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Pluhár, 1938: Comments on football of each nation
Author: Isaque Argolo | Creation Date: 2022-07-25 18:13:45
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THE NATIONAL SPECIFICITIES OF FOOTBALL
István Pluhár | 17/04/1938
Football is played according to the same rules all over the world, yet there are many interesting differences between the games played by the sons of different nations. These differences are characteristic of each nation. To a large extent, the differences in temperament, national characteristics, physical and mental endowments, are the hallmarks of the football of each nation. Differences in the interpretation of the rules of the game, in the quality of the sportsmanship, can also be seen and found in the different nations, and these circumstances may also contribute to the fact that we can speak of national characteristics in football.
Although the whole world follows English football, no nation has been able to learn its characteristics perfectly. The English national team, on English soil, has never been defeated. It is not this fact, however, that shows the unshakable nature of its position, but the profound footballing culture which is a feature of English football as a whole, and which is expressed in its organisation, spirit and approach to the game. These conditions have not been matched by any other football of any other nation, just as no footballing nation can play football with the true English character. The basis of English football today is still the combination of physical strength and the good qualities of a trained body. Nowhere else in the world is the masculinity of football more prominent than in England. Nowhere else do we see the perfect breeding, the perfect training, the real breeding that we see in England. The English game, though the style and system of play has changed, is still characterised by speed, strength, agility and endurance. It is only natural that a true English player's ball-handling skills are honed to perfection and that tactical skill and adaptability to the moment can be found in every player. English football has not lost itself in the beauty of the game, but keeps its purpose in view at all times. It wants to win and the only way to win is to score goals. So it strives to score goals, but it also pays full attention to defending to prevent the opposition from being effective. Toughness and determination are the hallmarks of English football, and to achieve these goals, the player must be perfectly prepared but also completely selfless. The English game is always based on the latest and most purposeful system, but each player also has his own individuality.
The disciples of English football
The nations that are the most direct disciples of English football differ from the master in particular in that they cannot break down the unity of the team game into the play of parts or individuals as naturally as the English do. The Danes, the Swedes, the Germans, the Norwegians, and the Germans, who are largely of this country, have never been able to reach this height of Englishmanship. Danish football was, as sporting history shows, at one time the most worthy rival of English. England beat Denmark in the final of the Stockholm Olympics. However, the Danish game is much slower and less powerful, because the training, physical fitness and physical conditioning of Danish footballers are not up to the English. There is a certain social balance in the Swedish national team's play. Not only in football, but also in other fighting games, each player in the Swedish team does his best to do his job, but does not go beyond what his position requires. He is completely subordinate to his team's goals, but has little individual initiative or enterprise. Such qualities can be seen in the play of the Dutch and, to a large extent, the Belgians. And to a certain extent, German football also belongs to this group.
German football has not shown a unified image until now, because it could not develop into a unified one. Germany played a leading role in the domestication of continental football. In the 1890s, Berlin players went to Vienna and other European cities for prima donna guest appearances. In the post-war years, however, an opinion was formed in Central Europe that football is not for Germans and that Germany will hardly play a significant role in this sport. Football experts justified their opinion with German difficulty and thoroughness. In particular, the game of the North Germans was difficult, slow and lacking in turns. But in the meantime, the Bavarians mastered the fluid triangle game more and more, and the West Germans brought a certain intellectual freshness and twist to the game. Then the thorough German organization and construction work began. In the person of Dr. Nerz, the entire German football team, which was a huge army, came under the control of an imperial coach, and as Dr. Nerz became more and more immersed in the spirit of this great game, the German national team developed in the same way. At the 1934 world championship tournament, the German team already reached the top four and achieved more and more beautiful results in the international competition. However, the German team failed at the Berlin Olympics, and its series of results has been very varied ever since. The German effort apparently considers the most important goal to follow the English foundation and preparedness. It trains its instructors and, through them, its players according to a unified management and concept. These players learn all the technical tasks perfectly, they play the alphabet of football, this indispensable scale of the art of the game, flawlessly. Their fighting spirit and ability are perfect. The game system defined by the leaders is fully accepted. The individual melts into the unity of the team in every respect.
What could be the reason for the failure of German football at the Berlin Olympics, for example, that the German team could not beat the Hungarian team in Nuremberg, which was a reserve team?
The reason is quite simple. German football is searching for a system of play, a method of salvation that will lead the team to victory against all its opponents. It tries to make the team so cohesive that it kills the individuality. They want to build an irresistible machine out of all the players, so that each player is just a well-functioning part of his machine. This goal can be more or less achieved. However, there is no game system that can always be effective and efficient, successful and victorious against different opponents. It is necessary to adapt to the opponents, and this adaptation is mostly determined by the way the match develops, by the momentary changes, and by the ground and weather conditions. And only a team that can adapt to all these conditions can adapt to the mental qualities of the individual players and their playing ability.
