In recent weeks much has been made about the issue of aggressive tackling either spoiling the art of defending, or ruining the careers of players, or both. Following Nigel De Jong’s suspension from the
Dutch national side because of his tackle that broke the leg of Newcastle’s Hartem Ben Arfa, and Wolves captain Karl Henry’s growing reputation for over-zealous challenges, people have begun to question what the need is for such aggressiveness in the game.
The answer is simple, found in the need to survive in one of the world’s most aggressive businesses. The Premier League –the place where all of this attention is focussed – is the epitome of a ruthless
system that has no time for losers, and gives all glory to the winners. The golden glint of a new contract for a Premier League player could not help but cause a head-rush for any young man. To win the money and the global glory, you have to win the contract. To win the contract, you have got to win the games. To win the games, you’ve got to win the balls. To win the balls, you have to get stuck in with whole hearted challenges.
And to compound the problem, players will be rewarded double for an aggressive tackle; there is nothing that seems to enthuse an English crowd than a strong challenge. The problems arise when in the heat of a battle, a strong challenge becomes mistimed; the art of the challenge is gone and the truth of this ‘sport’ is revealed.
To shed more light on this Darwinian analogy of football being a business where only the strongest survive, we can draw upon the comments of Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk, who complained of De Jong’s need to constantly ‘push the limit’. But what happens when teams don’t ‘push the limit?’ People of wealth and of status in our country are the ones who ‘push the limit’. Roman Abramovic, The Glazers, Sir Alan Sugar, Simon Cowell all ‘push the limit’ with what most people would deem morally acceptable to achieve success; they ‘push the limit’ in their business strategies; they ‘push the limit’ with their treatment of people who are not them; so it is no surprise we should see victims of players ‘pushing the limit’ every week when competing in the game that is so revered by us as a nation.