football feature writing you could hope to set your eyes upon, outside of said Albion News, obv.
Grazing on their latest issue, it opens with a lengthy interview piece with Francisco Maturana, a quite extraordinary man as both footballer and, perhaps even more so, as a coach, having led the Colombian national team on four separate occasions with all of the myriad issues that such a post carries with it, encompassing amazing players and the relationship to the drug trade and the way that has disfigured their football.
It’s a great read and one I recommend, rich with all kind of fascinating detail. Yet it was an almost throwaway answer to one question that really struck a chord. So here it is:
“At Italia ‘90, you got out of the groups for the first time in Colombia’s history after Freddy Rincon scored a last-minute goal to draw against West Germany. Was that the happiest day of your life?”
“My happiness has nothing to do with football. My happiness comes from my friends, my family and my children. Football is just an excuse to talk, laugh and cry”.
Now if that sense of perspective doesn’t make Maturana quite possibly the most important man in football today and the bloke who really should be running FIFA, then you go and find me somebody better qualified.
Because I’ll wager the few remaining braincells I’ve got left that haven’t been bludgeoned into submission by the numbing, aching, all encompassing bloody seriousness that is destroying what is, after all, just a game, that you can’t.
Maturana’s words are like a slap in the face with a wet fish, a proper wake up call that something, somewhere, is going very wrong with our game, both on its inside and out there in the stands where the rest of us are.
Because it really shouldn’t be this important should it? It shouldn’t be the cause for fans fighting with one another – even with those who are on the same side. It shouldn’t be the reason for cyberspace being gummed up with incoherent rage whenever a bag of air is being kicked about. It shouldn’t be the topic that apparently fills every waking second of the day. It shouldn’t be a game where the importance of the winning has blotted out the simple, visceral enjoyment of it.
Hell’s teeth, we’ve even reached a point where a Pope can say, “Amongst all unimportant things, football is by far the most important”. That was John Paul II by the way, and, after reading that, I have to say I much preferred his work when he was still with George and Ringo.
Football is only a game. We’re not curing cancer, more’s the pity, this is what we do to enjoy ourselves in our free time. It isn’t the FTSE-100, it’s the Premier League, the game that is there to help us escape our daily oppression of having to earn a crust.
More than anything, as Maturana rightly says, football shouldn’t have anything to do with personal happiness, certainly not of itself. But it is there to create universal moments that matter by bringing us all together to talk, laugh and cry. That’s what makes this the beautiful game, not Sky’s transfer totaliser.
And the sooner this game relearns that universal truth, the better it will be for all of us. Otherwise, pretty soon, the ever increasing pressure is going to cause it to burst.
Maturana for FIFA. Let’s get behind it…