Football fans seek more on-field entertainment

The Vuvuzelas are buzzing in the terraces of the South African football stadia and in the homes of millions of football lovers through radio and TV sets. Yet, by all accounts, they are the only things buzzing at the FIFA World Cup. Big-ticket teams like Brazil, Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands, England, Argentina and France have all been bound by a desire to showcase discipline and organization, leading to matches that are bordering on the dull rather than entertaining.

Quite curiously, Germany, regarded highly for its method play, dished out entertainment even while pursuing the objectives of discipline and flair during its 4-0 verdict over Australia. Even it stemmed from Germany’s confidence that Australia would not hassle it, there is hope that not all teams will take the boring route that spells just discipline and organisation. And I speak purely as a football fan who does not understand the circumspection that dominates the TV screen.

Moments that cause an adrenalin rush have been few and far between – Lukas Podolski’s left-footer and Miroslav Klose’s header became Germany’s first two goals as well as Ji Yun Sam’s strike for North Korea against Brazil will all stay etched in the minds for some time as will the number of times Argentina’s Lionel Messi was denied by Vincent Enyeama under the Nigerian bar and the fact that Portugal skipper Cristiano Ronaldo hit the woodwork against Ivory Coast. But these were sporadic and left us hungering for more.

Of course, it is early days yet in the World Cup but, based on the first few contests, it would appear as if we must gear ourselves up to see teams religiously embrace these two qualities, discipline and organisation ahead of flair and creativity. We must prepare ourselves for lacklustre football as most coaches are guarded – some would say understandably – and are happy if their teams share points.

At the risk of being told to the contrary, I would like to stick my neck out and say that most matches remind of skirmishes between two Grand Masters on the chess board with neither wanting to give anything away and both waiting for the other to make a positional mistake. It can get very engrossing for those who understand the nuances of such play but most fans can find that quite boring.

Clearly, no team wants to come under pressure by dropping points in its opening game, simply because it has been adventurous. The amount of circumspection is directly proportional to the coaches’ perceptions about the rival team’s ability to cause some embarrassment. The fear of losing has come through strongly and is evidenced also by the fact that after scoring the first goal, teams seem to shed collective nerves that drag them towards becoming ordinary.

I believe that fans seek entertainment. To be sure, the buzzing swarms of bees – thousands of Vuvuzelas, actually – are holding more attention right now than the action on field. Hopefully, the second round of matches will see the tempo rise to the level of a World Cup. And superstars like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo will find that they are not being denied by either woodwork or goalkeepers.