George Dearnaly

There's no 'I' in 'team'

2007-12-20 13:02

George Dearnaley

There are a lot of expert criticisms of local football - lack of technique, lack of football intelligence, and lack of the basics - but it is definitely a very physical league, with matches often played in very difficult conditions (heat, hard fields etc).

I've stood close enough on the touchline in recent seasons to realise that the game is a lot quicker from when I last played only six seasons ago.

The players today are better athletes: quicker, stronger and in better condition, but because the game is played at such pace, there are a lot more mistakes.

But one thing that really stands out, and I only thought about this recently, is that we have a lot of 'selfish' players.

Impress somebody

By 'selfish' I mean players who put themselves first and their teammates second. I often get the impression that the average player in the PSL is there to impress somebody. He's not there to do whatever it takes for his team to win. You can see evidence of this in some of the passes that are dished out. It shows that the player passing the ball doesn't care if he sets his teammate up to be tackled or kicked into the stands.

I thought about this when I watched the recent Ajax v Sundowns match at the Athlone stadium in Cape Town.

I noticed that the Ajax midfielders made more 'recovery' runs than their Sundowns counterparts. This means that they tracked back more often, chasing down attacking players and helping out their defence.

There were times when an Ajax wide midfielder, an attacking player, would get back and make a tackle in the last third of the field. But the Sundowns attacking midfielders almost seemed to suggest that when Ajax had the ball it was up to their defence to do their job.


There wasn't a lot of help from these players. And from the remonstrations on the Sundowns bench, it wasn't a tactical plan to catch Ajax on the break, it was pure laziness.

I then watched a lot of local football on TV over the past few weeks to see if there was a trend of players not doing that little bit extra for their teammates, and it shocked me to see how few players actually do what is best for their mates.

It even comes down to where they pass the ball. A striker wants the ball played to his feet or into an attacking space so he can get in behind the defenders, but what I see is a lot of 50/50 passes that make it difficult for strikers.

When the fans start shouting for substitutions, it isn't for the guy playing the poor passes; it's for the striker who hasn't had a shot on goal. In my opinion this is selfish.

Get results

It also got me thinking that the player who does his little trick, and showboats for the crowd and then gives a bad pass to a teammate, is not actually there for the team. He is there for himself.

I once punched one of my own teammates during a league match because I thought he was playing for himself and the crowd, and in my opinion you play for your teammates first - that will get you the results.

It means making extra runs, it means sometimes having to do things that are not your job, tackling players that are not your responsibility and putting your body on the line, but ultimately about doing what it takes for the team to be successful.

When it comes to passing, a good team player thinks about what his teammate wants and then tries his best to deliver that pass. I think this is something that can be improved with better development projects and better football intelligence. Ultimately it will make our game better and our players better.

Sing when you're winning

The recent Liverpool v Manchester United match was a tense affair. Not the best match you'll ever see either with both teams doing their utmost to stifle the other. Both teams were so scared of losing to their bitter rivals that the game itself was never allowed to open up. Great result though!

Arsenal v Chelsea was a much better match. I thought the Arsenal youngsters would start to feel the pressure heading into December with matches fast and furious, but they have done extremely well to stay in front - although there is a lot of football between now and May.

Kaka is not 'kaka'

I think Kaka thoroughly deserves his World Footballer of the Year award. He has been a revelation at AC Milan. His contribution in midfield has been immense and his link up play with his attackers is superb. The sign of a great player is the amount of space they find for themselves when they get the ball and the amount of time they seem to have on it. Zidane was a master at this, and Kaka is almost right there with the great man.

  • George is the associate publisher of Kick Off magazine and represented South Africa during the 1994 World Cup qualifiers.

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