2 DECEMBER 1955, Page 24

Soccer Crisis


MANY people, forces and ideas have crossed the English Char but British eyes have been wilfully closed to a number of th

Notably, the majority of those concerned with major foot refused to recognise its outward spread until it made the re journey, from Hungary, in conquering force.

That event, which Mr. Meisl calls 'Soccer Revolution' and Mr' Glanville 'Soccer Nemesis,' produced an immediate effect upon the British footballing community. Hitherto the rise of overseas football had been recognised by a few experts, and explicitly pointed by the FA—in 1936—but the average football-follower was not impressed. He was impressed by the Hungarians: less by the quality of their football, we may acidly surmise, than by the fact that they beat England in England; but, at last and at least, he was prepared to admit that perhaps 'foreigners' could play football. Had it not been so, it is doubtful if any publisher' recognising the parochial quality of British sporting interest' would have ventured upon the publication of Soccer Revoluliag or Soccer Nemesis. These two books, in their different ways, trace the outward growth of football from the original British masters of the game to countries, 'particularly in Europe and South America, where it became almost a public culture. Meanwhile' as these authors demonstrate, England, continuing to regard lhe game as one of local rivalries, in which a match between Brad for and Bradford City was more important than Uruguay versus Brazil, allowed technical and tactical standards to decline. Inc rest of the footballing world did not, so that a full half-dozen countries of the world would, at the moment, be ranked above any British representative team, and almost as many more me, hope to win a match against any eleven from the 'home countries' Mr. Meisl, who kept goal for Austria, and whose brother, Huhn' was largely responsible for the growth of Austrian football to is present elegant eminence, is a major football reporter. He is welcome and even important critic of the British game in illat, for him, national frontiers are not barriers to football, but mere the territorial limits of national selectors in world competition' He brings to his football writing enthusiasm, something Oar veneration, and an informed mind which relates the game geographical geographical spread to its technical history and developole° His aim—and his book seeks to further it—is the world-wide spread of fine football; and he is desperately anxious that Britain should be part of that pattern. Sadly he describes lack of imagillr tion as 'the British deficiency.' In analysis, he argues, 'To destroy is far easier than to°Iv struct. Therefore attack must be far superior to defence to an c' ceed. Even soccer genius must perpetually vary its methods reap the fruits of its ingenuity and effort.' By way of 'Years ag° we discovered in athletics that the great specialist normally makes a great all-rounder,' he proceeds to his fine, and not impossible' hope for the future of football. `A full-back, seeing an opeon15 in front of him, must seize his chance without hesitation. A wins' half or winger will fall back if necessary, and being an all-rounder' will not feel uncomfortable or out of place. The consciousaes5 that he is also a capable forward will give the back's thrust weigh and impetus. The knowledge that whoever has taken over fl him [behind his back] will make a good job of it should the occasion arise will enable him to carry on with his action ['lid] without undue hurry or nervousness.' Within a single book it Meisl lays before the British reader the too-long-delayed, exPev pointer to the mastery and common sense of football. Mr. Glanville is a young but leading member of the 014


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school of English sporting journalists who recognise in their writings that football is now a world sport, of which Britain is only by courtesy of the game's greatest exponent countries still regarded as the hub. He traces the passing of footballing eminence from Britain to Italy, Austria and Hungary, documenting his own disappointed realisation that what his interest in the game made patent to him was scoffed at in Britain. He traces, too, the stories of the English footballers who, disregarded in their own country, coached the teams which were to master their own national side. His intelligent analysis is never more pointed than in this passage : 'The end of the Second World War left Britain with an excellent England team and a structure of professional football which, if it had been inadequate before the war, was now in ruins. The situation was the more complicated by a superficial appearance of well-being, at least at international level' These two books should be read by everyone with an interest in Association Football. They are excellently documented, expert and wise. Perhaps the saddest thought about them is that they will be shrugged aside, unread, by the man who most needs to read them, the man most to blame for the story they have to tell, who, on a Saturday afternoon, stands on the terraces—or sits in the grandstand—and shouts, 'Get rid of it!' It is that man, recog- nised by both Mr. Meisl and Mr. Glanville, who first struck at the roots of footballing skill in Britain, and who still does his best to stifle any fresh growth comparable with that of countries beyond the particular English Channel of his own footballing thought.