Spain’s victory in Euro 2012 was their 3rd consecutive major football title following wins in the Euro 2008 and World Cup in 2010. This tremendous and unique feat has led some fanalysts to state this Spanish squad to be the greatest football team of all time.
I am always uncomfortable when players or teams in any sport are referred to as the “greatest of all time”. It is so subjective.
Take Spain’s recent football achievements for example compared to the Brazil’s team of the early 1970s. Both successes happened in different eras where the rules of football were not similar. Tackling your opponent from behind or from the side is virtually outlawed these days. Back in the 1960s and 1970s a defender could cut his opponent in half with brutal tackles and not even received a warning much less a yellow card from the referee. Just look back to the tackle on French player Batiston by German goalkeeper Toni Schumacher in the 1982 World Cup semi-final.
Under today’s rules Schumacher would have been charged for attempted murder in today’s football (a slight exaggeration). It must also be remembered that professional players of the 1950s-1970s played with a heavier ball and also applied their skills on pitches that would be classed as unplayable by today’s standards.
How can a young football fan who has watched current football compare the modern team with any of the brilliant teams of the 1930-1970s. There have been brilliant teams during that era such as Real Madrid (1950s-60s), Brazil Ajax and Bayern Munich (1970s) or even AC Milan (1980s). The young person can only rely on statistics and history to develop a comprehensive opinion. But only an opinion.
With the advent of cable, satellite television and the internet current football fans are able to watch every single major match on their screens. Live coverage of every single major professional match was not plausible in the old days and such fans were left to view rare highlights of certain matches or radio commentaries.
You tube has given us the chance to view clips of football from earlier eras. Some view these shorts clips and use them to justify their case as to which is the greatest team. Again a dangerous method to gauge “greatest” in any sport.
Take other sports for example
- In Formula One racing some say Aryton Senna was the greatest whilst others from an earlier vintage will standby that Juan Fangio is still greatest. Others will pluck for Jim Clark. Hard to be absolute given the different types of cars they drove and the differing conditions, cars and risks that they faced.
- In athletics some say Usain Bolt is the greatest male sprinter of all time given his incredible exploits over the past 5 years. But others will say the likes of Bob Hayes, Tommie Smith or Carl Lewis would be more deserving of that accolade.
- Today in flat horse racing Henry Cecil’s Frankel has been said by some modern experts as the greatest horse of all time. But those who witnessed Sea Bird II or Dancing Brave at their peak would agree to disagree. Again hard to justify which is greater given the different quality in race tracks, opposition and training methods that were used then.
- As for boxing most fans and pundits will point out that Muhammad Ali is the greatest in that sport. But others will swear Joe Louis was a much more accomplished boxer while others would place Sugar Ray Robinson above both Louis and Ali.
Who is the greatest in any sport is an excellent topic for debate over a beer or coffee but best to leave it at that. It can generate heated debates and arguments. No doubt we will use a varied criteria to arrive at our own blinded conclusion.
The current Spanish football team can be classed as the greatest team of the current era and we should leave it at that and enjoy the moment. They have certainly changed the way we view football especially in the area of passing and keeping the ball. In the past Spain’s football team were dubbed the perennial under achievers but over the past 6 years they have excelled themselves.
I am sure in the years to come there will be other great football teams that will come along and vie for that unofficial title of “greatest”. Somehow I do not think it will ever be England.