Author Topic: Fabio Cannavaro: defending the glory of football  (Read 1853 times)

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Offline Nohani

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Fabio Cannavaro: defending the glory of football
« on: December 19, 2006, 11:50:22 PM »
Fifa's newly-crowned World Player of the Year is a back-four legend. Critics of his award should remember that strikers are not the only players with creativity and talent.

Fabio Cannavaro is the first ever defender to win FIFA's World Player of the Year award. Last week he won the same accolade from World Soccer magazine, and his amazing hat-trick was completed with the prestigious 'Golden Ball' – L'Equipe's equivalent of European Footballer of the Year.

All three institutions and panels have reached the right result - Cannavaro is a worthy winner. Actually, if there was justice, he should have also picked up the 2006 World Cup footballer award. The fact that this prize has gone to Zinedine Zidane after he head-butted Marco Materazzi and was sent off in the final, is a joke.

Cannavaro deserves the praises and prizes because he has been the most significant footballer in Italy's and Juventus' (before they were stripped off it) titles this year. He was the leading light in the surrounding darkness.

Italy's triumph began and ended in defence. Fabio Cappello's Real Madrid may put emphasis on creating out of defence, but even the breathtaking Barcelona could not have won the Champions League without a solid back four.
You can despise it, you may defy it, you can complain about it, but you cannot manage without it.

Football fans who look for sheer pleasure, can not only find it in Ronaldinho's acrobatics, Wayne Rooney's computerised touch, or Thierry Henry's ballet movements. Perfection is to be found in the first part of the field, in a goalkeeper's stunning saves and defenders' acts of competence and heroism. Cannavaro's artistry is no less conquering than that of providers or scorers. The way this centre-back fulfills his duties is often more inspiring than a goal or overhead kick.

The 2006 World Cup was very poor. Almost every team could have won it. Less-than-mediocre France almost did. Pathetic England were a penalty shoot-out away from the semi-final. The main reason that Italy came out victorious was its defence which had much more influence on the outcome of the Azzuri's matches than the contributions of midfielders and strikers.

Cannavaro and Gianluigi Buffon were the key players in that defence. But I assume even Buffon himself, perhaps the best goalkeeper in the world, will admit his workload was negligible during the seven matches, especially when compared with Cannavaro's assignments. Moreover, Cannavaro's efficiency has contributed dramatically to Buffon's light load.

Arsene Wenger, Arsenal's manager, and Lyon coach Gerard Houllier have criticized Cannavaro's win. They are wrong, but their complaint is at least understandable. They talk out of patriotic frustration. They speak on behalf of the neglected Henry.

Nothing, though, can explain the venom of Johan Cruyff's tirade against Cannavaro and his voters. Cruyff is renowned for his public crucifying of sacred cows, but in this instance his has simply lost the plot. "Cannavaro is a player whose duties and functions are only to stop other footballers, stop the game and spoil football," claimed the Dutch ex-manager and superstar.

This is ridiculous. This line of thinking would lead Cruyff to award basketball's Player of the Year to a player from the Harlem Globetrotters. The Dutchman has even missed the antagonism of his theory; for if football were only a show, Cruyff would have never reached the heights he deservedly climbed – including three European Golden Balls. Similarly, if football wwas about pragmatic defence and fantastic defenders, a la Franco Baresi, Bobby Morre and Cannavaro – Cruyff and Diego Maradona would not have had a proper stage on which to showcase their immense talent.