Flair and Tricks In Soccer

FIFA Soccer Emulator:  one who imitates the moves and tricks available on the EA Sports FIFA video game and attempts them in the real sport almost completely out of context with little to no effectiveness or impact. 


Alfredo Di Stefano was an Argentina-born player who won eight Spanish league titles and was voted European player of the year in 1957 and 1959.  He left Real in 1964 at the age of 38, having scored more than 300 goals across 11 seasons. This is before Pele, before Cruyff, and before Maradona. Definitely before Ronaldo and Messi.  

In the video below, you will see a short sample of his skills and goals that include chipping the keeper and a variety of tricky passes. As far back as the late 50's here was a player, considered by many to be the best in the world at the time, who celebrated the fact that soccer is a game of expression. The deception and cunning in something like a back heel pass were a part of his arsenal. 

Before FIFA video games were around, kids would watch live matches or games on TV and see stars like Di Stefano pulling these moves off in real life. Nowadays, there are more kids, especially in America who would rather play FIFA then actually watch a soccer match. As "In the game" as FIFA soccer video games may be, its not the real thing.  What happens is kids see the cool moves pulled off in a video game and then go bust them out in the actual sport.  Unfortunately for them, context is lacking. But what about trickery in general? Is there even a place for it? 


 There seem to be almost two sides to this whole debate- the soccer players and coaches who celebrate flair and the show aspect of soccer, and those who want to keep the game of soccer so simple, efficient, and effective that it leaves little to no room for tricks and flicks. 

We have articles dedicated to playing the way we are facing with quotes such as this one:

"If there’s one thing a soccer player can do to simplify their game and make the game easier, it’s by playing the way you’re facing.

What does this mean? This means when you are under pressure from behind don’t try to turn or play a difficult pass but just play the ball back where it came from – as in the way you are facing. Keep the game simple.

For example, if you are checking back to receive the soccer ball you should play it back to a teammate and not try to turn and beat a defender who’s marking you tightly. But you can do this anywhere on the field."

On the other hand, we have the pure celebration of flair in countries like Africa such as this:


Is there a right or wrong?  Is one style of play more effective than the other?

Germany in the 2014 World Cup was not a tricky or flashy team, but compared to the competition, they were very technical, physical, and incredibly efficient and precise with their play.  It worked and it worked well.  Maybe there is no need for flash? 

But if you watch the video below which has over 18 million views and features some of the fanciest plays and also some of the best and most dangerous players in the world (who clubs  drool over because they not only put fans in the stands but wins on the board) we are left scratching our heads again. 

Growing up as a player who had friends and teammates who loved the flashy part of the game, mostly playing for a few coaches who didn't really appreciate it, and now coaching myself, here is where I stand on the matter:

It can be frustrating when players want to execute tricks at the expense of being effective and playing an easy pass with their teammates who are open in good positions. I clench my teeth when a striker can just go side corner on the ground instead of chipping it over the keeper, or bicycle kick when they could have easily headed the ball. 

Having said that,  players who can make something out of nothing who are unpredictable in their play and who use their special abilities not only to showboat but to impact the game are something I like to have at my disposal when I am coaching. I guess it is all about being able to pull off the imaginative plays in a way that adds to the player's effectiveness versus doing things for nothing. 

As a person I happen to value imagination, creativity, and individuality. Putting a cap on a player's style  feels like I am risking putting an end to the development of a possible genius. Or just development of a self that is not my own. 

And when that chip goes in, or the nutmeg megs, or the bicycle kick even nearly misses,  I cannot help but to smile. After all soccer is a game, and games are meant to be fun.