Friday, 29 June, 2012 | 01:44 WIB
For the Team
TEMPO Interactive, Jakarta:At the La Masia academy, an 8-year-old boy was playing a strange game of soccer. Unlike his friends, he had no dreams of scoring goals. The boy only passed the ball and allowed his teammates to score. The coaches at the soccer school belonging to soccer club giant Barcelona noticed the boy choose to stay with the goalkeeper instead of trying to score a goal.
Joaquim Hernandez, who received a report from the coach about his son, asked his son about his game. The boy answered, “If I move forward, there will be no one defending the goalkeeper at the back.” The boy said that his friend should not be left alone and others should not be running around without passing the ball. “He thinks about other people every time he plays,” said Joaquim.
The ‘strange’ boy who believes that ‘soccer is not a one-man show’ then became Spain’s key to winning the European championship four years ago and the World Cup in 2010. He is preparing to take La Furia Roja to a historical win if the team wins three championships in a row. The boy, now 32 years old, is known for his accurate passing – the Spanish football federation have dubbed him the ‘King of Passing’.
The boy, Xavi Hernandez, has been reaping praise. Soccer legend Johan Cruyff called him ‘the fastest thinker’. Like a metronome or a brain, according to Der Spiegel, Xavi can trigger in an instant and a complex chain reaction against his opponents occurs like a seemingly simple move. Dani Alves, his teammate in Barcelona, said it is like Xavi can foresee the direction of the ball before anyone else can see it.
Naturally, strikers like Fernando Torres, David Villa and even Lionel Messi are spoiled by Xavi’s passes. Torres, for instance, scored an important single goal at the Euro Cup finals four years ago because of Xavi’s breakthrough passing. In this year’s Euro Cup, Xavi is still at the top of the rank of the most accurate midfielder followed by Xabi Alonso, Andrea Pirlo and Bastian Schweinsteiger. During a 359-minute game, Xavi passed 423 times, 88 percent or 371 times he was accurate.
The key to Xavi and the Spanish football team’s success is to pass the ball as quickly as they can. A soccer player, according to Xavi, is no more than a team player. As a member of a team, he must acknowledge other teammates who are involved in the game; he must share. Individual skills are important but in order for the skill to materialize, a player needs the help of other players. A goal is created through clever passing of the ball.
In the team where Xavi plays, the distribution of the ball is the main focus. The constant distribution of ball is called the ‘half touch’ where the ball can only spend one to three seconds with each player. The remaining time is left to other teammates. Ego is not allowed take away from the beauty of soccer. “You must conquer your ego when you enter the green field,” Xavi added.
The Dutch and French team’s failure at the Euro Cup showed what happens when there is no teamwork in soccer. The two countries are gifted with a line of talented players but they had a hard time uniting, let alone striking. Arjen Robben, who played selfishly when he played for Bayern Muenchen in the Champions’ finals, for example, said that before leaving for the Euro Cup that strikers must sometimes be egoistical in the field. When his team was defeated, Robben said, “There was too much ego among our teammates.”
It was also ego that almost tore the French team apart when they were defeated by Sweden in the group qualifying rounds. In the changing room, some players blamed midfielder Samir Nasri whom they thought had played egoistically. On the other hand, Nasri complained about the lack of support from the team’s defenders. Midfielder Ben Arfa also had an argument with coach Laurent Blanc. In the locker room, midfielder Florent Malouda saw what he put in his words as, “I see the devil awaken. In the heat of the moment, rockets and missiles are set to launch.”
We certainly do not wish for soccer—once invented as a rite for celebration—to become a source of disunity. Mere ego can trigger anger and soccer can turn into a disaster.
Little Xavi taught us there are not only “I” and “the ball” on the field but there are also “others”. Such understanding among individuals is the beginning of a good collective game in soccer. “Soccer is about working had in a team; luck will follow,” said Xavi, quoting Aragones, the former Spanish coach who was his favorite.
Yos Rizal Suriaji, TEMPO reporter