Is Brazil an overrated football team

Column - "Those stupid, dirty footballers!"

"Those stupid, dirty footballers!"

What boring questions! Some people may have thought that when we were warming ourselves up for the World Cup game between Switzerland and Brazil in an extended private round in Zurich on Sunday. "Why are people actually annoyed about high manager salaries, but not about certain wages of professional footballers," the retired cadre who asked the question wanted to know, for example. And when it finally started in front of the screen, the same source rained technical questions of the level “Why is there a corner now?”.

On the way home, my older son asked how to sort out such mundane technical questions. - Indeed: anyone around 30 today can hardly imagine the social realities when this retired man was still a young man. And by the way, not only in small football Switzerland, but also in football strongholds. The footballer Paul Breitner (world champion with Germany 1974), for example, described the image of his guild in his country in those years with the words "these stupid, dirty footballers". At the same time, it was also a time of radical change. It was the same Breitner who heated up the German football association at the time. For every player on his team he ultimately demanded a winner's bonus of DM 70,000. In the end, the association buckled, while the kickers actually won and conceded in the final against the Netherlands.

Here in Switzerland, this emancipation was also progressing less quickly and less spectacularly. Even in the 1970s, football was not an obvious leisure activity for the sons of our citizens. Achievement in high school was certainly in demand, but not really image-enhancing in football. Until the triumphant advance of the sport, fueled by television and supported by advertising, gradually also spread to Switzerland. The first Swiss footballers like Kudi Müller or Andy Egli made the leap into the German Bundesliga as professionals.

Social emancipation, however, took much longer. I remember debates that, as editor-in-chief, I still had to lead with board members in the noughties on the question of whether football is not overrated in the newspaper. And today, barely 15 years later? The large illustrated banner on the front of the “NZZ am Sonntag” on June 17th read: “Is Brazil so much better?” The newspaper's “Background” section, which was reserved for analyzes and comments, was also dedicated to this topic. And the NZZ front hook from Monday even served emotions with the headline “Defying the giant Brazil”.

The established media scene in Switzerland is now also reflecting on this part of everyday life. The Polish star striker Robert Lewandowski summed up the drama of this international development in a remarkable interview with “Spiegel” with the statement: “Football is pure capitalism.” Everyone wants to make money in this industry. And further: "This is actually nothing reprehensible, this is how our entire western society works."

So all just business? No. Even modern football lives at its core not only from the calculation of business. Rather, what is magical is the unpredictability of human interaction. The potential crash as well as the potential exploit resides in the person playing. It is not for nothing that the human instinct to play is optimally served across cultures in football.

But what about the excess wages mentioned at the beginning? The question is legitimate. The football fan, however, prefers to distract with reference to the many other excesses of modern life. And he rightly points out that football is an opportunity for the poor on earth. Because today, as then, football is not the sport of the established. Rather, it is perhaps the last chance for a career in washing dishes on a global scale. Also here in Switzerland, where today many players of the Nati are of Balkan origin. Many of them came out of nowhere. Thanks to football, they made it. And thanks to football, her many little admirers carry on the hope for a better future.