A new football. A firm, combative and supportive Argentina, but with Messi, he won the Copa América; a bold, energetic and courageous Italy, but with Donnarumma, they won the Eurocup. All to tell us, once again, that soccer is an associative game that produces effective solutions thanks to inspired individuals. The coaches are in charge of consistency and greater or lesser daring; the effectiveness of the idea and unbalancing occurrences are taken care of by the players. Millions of neurons fueled by a culture that begins with the pleasure of playing and continues with training, instructions, games seen and played, sleeping and waking dreams and passionate ambition. It is what we know as individual talent. That capital, less savage and more academic every day, the coaches are putting at the service of a methodical, very professional and somewhat predictable football, but which, far from robbing, tries to enhance the game.
Kiricocho, 1; Big Data, 0. Soccer always liked to move between poles. The last antagonism explains, in its folly, the mystery of an unfathomable game. The penalty shoot-out that defined the Euro was representative of the scientific speculation that football wants to go towards and the superstitious adoration from which it is reluctant to escape. Southgate chose as pitchers the players recommended by the science department of the team that, following the fashion, asks Big Data for mathematical certainties. On the other side, Chiellini preferred to resort to Kiricocho’s cry every time an English player threw. Kiricocho was a legendary jinx at Estudiantes de Bilardo in the sixties. That team, which took advantage of the divine and the human to win, sent Kiricocho to gag his rivals before each game, apparently effectively. What nobody knows is how the legend leaked to unbalance a European Championship.
When technology hits the stick. Technology is falling on soccer in an effort to take over the game. The VAR was just the beginning of a progressive relationship. It will cost you more than in other areas because in the orbit of games, as in art, you can influence, but not decide. But in his relationship with football, he will find the complicity of the coaches, people who need control to be able to sleep peacefully. It is not a matter of underestimating the power and technological possibilities when it comes to providing us with data, but, Kiricocho aside, the penalty shoot-out in the final of the Eurocup made basic questions clear. For example: that algorithms do not know about uncertainties, and that no matter how much data Big Data collects, it will never reach the depths of fear and courage, doubt and certainty, anxiety and calm.
And Messi won. He who does not cry does not suck and he who does not win is not loved. And Messi, at last, won with Argentina. He did it against Brazil, at Maracana and leading a young and exciting team. The funny thing is that a good part of the country expected this triumph as much as Messi himself, who little by little was gaining the admiration of many people for something much more important than the victory: to get up and continue after each blow. He did it with loyalty to the jersey, with soccer pride and even patriotic, resisting humiliation, disrespect and hurtful comparisons. The Copa América made Messi happy and took a country out onto the streets to celebrate not only a triumph, but an act of football justice with a genius who did not tire of fighting. They celebrated, together, those who love the road and those who only love the arrival.