World Football: The Dark Side Of The Beautiful Game

illya mclellanSenior Analyst IAugust 20, 2008

The beautiful game, we have all heard the words before, to play beautiful football or as the Brazilians would say "Jogar Bonito" (play beautifully).

Famously coined by the Brazilian midfield extraordinaire, Didi, it has become unmistakeably synonymous with football in that even those who have no regard for the game know what is being spoken of when they hear the famous phrase.

This magic game, this modern day tribal war we call football, is cheapened by its description as a game for the simple reason that it is often stated, by many, that it is more than a game, it is life itself.

To quote the great Bill Shankly, "Someone said, "football is more important than life and death to you" and I said "Listen, it's more important than that." (

It is this passion, this vigorous and energetic love for the game that actually gives light to the darker side of the game and the bizarre intensity that football can provoke amongst players and supporters alike.

I am sure we are all sick of hearing about hooliganism and its protagonists as they to me are not representative of football in that their behaviour is based on a destructive mentality that has little to do with something we refer to as, "the beautiful game."

Today I am talking about the players themselves and the moments in which the "red mist" descends and they demonstrate the darker side of their on-pitch persona's.

All of us marvel and are amazed by the gifts that some players possess as they take football into the realm of art. On occasion left dumbstruck by moments of footballing excellence that transcend the sport itself.

The power of these moments is so magical it can create dreams in the heads of children that are realised decades later, when they to stride into the arena with greatness etched into their minds. 

It is passion that creates the opportunity for such things to take place and passion as we know is an almost uncontrollable emotion. We only need to look back to the last World Cup and see the madness of the French master Zidane in the final to see an example of the flip side of genius.

The same player who gave us the unforgettable volley we saw in the 2002 champions League final. The same player who scored not just one but two wonderful headers in the World Cup Final 1998 that are now part of French folklore.

The humanity of the man was plain to see in those few seconds of madness as we saw one of the heroes of the world game let his dark side rule his mind.

But in terms of madness this moment was tame, when compared to some of the things we have seen and I am sure will see on the hallowed turf of the worlds sporting arenas.

Over the years we have seen fouls and acts of such ferocity they are almost for a moment demonic in their intent and disastrous in their outcome.

Didi, the very man who coined the phrase "the beautiful game" took part in one of its more violent chapters in the 1954 World Cup at the infamous "Battle of Berne."

A game that was so passionately fought, the fighting that marred the game led to a brawl after the match when there was a Brazilian player hit with a bottle and the enraged Brazilian team stormed the Hungarian dressing room.

Such an historic example is key in the idea of the dark side of football and the moments of madness that happen often enough to have become part of the game.

Who among fans in the world of football have not seen the dark side of the beautiful game? Moments where passion rules and logic fails, when burning blood and anger prevail. From continent to continent it is the same, when tempers are tested players are often found frail.

It is in this though that we see, these superstars are human after all, they are not the gods some claim them to be. The moment that a player gives in to the demons is the moment we see his human face.

Though it is through the dark side of their character that we see ourselves, it is in this parallel that we can begin to draw a comparison which makes us realise we at some moment possess the magic within us that these players sometimes demonstrate.

So it is here that we find the dark side of the beautiful game has a silver lining and that silver lining is a part of us all.