May 14, 2012

Is your country's 'sporting personality' holding you back?

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I am currently reading, and thoroughly enjoying, I am The Secret Footballer; finished the chapter on 'Tactics' recently; and then came across an interview with England and Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere.


The topic of the interview was based around the eligibility rules in international sport and whether residency alone should allow you to qualify for a particular country. Wilshere had some pretty strong views on this, but it was some of his reasoning why that stood out, especially having read the particular chapter in I am The Secret Footballer I mentioned above.

Wilshere, who has a number of talents when it comes to football, appeared to place an unbelievable emphasis on the fact that English players are tacklers and therefore someone who wasn't English couldn't possibly be up to the job of playing for England.

How strange a view is that?

An excerpt from The Secret Footballer's book highlights that the English emphasis on tackling is what foreign footballers find slightly bizarre, and TSF picked out a quote from one of the worlds best midfielders Xabi Alonso of Spain and Real Madrid who previously played for Liverpool....

football tackle

Here is some of what Alonso had to say in the book, "...I don't think tackling is a quality...tackling is a last resort and you will need it, but it isn't a quality to aspire to...". It seems logical that when one of the best midfielders in the world has this view then it should be noted.

As a result of the coincidence of reading the two pieces, I have been thinking a fair bit about this, and it occurred to me that you only need to be really good at tackling if you are going to give the ball away a lot, which is clearly not a recipe for success, and maybe something England should look into : ).

It then occurred to me that this attitude must be fairly well ingrained in English football, especially if you consider the style of football that Wilshere plays for Arsenal under French manager Arsene Wenger.

So Jack Wilshere plays for England, but most of his football is playing in a culture that is controlled by a foreign manager. Therefore is the personality of the country of Wilshere's birth the deciding factor on his attitude to play? And, does this transfer to other country's and their 'sporting personalities'?

Scott Johnson, Scotland's current rugby coach, recently highlighted in a newspaper article that Scotland should not be judged on passion alone, but on the fact that their skills are getting better and making progress. He then went on to identify that it is actually insulting to other countries to suggest that Scotland are any more passionate than other people representing their country.

So, what do you reckon, is your country's 'sporting personality' holding you back?