Southern and Central European football
The other group of footballers — very different in its characteristics from the North — is the South. This southern group includes the Latin nations, with the Middle Eastern countries outside them. The most prominent representatives of Latin football are the South Americans. Uruguay has proven the greatness of South American football with two Olympic and one World Cup victories. Argentina is a worthy rival to Uruguay, but the excellence of South American football is also reflected in the performances of Chile and Peru, while the many successes of the Italians have also been the result of the fertility of South American football. Italian football has become the standard-bearer of Latin football, with players of Italian origin from South America strengthening the football of Italy, the mother country. Spain and Portugal stood alongside Italian football, and the Spanish were the first in Europe to enter the top flight of footballing nations. Their game was colourful, lively, varied and beautiful. Even more colourful, even more varied and even more brilliant, however, was the South American game. Italian football did not reach this height, but the freshness of spirit that was evident in the organisation and the building of the national team, and the Latin genius that shone through in the matches, made it formidable and capable of achieving great success. The Italian is not looking for a system to which he will always adhere in all circumstances, but in both his attack and defence, he believes that the end justifies the means. This quality and his fiery temperament make his fighting ability incredibly powerful, but he is not selective in his means, and his game is easily impure.
Between the northern and the southern group we have to distinguish the so-called Central European football. The core and the top of the group is the Austrian-Hungarian-Czechoslovak trio. Development has not yet reached the point in Poland, Romania, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Turkey where it is possible to fully see the relationship of these countries to Latin and Central European football. This question is just as much in abeyance as it is not yet possible to say how much of French football is of Latin blood and how much of it is influenced by the English school and frequent contact with English teams.
Central European football is a very excellent pupil of English football. Austrian football has developed much more vigorously than German football, from which it differs in both system and spirit. It was Czechoslovakian football, notably Prague football, which most perfectly adopted the Scottish style of play. So much so, that all its value has been sunk into this fine school, which is doomed to infertility in a certain stage of development, against particularly vigorous opponents. Austrian football has made the values of the Viennese player's temperament, as well as the fertilising power of foreign influences, its own. Czechoslovak football has not been able to free itself from its self-worship and in recent years has come to a complete standstill in its development. While Austrian football was dynamic, fast, pacy and tough when it needed to be, Prague football stopped at the greatness of Sparta and Slavia and has not been able to find itself since. His game has deteriorated, his fighting ability is insufficient, and he has a certain insecurity and timidity. This is a great example of the thesis that no style of play or system of play can be perfect, because the game today is in a state of constant development and we must adapt to this development.
Hungarian football and its future
Hungarian football has gone through three great eras of development. BTC's former big team was a cultivator of the so-called chase style, the kick and rush method of play. This style was perfected by the former big team of Ferencváros. MTK's English coaches localised the Scottish school, which the Hungarian team played with a lot of wit and a wealth of ideas. In the 1910s, Ferencváros conquered Europe with a game that was advanced for its time, made irresistible by the fire and enthusiasm of the Hungarian temperament. The Scottish school of MTK dazzled the European countries in the years after the war, because this Scottish game was not only mechanical and uniform, but also full of individual values, Budapest ideas and playful beauty. The third stage in its development came after the establishment of the professional system. The two styles merged into a Hungarian football which retained the speed and the use of long passes, but was also able to use and apply all the advantages of the Scottish school. Besides, the game was full of ideas, ball handling tricks and even juggling subtleties.
As long as the idea, the trickery and the juggling were all for attacking and finishing quickly, this style of play was irresistible and achieved a string of successes from 1926 to 1930. It was during this period that Hungarian football showed itself at its most perfect, remaining a game of much beauty in the hottest battles and pitting the most physical qualities against the most hard-fought opponents, the glitter of Hungarian wit and ingenuity. So much skill and ability, however, so wonderful was the mental freshness and superiority which controlled this game, that the qualities of physical endowment and skill became almost imperceptible. And yet the basis of this glittering, beautiful game was flexibility, speed and agility, in other words a set of physical qualities.
The perfection of playfulness came from the spirit of our playing guard, and the attacking spirit was the expression of a general Hungarian sporting trait. Hungarian football was so attractive, so conquering, because of the Hungarian attacking spirit. Its main concern was to make its own attack a success, not to prevent the opponent from scoring, to escape defeat. He wants to win, he wants to achieve results, that he has been able to bring to his endeavour so many valuable qualities has earned him the recognition of the whole world.
The path of Hungarian football has become bumpy. One of the lifeblood of sport is prosperity. In this respect, many nations have an advantage over us. But this circumstance is not an overwhelming factor. Recent years have shown that mental and character qualities are more important than anything else in sport. This explains the many successes of Hungarian sport and gives us reason to have confidence in the development and triumphant future of Hungarian football.
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