I’ve harped on this before, but apparently it bears repeating. Sport is reporting that Peruvian national team midfielder Ranier Torres, a 29-year old who plays for Universitario in Peru, is promising to put the boot in hard against Messi. Specifically he has claimed that he wants to imitate Luis Reyna’s 1985 Peru-Argentina man-marking of, probably not coincidentally, Diego Maradona. For his part, Maradona remembers the game for being kicked, rather than for being shut down.
In one part of the video of that day (below), you can see Reyna clearly yanking Maradona down by the hair (play starts at 2:22). Reyna also clubbed Diego to the ground with hard tackles from behind on a rather continuous basis. Reyna got a yellow card in the first half, but arguably could have received a second one on several different occasions before and after that.
The reason this is important is not because I’m saying that Torres will channel the hair-pulling or the kicking of Luis Reyna, but rather that it’s even up for debate as a legitimate tactic against other players. I have no problem with what Almeria did against Barça on Saturday–man-marking Xavi and Iniesta was fairly brilliant as the final scoreline suggested, though 1-0 was still flattering to a clearly worse side–but to pull a Malaga/Weligton and just stomp and throw your elbows is far from okay. It’s anti-futbol to the extreme; it becomes no longer a question of tactics, but of injuries.
I’m all for tougher players who don’t whine about non-existent fouls (cough Tom Brady cough), but when the entire tactical approach of a team is “kick the man”, it removes both the spectacle and the fun from the games. I’m not saying that because I want Argentina to win, but rather because I want the better team on the day to win. That doesn’t mean being Bruce Bowen, it doesn’t mean doing to Messi what was done to Maradona by Goikoetxea, and it doesn’t mean that refs should look the other way. I want Peru to win, actually, but I want them to do it through collective and individual brilliance, not by smashing their opponents physically. Do that by out-running them, by out-thinking them, by out-playing them, but don’t get cynical and don’t turn a game into a war. It’s not acceptable, no matter who is on the receiving end.
Sevilla defeated Real Madrid not by chopping them down everywhere they went, but rather by out-playing them. By finding a tactical weakness in Pellegrini’s approach. Malaga couldn’t do that, so they chose to attempt to injure Messi, then Pique. Almeria went about it correctly, but didn’t have the quality to win, which is okay because they still put in the effort (though I still would like them to come out and play, but that’s suicide, so you can understand why they didn’t).