Even the greatest players of all times rely on their teammates to make soccer beautiful. The saying “There is no ‘I’ in ‘TEAM’” is perfectly exemplified in a game of soccer.
Sure, there are very exciting plays in history accomplished by individual players. Many people will remember George Weah for the astonishing goal he scored for Milan in 1996, where he ran the full length of the field, evading three defenders with amazing skill, before scoring one of the most thrilling goals in history. A play like this is exhilarating and awe-inspiring, there is no doubt. But it is certainly the exception and not the rule.
Scoring a goal, especially a beautiful one, usually requires a team effort.
The goal scored by Carlos Alberto in the final match against Italy in the 1970 World Cup is the perfect example of this. This Brazilian team was one of the greatest in the history of the beautiful game, therefore, it is very fitting that they scored one of the greatest team goals ever scored in the history of the game. The excitement that a goal like this conveys is simply undeniable, as described by some players that took part in this team effort. The fact that it took such teamwork is what made this goal so beautiful.
What does it take to create this type of teamwork?
In sports that require a high level of interdependence between players – soccer certainly being one of them - it unquestionably goes beyond skill. In fact, having too much talent can be detrimental for a team, as it may diminish their ability to work together. This is called the “too-much-talent effect.” Yes, it even has a name. Talent is necessary for team success but only up to a point. Once a team reaches a positive level of talent and skill, then the key to success is creating a team with solid foundations.
What does it take to have a team with solid foundations?
Well, it goes back to teamwork. A team with high interdependence between the players is a winning team. This is where things that are less palpable than talent and skill come in. Things such as trust, respect, sportsmanship and camaraderie. These are crucial to make winning teams, and so incredibly vital to make soccer beautiful.
What is more, being a good sportsman goes beyond being a good team member.
Sometimes, we have the pleasure of witnessing strong players that act with sportsmanship and camaraderie with the opponent team, and that is spectacular to watch.
When Oliver Kahn stopped a penalty in the 2001 Champions League final, bringing victory to his team, he chose to console distressed counterpart Santiago Cañizares, instead of celebrating with his team. This was heart-warming.
Sometimes an entire team acts with sportsmanship and fair play with the rivaling team. In 2005, Belgian player Jan Vertonghen scored an accidental goal for Jong Ajax, when he wanted to give the ball back to the opposition goalkeeper after a restart. The entire Ajax team allowed the opposing team to score a goal without attempting to defend, in order to level the score and bring fairness back to the game. Can it get more beautiful than this?
These acts of sportsmanship elevate the game to the highest level of beauty.
Teamwork and Sportsmanship are certainly some of the many qualities that make soccer The Beautiful Game.
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