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The football of yesteryear that must never return

A few days ago a football documentary called Spain Before Tiki-Taka was screened in Vitoria, before being premiered in Spain on Movistar. The film explores, albeit partially, the difference between Spanish football three or four decades ago and Spanish football today. I say partially because it’s a monograph centred on those wild days, but the focus is interesting because it’s the biggest difference between now and then. Another contrast is the state of the pitches. Luckily today we see green carpets almost everywhere and gone are the days of mud-baths through excessive use and mean-spirited over-watering or the rock-hard surfaces through equally mean-spirited under-watering. Tricky surfaces for gifted players to play on. 

Crunching tackles    

Worse still, though, was the savageness permitted, fuelled by a close-knit macho fraternity with a “what happens on the pitch, stays on the pitch” mentality. I would recommend the report to any fan today. People of my age and older won’t learn anything knew: we remember those rough and tumble days, when a centre-back took out an opposition forward and the fans would clap and jump for joy. There were no exceptions. Those tackles seen on a screen today seem unimaginable, but back then it was so commonplace that the likes of Amancio, Gárate, Rexach, López Ufarte and just had to deal with it.

Appreciating what we have

This is the football of yesteryear, where it should remain. A whole generation of referees crumpled and wilted under this approach to the game and we all know that when the cat’s away, the mice will play. And now Canal + has come along to remedy the situation – those kicks from seven different angles could never survive, and nor could the referees who allowed them under their watch. Some of those vicious players defend their antics in the documentary, with surly sincerity, in a world where they prospered. They did their thing and it was what they knew, what their trainers asked of them and what the referees permitted. Luckily this doesn’t happen anymore. Nowadays we are blessed with better football, although it doesn’t hurt to look back at those bygone days to appreciate what we have even more.